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Winemaker Artesa, Mark Beringer.


Winemaker Artesa, Mark Beringer.

Wine of the Month Club's Paul Kalemkiarian talks about wine and wine making with Winemaker Artesa, Mark Beringer.


Paul: Hey, welcome to the continuing wine makers series here at the Wine of the Month Club and yes we have wine... California wine history right here in our office with Mister Mark Beringer, Winemaker at Artesa with incredible background in this business. As well as Beringer being the family name....but I also found that we have the same sort of history except you went into making and I would still sell the stuff, and that is...you worked in your dad's liquor store...

Mark: I did, from the age of 12 years old I was in my dad's wine shop.

Paul: So was it a wine shop only, or did you have like....

Mark: Well back in those days you still had all the candy and cigarettes and all that kind of stuff, but it evolved into a fine wine shop eventually.

Paul: I'll never forget my dad....we got in so much trouble one Christmas Eve because my dad did not like closing that store early, so we worked till 11:00 o'clock and we probably sold two packs of cigarettes on Christmas Eve...

Mark: Exactly right, I remember that well too, but we knew who they were too

Paul: Exactly, same people...we got home my mom was gone she'd said "That's enough, I'm not doing this anymore, you're gonna go...if you're gonna sell cigarettes on Christmas Eve, I'm gonna go." So she went to like Denny's with my sister for Christmas Eve...big trouble. We got in big trouble. So you did that for a while, then you went off to..being a Beringer your company was growing, when did Beringer start?

Mark: Beringer started in 1876, but my family sold it in 1971

Paul: 1876 had to be one of the top three or four....

Mark: One of the original wineries in Napa, it's still a California historical landmark.

Paul: Is it really? So has a those guys were all around then.

Mark: It was Charles Cru, my great great grandfather worked for Charles Cru actually, when Charles Cru owned it; and it was the Hans Cornel, then it was the Schanzberg family which my family was close to..Jacob Schanz and Jacob Beringer were poker buddies

Paul: That's amazing...I wonder what that was like back then? You've photographs?

Mark: Interesting time...Yes

Paul: Photo albums?

Mark: Yes. My father actually produced a book for the winery. I think that's still available there at the winery. It's a coffee table book....

Paul: Very interesting. So you mentioned, well off camera that you were part of..you went to school, but you actually started, kinda reversed the order, most kids now come out of the knowledge of school then they start twisting bolts and stuff, and now you're...

Mark: Yea, usually you have to get that degree and then you get thrown into an internship, and you have to figure out how to hook up a pump, but I started out in the wine business at a young age. Soon as I was able to work in a cellar 18 years old and be around wine I worked for my uncles and cousins at Raymond Winery and spent a lot of time in the cellar and on the bottling line and learning to drive a fork lift, and by the time I got my degree I had six years of experience, so I had a little bit of an advantage over my peer group.... when I arrived on the scene.

Paul: So you had heard them talking...why they press the grapes; you watched them press the grapes; you actually probably picked up after they pressed the grapes

Mark: Yea, it's funny, they would use all this terminology, I had no idea what they were talking about, adding bentonite to the tanks for example, and I had to go to school to figure out well what was that bentonite stuff I was adding and what I was adding it for because it needed to be done, it just got to be done...

Paul: That's very interesting...you said even with your dad's wine shop that, as I did too...stocked the shelves and... you "Wait a minute! I didn't belong there."

Mark: Right, and that's when I learned how to read wine labels real quickly you know. It's ironic I worked at Duckhorn for 15 years, but it was a Duckhorn bottle I was putting on the shelf when my father corrected me cause I was putting Three Palms in from of the Napa Merlot and "No no no, that's different". So I learned pretty quickly to read it.

Paul: No, the Boone's Farm Strawberry goes next to the grape...

Mark: If the flavor's correct exactly…

Paul: So now you're at Artesa, you're making wine for them?

Mark:...Been at Artesa five years. So this is our state-grown chardonnay, it comes right off the property there in Carneros, we're located right the south end of Napa between....kinda where Napa and Sanoma come together, right on the San Franciso Bay, so it's a cool climate, it's nice cool conditions to make burgundian varieties. We also have high-elevation vineyards that are 400 feet above sea level which is quite high...for __ I've lived other parts of Napa but for that's considered significant cause it gives us more aspect to the sun, better drainage, there's rock in our soil cause of the end of the Mayacamas Range is there, so we get a nice minerality and some really good fruit intensity.

Paul: What I love about it, it's not overbearing, it's not over oaked, it's good a good balance, it show a...Carneros runs where the two valleys meet, kinda spans over there...it's known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay really

Mark: That's right, and cool climate for grapes

Paul: Gorgeous wine. The 2010... is real fun to see...you still see a lot of tens and even nines sometimes now, but they're doing pretty well...

Mark: Yea, the ten vintage was a little bit understated in the beginning...cool vintage; but for us making cool climate varieties, that was a good thing. Much of Napa was complaining about green wines or green tannons and for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay actually, so what you want?

Paul: That's what you want..... I was intrigued by this Chardonnay Pion because of its burgundy and softness and it's just not an aggressive wine...and it was made that way

Mark: I refer to it as more of a feminine style Pinot Noir, and what I mean by that is it tends to be kind of lighter and fruitier and has a nice strawberry, it's a red cherry aspect to it. It doesn't have foodish tinge or anything like that, so it's a little more understated, that's what it is to me. I think to me people have been putting too much manipulation into the wine, too much oak, too much color extraction, trying to make it something that it's not, everybody chasing the wines that are getting top scores; but to me growing up in the area and knowing what Corlenos is or should be, it's a lighter style and you don't want to over-oak it, and cover it up with too much wine making for that fruit to come through perfect

Paul: This is really a great expression of what it should be. You don't get a whole ...you don't get one or the other, you get a nice wonderful amount of the character it's supposed to be and it clearly that's how too much we see Pinot Noire because I wanna tell you that whole popularity feature with Sideways and now it's back, available, reasonable price I think it's a great value.

Mark: And people are trying to make those dark ones using all kinds of... extraction techniques and even added sarong in some cases...just..

Paul: Yea, we've seen a lot actually...bizarre...so now we're gonna just go up the hill a little bit, same winery, a plot of land generally except we're a little higher...

Mark: Well the property's a hundred and fifty acres, primarily it's been in orange chardonnay, but the lower parts of the property, the flats as we call them are more of a heavy clay soil, which is typical Cornaros, but as I mentioning earlier we have high elevation vineyards on our property, and that brings the aspect of the sun, the drainage makes a more intense fruit so that stylistically, these ones are very very different even though they come off the exact same property, and that's what elevation will do for you, and it allows us to use a little more of..and we're talking about 25% on Cornaros, here we're up to about 50%, that still not...some people are up to a hundred percent for French oak for 20 months, this is nine months to ten months and 50% brand new oak and that's just enough to accent...

Paul: ...to accent, rather than the direction of it. What's really fun to taste grapes from the same plot of land, just different elevations and different soils and see what it does

Mark: It really is, and that's what we want to come through in the wine specifically cause if you don't see where it came from, there's no amount of point in it, the Wine Industry would just become one big monolith of everything would taste the same.

Paul: Yea , its 13 1/2% alcohol better, we're doing well...So moving into the Bordeaux varietals and this is a brand called Elements, it's part of your product line right?

Mark: Yes, this is another wine that we make kinda to capture the Bordeaux side of our business. Our primary focus has been burgundy and varietals at Artesa for the last five years that I've been there. So we kinda been working with this line extension, if you wanna call it that of Cabernet Sauvignon and red table wines, and it's a really nice value wine. You see it a lot of the wines by the glass in restaurants, it's a good priced wine, its a really quality juice in there so...it's a really well-structured wine.

Paul: I can say from all the wines we taste in this price range, this is around $19/ $20 and if I was...if I came in the restaurant and say "Give me a glass of Carbonet, I'd be very happy to receive this. It's very complecful being the product line.

Mark: Especially this right in there. The Sanoma County Appelechian so use a lot of Alexander Valley fruit in there...has that distinctive jordan fruit...it's a nice structure.

Paul: Actually all the reds so far have changed since we opened them just about ten minutes ago.

Mark: These were freshly opened this morning so they're revolving in the glass a little bit.

Paul:.. The noses are definitely coming alive

Mark: I think you'll definitely see that in the next Cabernet...

Paul: This is fun to see too that there's Bordeaux varietals coming out of the winery down there when classically it's known for burgundean wines..this really, even when you fresh first open it, it really blew me away, this is really something I love.

Mark: Even though we are primarily focused on Corneros, and that's where the winery is, because we have a vineyard there, we have a property on Atlas peak, which is...you know the Napa Valley is on the Eastern side kinda above Stags Leap, next to the Appalachians, it makes fantastic dark intense rural wines. It's a volcanic soil, about twelve hundred feet above sea level, really rich in rock, and there's rock the size of cars that were pulled out of that ridge that really deep red soil, volcanic soil. And it has a little hint of sage in the wine, like once again talking about your water should express it's place and that's that little hint of sage that I get in the nose. It's just enough of it to give it some complexy, but it doesn't conflict with the nice black that sits in underneath

Paul: Wow! It's sober.... there's so much going on, it's just the nose, you just wanna smell it right?

Mark: Yea, it just has so much...when you get that first dry herb and then you smell the dark fruits you're like "Well do those really work together?" it's just if it's in the right ratio, it does.

Paul: It's great.

Mark: There's a little bit of dark chocolate too and earthiness.

Paul: This is a great finish to a wonderful interview. I appreciate the time, your coming out and seeing us. Hope to come and see ya. You've a guest quarters up there I assume?

Mark: Absolutely, we have a beautiful visitors' center for people to come up and see it. We have a gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay overlooking the San Francisco area, so it's a wonderful place to come visit.

Paul: I guess that means we're over. Cheers!