2002 Beringer "Private Reserve" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
A sensational 14,000-case cuvee that is one of the benchmarks for what Napa Valley is capable of achieving. Its dense purple color is followed by copious notes of smoky barbecue, creme de cassis, white chocolate, blackberries, charcoal and truffles. Full-bodied, fleshy and succulent, with sweet tannins in the finish, this 2002 has not yet hit full maturity. Give it another 2-4 years of cellaring, and drink it over the following two decades. I asked the winemaking team what the final blend was for the 2002 Private Reserve, and to the best of their recollection, the largest component was from Steinhauer Ranch (50%), followed by St. Helena Home Ranch (23%) and tiny percentages of Bancroft, Rancho del Oso, Chabot, Marston, and some Cabernet Franc from Howell Mountain. (RP)
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
Good full ruby-red. Sexy aromas of currant and dark chocolate. Compellingly sweet and densely packed, with lovely vinosity giving shape to the flavors of dark berries, cedar and minerals. Very fine-grained and very long on the palate, with the tannins perfectly buffered by the wine's material. This wine, mostly from Steinhauer and St. Helena fruit, went into the barrel in January of 2003 and remained there for two years, undisturbed except for a monthly topping-up. Has the balance to offer considerable early appeal, but this bottling has a long track record for aging gracefully in bottle and surprising with its longevity.
(14.2% alcohol; 2% Chabot, 23% St. Helena, 7% Bancroft, 8% Marston, 5% Rancho del Oso, 48% Steinhauer and 7% Cabernet Franc): Good deep red. Very ripe, slightly roasted aromas of sweet fruit pastry and coffee liqueur. Huge and sweet if still a bit monolithic, with a wave of plush berry fruit washing over the palate. Finishes with substantial granular tannins and serious palate-staining length. This wine appears to be going through a closed stage today and still needs time in the cellar. (ST) 93+?
Here is a big, beautifully ripened, definitively varietal opus that is brimming with deep, well-extracted fruit and decked out with a full measure of very sweet oak. Its precise focus and its wholly impeccable balance place it at the forefront of the pack, and it never once hints at heaviness or heat. While fairly tannic, it is not in the least tough, and its essential juiciness perseveres to the end. Those with a taste for young Cabernet will find lots to like even now, but the real beauty of this compelling wine will only emerge with five years of time.
Wine & Spirits
Ed Sbragia blends this wine from a selection of vineyards primarily on Howell Mountain and closer to the winery in St. Helena. On their own, these vineyards produce distinctive and ageworthy Cabernets; Sbragia's selections of Chabot, Marston and Bancroft are among the top wines in the valley. The Private Reserve often blends away some of those distinctions, emphasizing winemaking style instead. To me, it often tastes like a well-heeled wine, glossy and easy to appreciate. This vintage goes beyond those straightforward charms. It starts off warm and fat, with spicy red berry flavors and a touch of bitterness in the tannin, then air begins to meld the fruit and structure, bringing complexity and a meaty richness. Check on it in ten years.
Huge wine, young and tannic, almost bitter now and not offering much relief. But of course you don't buy Beringer PR tonight. There is indeed enormous Cabernet flavor deep down inside, offering oodles of blackberries and cherries and charry new oak, but there's also a warning note of prune. Best after 2008.
On the drier side, this shows more cedar, cigar box and tobacco notes than primary fruit. Still, this is solid and in good shape, with touches of black currant and black licorice. Drying tannins mark the finish.—2002 California Cabernet blind retrospective (May 2012). Drink now through 2015. (Web-2012)