Since 1981, when Winemaster Ed Sbragia first began blending the most expressive components from Beringer’s best vineyards to craft the Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, he and Bob Steinhauer, vineyard manager at the time, worked steadily to identify Napa Valley sites that they thought could be developed into producing the rich, intensely colored and flavored Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that Ed requires for the Private Reserve. In 2002, Ed had six reserve-potential vineyards to draw from, choosing the best lots after vinification and aging for a well-balanced, full-flavored final blend.
The 2002 growing season started out cold but a warm spell in late March encouraged normal budbreak and flowering in the Cabernet vineyards. Generally cool temperatures continued through most of the summer, resulting in well-developed flavors in the fruit. Temperatures warmed at harvest in Napa Valley, allowing the grapes to achieve full physiological maturity. The weather was dry and generally cooler until September when warmer temperatures helped the Cabernet vineyards along in their development, allowing full ripening. The quality was promising at harvest (Sep. 21 – Oct. 16), and Ed was optimistic that the vintage would be very good to excellent.
Vinifying the fruit from each vineyard separately, Ed and his winemaking partner Laurie Hook used gentle pump-over techniques for optimal extraction, and then aged the wines in hand-selected, custom-toasted barrels of new French Nevers oak. The wines went through 100% malolactic fermentation for added complexity and softness, and were aged just over two years before Ed selected the blend - 48% Steinhauer Ranch, 23% St. Helena Home Ranch, 8% Marston Vineyard, 7% Bancroft Ranch, 6% Rancho del Oso, and 2% Chabot. Also added to the blend is a touch of Cabernet Franc (6%) from Bancroft and Steinhauer Ranches. Aromas of cassis, black cherry, cedar and dark chocolate transition to rich expressions of black fruit, vanilla and brown spices on the palate as ripe supple tannins linger throughout the extracted and long finish.