Beringer’s Bancroft Ranch vineyard is located at an elevation of 1,800 feet on Howell Mountain, a growing area with well-drained volcanic soils. In 1984, Howell Mountain became the first area within the Napa Valley appellation to be declared a separate viticultural area (AVA) for the distinct characteristics of its wine grapes and now it is home to several of Napa Valley’s most famous wines. Bancroft Ranch produces clusters with small berries whose high skin-tofruit ratio results in well-structured wines with concentrated flavors. The flavors are further enhanced by the climate: the vineyard is about 5 to 10 degrees cooler than the valley floor but experiences more hours of sunshine over the course of a day because it is above the fog belt. This allows for both extended hang time and slow, even flavor development. Beringer first vinified grapes from the Bancroft Ranch in 1986, when its Cabernet Sauvignon was chosen for the Private Reserve program.
The 2005 growing season began with an early budbreak followed by a cool, wet spring. Summer was also on the cooler side, without the usual warm spells, resulting in a nice, extended growing season. As a result, the harvest was long, allowing the grapes to develop more complexity and layers of flavors, aromas and color. The crop was larger than average, with excellent sugar development and balanced acids. Grapes for the 2005 Bancroft Ranch Merlot were picked between October 16th and November 16th.
The lots were kept separate through fermentation and aging to retain the individual terroir characteristics of each part of the vineyard. After gentle crushing and destemming, the juice and skins were sent to small fermenters where color, flavors and tannins were slowly extracted from the skins as vinification progressed. Ed and Laurie agreed on 100-percent-new customtoasted French Nevers oak barrels to age the wines. After 22 months aging, they were satisfied that the big, Cabernet-like tannins in the Howell Mountain Merlot had enough time to soften, and the aromas from the barrels had integrated well with fruit characteristics from the grapes. Small percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were added upon blending, to elongate the finish and add additional complexities to the blend.
“This vineyard, and the relationship we’ve had with the Bancroft family, has always been deeply special to Ed and myself. We’ve been making a vineyard-designated Bancroft Ranch Merlot since the 1987 vintage when Ed first demonstrated how fantastic Merlot can be when planted in the right place. Bancroft Ranch consistently produces grapes with amazing concentration of flavors, tannins and structure. The 2005 Howell Mountain Merlot is an exceptionally complex wine, full of espresso and dark cherry aromas that lead into a rich ripe black fruit flavors with hints of cedar and orange rind, brown spice and mint. It has tremendous body, complex layers of black fruit, and a supple, lingering finish.”
– Laurie Hook, Winemaker