Beringer is known for establishing many 'firsts' as leaders in the wine industry. We were one of the first gravity fed facilities and among the first to operate using hand-dug caves and cellars. We were the first to give public tours in 1934, starting a Napa Valley hospitality tradition. We are the first and only winery to have both a red and a white wine named #1 Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator Magazine.
Passion has the wonderful power to turn mere objects into an obsession, to transform everyday tasks into art. At Beringer, we have been living our passion for over 144 years.
1868 - a New Life in America
Our history dates back to the year 1868, when Jacob Beringer, enticed by the opportunities of the new world, sailed from his home in Mainz, Germany, to New York. However, after hearing that the rocky hillside soil and fertile valley floor of Napa Valley resembled that of vineyards back home in Germany, Jacob made his way to California in 1869. He became cellar foreman for Charles Krug, one of the first commercial winemakers in Napa Valley. A few years later, in 1875, Jacob and his brother, Frederick, purchased 215 acres, right next door to Charles Krug in St. Helena, for $14,500. This parcel of land, known as Los Hermanos (the brothers), became the heart of the Beringer estate.
1876 - First Beringer Harvest
On this estate, the Beringer Brothers oversaw their first harvest and crush in 1876. With Jacob serving as winemaker and Frederick as financier, the brothers made approximately 40,000 gallons of wine, or 18,000 cases, that first year. In order to make room for the fermentation tanks, the first two floors of the Old Winery were completed and Chinese workers began digging a 1,200 linear feet tunnel to store the wine for aging.
1883 - The Beginning of Beringer's Historical Architecture
In addition to the historic Old Winery and the winding wine caves and tunnels, Beringer has some of the most beautiful architecture in Napa Valley, making the property worth visiting in its own right. To make room for what is now known as the Rhine House, Frederick had Jacob's residence, the Hudson House, moved 200 feet north using horses and logs in 1883. A couple years later, the brothers planted elm trees along Main Street in front of the winery, which now forms a verdant tunnel that delights visitors and neighbors. In 1967, Beringer Winery is named a State Historic Landmark for its significance to California's history. And in 1972, the Rhine House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You don't want to miss the stained glass windows of the Rhine House or the gorgeous fountain sculpted by Ruth Asawa in 1988.
1887 - A Reputation For Quality Begins
Beringer wins an award at the Mechanics Institute Exposition in San Francisco, just the first of many over the years. In more recent times, noteworthy accolades include being named #1 Wine of the Year for the 1986 Cabernet by Wine Spectator (1990 edition). Six years later, Wine Spectator named the 1994 Chardonnay #1 Wine of the Year (1996 edition) - this is special because not only is it the first time a white wine has ever garnered that top spot, but Beringer is the first and only winery to ever have both a red and a white wine in that top slot. In 2012, Wine Spectator named the 2009 Knights Valley Reserve #8 Wine of the Year.
1915-1933 - The Second Generation & Prohibition
After Frederick's passing in 1901, then Jacob's passing in 1915, Jacob's children, Charles and Bertha Beringer, take over ownership of Beringer winery.
While most wineries shut their doors at the beginning of Prohibition in 1920, Beringer continued to operate during Prohibition under a federal license that allowed them to make wine for religious purposes. Of course, Beringer went beyond selling sacramental wine to churches, which is the story behind the Whisper Sister label.
1934 - Beringer Becomes Top Winery To Visit
After Prohibition, Beringer was the first winery to offer public tours, sparking wine tourism in Napa Valley. This was further expanded in 1939 when winemaker, Fred Abruzzini, distributed flyers and maps at the Golden Gate Exposition on Treasure Island. Hollywood stars, like Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, also made the trek up to Beringer. Because of the gorgeous estate and the award-winning wines, it became, and has remained, a favorite destination for travelers.
1977-present - Winemaking Refinements
There have been winemaking advancements over the past 142 years, and there are several significant upgrades that are still in place today. In 1977, Beringer began fermenting Chardonnay and Cabernet in French oak barrels. Beginning with Bob Steinhauer, vineyard manager in 1979, we began a legendary partnership with our growing operation. Continuing its pattern for being a pioneer, in 1989 Beringer launched the first formal research and sensory evaluation program. Expanding vineyard sourcing to the Central Coast in 2012 also broadened Beringer's portfolio.
2015 - The Significance of Beringer's 8 Winemakers
Like its investments in innovations, Beringer has invested deeply in its winemakers, with an average tenure of almost 18 years per winemaker. In 1971, Myron Nightingale joined Beringer as the 5th winemaker. He developed a special French Sauternes-style wine called, aptly, Nightingale, which is still made and bottled at the winery today. Ed Sbragia joined Myron as assistant winemaker. Together, they launched the Private Reserve collection, using specifically selected Cabernet and Chardonnay grapes. Ed, of course, then got promoted to winemaker in 1984. Laurie Hook became the 7th winemaker in 2000, with Ed staying on as Winemaker Emeritus. Finally, in 2015, Jacob Beringer's great, great grandson, Mark Beringer, came "home" to Beringer as our Chief Winemaker, with Laurie Hook staying on as Winemaker Emeritus.