A quiet knock on the door and a whisper would gain you entry to a 1920’s speakeasy, where often the owner was a strong and determined woman, sometimes called a Whisper Sister. Our latest Beringer Bros. offering celebrates Bertha Beringer, Beringer’s very own Whisper Sister, whose ingenuity helped the property survive Prohibition even as most California wineries were forced to close.
Bertha Beringer, daughter of founding brother Jacob, took over management of Beringer in 1915. Five years later, she was faced with the greatest challenge ever to face the American wine industry – the passage of the 18th Amendment and the start of Prohibition.
Over the next decade, Bertha made it her mission to keep Beringer afloat by shifting production to sacramental wine, medicinal brandy, and grape bricks – one of our favorites of Bertha’s innovations.
By the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933, 95% of California wineries had been forced to close – but Beringer was still holding on. Today, at over 140 years old, Beringer holds the distinction of being the longest-operating winery in Napa. We credit this achievement to Bertha, Beringer’s very own Whisper Sister, who kept the winery alive during Napa’s darkest decade.
BERINGER GRAPE BRICK
A grape brick was a box of concentrated grape juice that had traditionally been sold for non-alcoholic juice production. When Prohibition hit, the sale of grape bricks exploded to home winemakers, who found they easily fermented. In fact, Prohibition-era grape bricks sometimes came with a cheeky warning: “After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine.”