Recently, we were on our way to celebrate a family birthday at Chez Melange, the celebrant’s restaurant of choice. As we were about to leave the house, I peeked into our “wine cellar” to grab a wine for the evening — specifically, a cabernet sauvignon, since we all seemed to be in a beef & lamb mood. After a quick look through the possibilities, I noticed that there was one lonely bottle of ’95 Beringer Private Reserve left.
The 1995 vintage of Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon was a legendary one, and when it was released, I stocked up on as much Beringer, Caymus, Groth, Robert Craig, Paradigm, et al that I could afford. Over the years, we slowly worked our way through the collection, and this was the last chance to enjoy a great example from it. On top of that, conventional wisdom says that the vintage is past is prime, so I figured there was no reason to sit on this bottle any longer.
So . . . was it a little long in the tooth? Yeah, it was. The front end was noticeably softer than I remember, and overall it was a subdued version of what it had been just a few years previous.
That said, comparing this wine today to how it was five years ago isn’t exactly fair. Most wines currently in their prime wished they had the depth and complexity of flavor that this nearly 20 year-old wine had. You could still taste the fruit — perhaps not as bold as it was, but very much still there. Considering that Beringer Private Reserve has never been the fruit bomb that some boutique Napa Cabs are, plus the somewhat lower alcohol level in the ’95 versus current vintages, this was still impressively elegant.
Glad that my last experience with this excellent vintage was as good as it was. Now to make my way through the ’97s before that vintage starts to go down hill. . . .
Photo credit: CK Dexter Haven