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by Fred McMillin
for October 9, 2000

 

A Knight Delight


Prologue

Not noted for his conservative lifestyle, W.C. Fields was lying in his hospital bed desperately ill. A friend tiptoed into the room, and was startled to see the patient reading the bible.

Visitor: "Bill, what are you doing!"

W.C., in that famous voice, "Looking for loopholes."


The Rest of the Story

In 1920 the Napa Valley winemakers were looking for loopholes, too...in the Volstead Act that established national Prohibition (passed over President Woodrow Wilson's veto).

This was serious. Beringer could no longer sell Cabernet...it was their most expensive red, at 85 cents a gallon!

But, 32-year-old Bertha Beringer (daughter of founder Jacob Beringer) found her loophole. Altar wines were permitted. She managed to get through a shakey 13 years, though she had to sell some vineyard land.


Happy Days are Here Again

July 14, 1933 Edition of the St. Helena Star: with the end of Prohibition there is "unusual activity at Beringer Brothers winery where ten men are at work preparing to fill the famous old winery to capacity with the present vintage."

Beringer Knights ValleyThe Dec. 8, 1933 Edition: "Beringer's famous cellars has (sic) become a madhouse. The place is swamped with orders...a procession of six enormous trucks, two of them with trailers, left the winery for points south, including Los Angeles."

So, in memory of that 85 cent per gallon Cabernet, a modern Beringer Cab is...


Our Wine of the Day

1996 Beringer Knights Valley 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation—Knights Valley, 17 miles northwest of the winery. While the winery is in the Napa Valley, Knights Valley is in Sonoma county. The 1,000 plus acres of vineyards are almost all Beringer's.
Winemaker—This is Ed Sbragia's 21st Knights Valley vintage. of all the Beringer estate vineyards, he's learned you harvest Knights Valley last. Longer time on the vine is GOOD; in fact, his Knights Valley is almost a cult wine, thanks to Ed's efforts.
Contact—Office of Phyllis Turner, (707) 963-7115 FAX (707) 963-1735
Rating— A very lively mouthful to accompany beef or a cheese plate. Fifteen tasters gave it a rousing HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Price—$25 range


Postscript

Beringer and Knights Valley go back a long way. In the 1860s, Charles Krug made Napa's first commercial wine, and soon Jacob Beringer was the Krug Cellar Foreman. What was the source of the grapes for Krug's very first vintage? KNIGHT VALLEY!

Credit:
Research assistance—Diane Bulzomi

 

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 
 


 
 

This page created October 2000

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