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Lasting impressions

THE idea was to take portions of wine from the three glasses in front of us and then combine those to come up with one wine similar to the Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. And we had to give the resulting wine a name too.  Nicole Carter, Beringer global brand ambassador, was leading us through the paces of wine blending, the reward for the early birds who had come to dinner at Impressions, the flagship restaurant of Maxim’s Tower, Resorts World Manila.

Each wine glass held pure Cabernet Sauvignon from three California vineyards. There was a giant syringe for siphoning off wine from each glass into a beaker. Taste the Private Reserve, then the three Cabernets before doing the blending, was the advice, lest we end up drinking most of the wines. Which I almost did, after the first whiff of the Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. Chocolate, cassis, tobacco, spice, smoke—there was a lot going on in the glass. And then it was like at first sip—lean and spicy, but still intense with tannins that, though powerful, won’t knock you over.  Sip and siphon, then siphon some more. Which one is the Cab from Howell Mountain, I heard someone ask. It turns out the wine we were all trying to copy is mostly from the Howell Mountain vineyards. Seventy percent from Mount Howell, someone whispered. How do I get 70 percent into my syringe, I whispered back. Math had never been one of my strong points and I was getting impatient. How about if I just sneak you a glass of the Private Reserve, the exasperated whisperer shot back.

The Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 was the highlight of the evening, backed up by the other Beringer wines—sparkling White Zinfandel, Napa Valley Pinot Noir and Merlot and the Private Reserve Chardonnay. This pairing of California wines with the game-centric menu of French chef Cyrille Soënen was as much the attraction as the wines, and the opportunity to talk shop with food and beverage industry professionals and wine enthusiasts.

No capon tonight, said Chef Cyrille. But there was wild boar, pigeon, hare and venison. And for starters, there were his dainty hors d’oeuvres with the Beringer Sparkling White Zinfandel, which, like its still version, is just rightly sweet, with bright watermelon, spice and citrus notes. But wild boar with the Private Reserve Chardonnay 2010? Absolutely. Because there was celeriac remoulade and roasted lobster with the smoked, cured filet mignon of wild boar. The Chardonnay had picked up on the smoky elements of the dish with its toastiness backed up by bright fruit—the style that defines the Private Reserve Chardonnay.

The Beringer Private Reserve program began in the late 1970s—the 1977 vintage was the first. Winemakers Ed Sbragia and Laurie Hook aged wine from each vineyard separately in new, custom-toasted French oak for two years before blending, resulting in wines of great structure and complexity. (Laurie Hook has now taken over winemaking chores from Mr. Sbragia, who left Beringer to make his own wines.) The Private Reserves are also noted for their age-worthiness.

Isn’t the Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 too young? The question was lost in the heady flavors of Chef Cyrille’s cooking. Cèpe mushroom ravioli was brilliant with the dish of hare and marinated venison topped off with shallot and apple confit. Before that, there was pigeon and duck liver in a pastry case with chanterelles, morels and truffle sauce. That the wine was tasting so well with what I was eating was more important than how it was going to be with age.

I took one last sniff of the wine in my glass, added a final squirt from the syringe, and handed in my blending notes. It was clear that wine blending is both skill and art—and I had neither. The one who whose blend closely resembles the Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 wins a prize. But there was no losing, because the blending experience was priceless.



Beringer wines are exclusively imported and distributed by Happy Living Philippines Corp.: Ground Floor, JMS Building, 1375 P. Ocampo Sr. Avenue, Makati City. 895-6507 to 08, 896-0336.

In Photo: (From left) Kathy Yao-Santos of Happy Living Philippines Corp., Yodi Mootoosamy, Nicole Carter, Beringer global brand ambassador, US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas Jr. and Mithi Aquino.











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