Internet wine reviews may be misleading

February 10, 2020

To all those who supported the Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics: The community raised $1,018,000, which is $112,000 more than 2019. Awesome job, folks. According to Charity Navigator, the organization has a 100 percent rating on transparency and accountability. At first blush it appears their delivery at 83 percent looks a bit weak. Close observation shows that 12.8 percent goes toward hard costs. Small-population states typically have higher cost for solicitation. Those who wish to see a complete review may go to I vet all my donations through Charity Navigator. As a comparison, World Health Organization is 77.5 percent, Salvation Army is 81 percent and United Way is 79 percent that goes to benefit the recipients. I think all should use a service such as Charity Navigator. Some donations are sent to those taking too much off the top.

Be careful when buying wine due to shop reviews on the internet. Although I’ve discussed this in the past, it is worth repeating. A classic example has popped up this past month. The highly touted Beringer Private Reserve Napa Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2016, not the Knights Valley, came on at $170 and started sliding immediately. Once the 2016 ballyhoo hit, the 2015 dropped $20, and it is continuing to slide. The 2016 garnered 1-2 more points. I will be curious to learn how the 2017 release impacts the prices. It is noteworthy that several Napa producers decided not to produce their top-line wine in 2017 due to possible smoke taint. Most observers claim that by the very hot summer temps, much of the 2017 Cab was already picked and processed. Nevertheless, these top-line wineries were reluctant to risk the damage to their reputations that releasing possibly tainted wine might incur. I’m still awaiting news from trusted correspondents and the spring tastings to make my own assessment.

Back to the Beringer 2015. This is indeed a lovely wine; however, it needs time and is still overpriced. I would recommend the 2010, 92 points at about $125-$135, and in the heart of its drinking window. Best of bunch would be the 2012, 95 McD. I’ve seen a six-pak selling in D.C. for $834. I sampled this again in 2017. Still bold, plenty of fruit, blackberry, cassis, black cherry with oak notes, earth and leather nuance on the palate. Still slightly tannic although much incorporated, complex palate with dark fruit, oak, chocolate and tobacco which carry through a long, clean finish. Color and tannin say it will last another 15 years. I recommend the 2012 for those who enjoy wine as a standalone. Although it will enhance a hearty meat dish, some venison or other large game, this is more of a sit back and sipper. Great buy under $130/bottle, 96 McD.

So, what’s wrong with the Beringer Knights Valley Cab, you may be thinking? Absolutely nothing! This is from Sonoma and a wonderfully consistent 88-90 entry-level cab, which normally sells under $28.The best, most recent ready-to-drink vintages are 2012-15, all coming it at 89 McD under $30. I believe the 2013 is best of that group and was thinking of a 90 rating. These are all wonderful food wines. Produced with less tannin and oak extraction, and more upfront fruit in most vintages. The 2013 shows plum, blackberry, vanilla and toast aromas, appropriate tannin to support a dark garnet color with pie spice, chocolate and caramel flavor accents. I recently saw a six-pak priced at $132 plus shipping. 

I’m staying with Beringer for this week’s white, and believe it or not, it is the Private Reserve Napa Chardonnay. These are also consistent, rating in the 89-90-point area. 2014 was an exception at 93 McD around $38. Your wine person may need to search for the 2014 but it is out there. Those going to Pennsylvania can find it at the Liquor Control. It may take some persuasive phone work to buy some around $36. Wonderful reflection of cool-climate Napa Chard in a warmer year. Medium-golden color with lemon, pear, honeysuckle, toast and pineapple bouquet. Bright mineral/acid frame supports buttery palate. The finish is mouthwatering with some almond flavors. Drinking perfectly right now but will keep a few more years.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter