by Fred McMillin
for January 30, 1998

Winery of the Week

Where Is Napa Ridge?

Prologue: Notes on Wine Q by some of my 14 tasters:

  • "Great value"
  • "Nice. Well worth the price."
  • "Excellent value"
  • "Smooth. Awesome value."
Wine Q was a Napa Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon for $9! What's Napa Ridge?

The Rest of the Story: Author James Laube writes: "There is no actual [geographic] Napa Ridge in the Napa Valley, nor is there a Napa Ridge Winery. Rather, it is the name of a brand started by Beringer to compete in the fighting-varietal category of wines. It has been an enormous success, with sales now of a million cases a year."

How did it happen? When the operation was created a decade ago, Stuller and Martin wrote that Beringer "is often cited as the best managed company in the business." A good example was selecting David Schlottman as winemaker. A microbiology major at U.C. Davis, he found an enology course that proved fascinating and he graduated in winemaking, with a minor in vinegrowing.

But someone has to provide quality grapes so Dave can fill his 7,000 French and American oak barrels. That's Jim Frisinger's job. After receiving a horticulture degree at Iowa State, he earned his graduate degree at U.C. Davis. He stayed on to teach and do research until the chance came to join Napa Ridge. It was a researcher's dream, for he oversees 2,000 acres of vineyards in seven counties, ranging from Mendocino in the north to Santa Barbara in the south. So Napa Ridge has the "smarts" and a million cases of sales, but how's the quality? I took time to count the awards for one four-year period and they totaled SEVENTY FIVE! Case closed.

Just the Facts

Name   Napa Ridge
Contact   Tor Kenward, V.P.Communications, Beringer Wine Estates (707) 963-7115
Founded   1986
Wine Recommendations   Start with the Chardonnay or the above 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon. Then branch out into the other half dozen. The Sauvignon Blanc won Best Buy kudos in my tastings.
Annual Production   1 million case range

Postscript: "Napa" is a Native American word for "plenty," and that's exactly what Napa Ridge has.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the WineDay Annex

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