Two great heritages combine to make the jewel of Carneros at Artesa Winery

A view to the south of San Pablo Bay and to San Francisco from the terrace of Artesa Winery

There are few producers in the U.S. that can say their wines are made by a fifth generation American winemaker, and fewer still whose owner has been making wines for 17 generations.  Together, winemaker Mark Beringer – great, great grandson of Jacob Beringer – and Codorniu of Spain, combine their heritages to make classic, high quality Carneros chardonnay and pinot wines that appeal to the modern consumer.

Quality starts with innovation and track record and in Codorniu, one gets both.  Codorniu was established in 1551 in the coastal Penedes region west of Barcelona.  It was Codorniu descendant Josep Raventos who made Spain’s first sparkling wine in 1872 and today Codorniu is one of the largest producers of traditional method sparkling wine in the world.  They pioneered the introduction of chardonnay and pinot noir in the local sparkling wine blend beginning in the 1980’s (which before then included more of the earthy xarello), giving the wines a more modern, fruity and fresh taste.  Codorniu, which now owns wineries in the major Spanish regions of Rioja, Priorat and Ribera del Duero as well as Napa Valley, Argentina and Italy, champions collective research among its cadre of 10 head winemakers around the world called the “grand crew,” to be on the forefront of quality winemaking techniques and styles.

Mark Beringer grew up with wine.  Growing up in the Napa Valley to a winemaking dynasty, wine was always served at the table.  At 12 he was working at his parents’ wine shop, at 16 he was working at Beringer Winery and at 18, he was at his uncle’s winery Raymond Vineyards.  After obtaining his oenology degree from Fresno State, Beringer spent much of his professional career at Duckhorn where he expanded his experience base from Bordeaux varietals to pinot noir as the company expanded into the Anderson Valley in Mendocino.  Beringer moved to Artesa in February 2009 as VP of Production and Winemaking and has full control over the style of wines made at Artesa.

The 2008 vintage Artesa Carneros Chardonnay (20,000 cases, $20) has citrus and vanilla aromas and ripe honeydew and buttery stone fruit flavors.  It is full-bodied and fresh, with rich mouthfeel.  The 2008 Artesa Carneros Chardonnay Reserve (4,000 cases, $25) is a more elegant style of chardonnay with restrained and integrated oak, depth of fruit and long finish. 

The current release 2007 Artesa Carneros Pinot Noir (22,000 cases, $25) is fruit-driven and fresh, with ripe berry fruit, hint of vanilla and supple tannins.  The 2007 Artesa Carneros Pinot Noir Reserve (3,500 cases, $40) has layers of black cherry and plum flavors with a bit of spice and cocoa.  This full-bodied, supple wine is well-balanced with good mid-palate weight and long finish.

Artesa is a must-visit winery in Carneros for many reasons, one of which of course are the wines.  Artesa is one of the most southern wineries in the Napa Valley and therefore is in a convenient location for Bay Area ‘day-trippers’ or SF visitors and business travelers who don’t have a lot of time to go up-valley.  It is in a hidden location of Carneros that few ever venture to and not far off Highway 121, but it seems miles away given the acres of rolling hillsides and vineyards as far as the eye can see.  It is these hills that so attracted the Raventos family to establish their 350 acres of vineyards here and to build the modern winery at the crest of the property in 1991.   For today’s visitor, it delivers a complete wine country experience with cutting edge architecture, modern art works and one of the few 360 degree vistas in the Napa Valley.  On a clear day, one can see the city of San Francisco.  It also gives the wine lover an understanding of why Carneros is the coolest sub-region in the Napa Valley ideal for chardonnay and pinot noir for the cool breezes one always feels on the upper terrace of the winery. 

Artesa has a full hospitality program with public tours and tastings as well as special programs.  For details visit Artesa’s website.