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Senior editor James Laube, Wine Spectator's expert on the wines of California, joined the magazine in 1983.
James Laube

A California Merlot That Surpassed Expectations

Beringer Merlot Howell Mountain Bancroft Ranch 1987

James Laube
Posted: April 22, 2009

I've been rummaging through my cellar these days to trim my wine spending, tap what I've cellared and discover wines I'd forgotten about. One happy recent discovery: Beringer's 1987 Bancroft Ranch Merlot. This was a great wine when it was released years ago and one of Beringer's first serious forays with Merlot off Jim Bancroft's vineyard on Howell Mountain in the Napa Valley appellation.

Normally I would have enjoyed this wine years ago. But it was lost in one of the cellar bins and, the moment I saw it, I knew I had to open it immediately, which I did. The cork split in half, so I turned to my ah-so cork puller to pull out the remaining half. (You should always have an ah-so for situations like this; the two prongs wrap around the cork, instead of puncturing it, so a fragile cork won't crumble.) I decided to decant it, as the wine had lots of sediment.

The aromas were captivating, complex, with sour cherry and berry pie aromas, herb, anise and a touch of loamy earth and sage. The fruit was still lively, sweet, rich and elegant, ending with a nice tannic edge. I thought this wine had the goods to go longer and it has, surpassing my expectations—a satisfying bottle at 94 points, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original tasting note for Beringer Merlot Howell Mountain Bancroft Ranch 1987 (91 points, $29 on release)

• Find more scores and tasting notes for recently rated Napa Merlots, plus our quick list of Easy Finds among California reds.

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