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Artesa Winery and Mark Beringer make beautiful music Part 1

Artesa Vineyards and Winery specializes in cool climate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.
Artesa Vineyards and Winery specializes in cool climate Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.
Patricia Decker

Mark Beringer dreamed of being a musician, a trumpet player. But destiny called, no denying the passion for wine coursing through his veins, the DNA footprint of four previous generations of Beringer winemakers a legacy too strong to resist. Mark’s instincts were spot on, he found he was good at crafting wine. This Napa Valley native son’s career journey, which included an award as “Winemaker of the Year” in 2005 at Duckhorn Vineyards, led him to make his own kind of music at Artesa Vineyards and Winery in Carneros.

From it’s regal perch in the hills of Carneros, between Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Artesa Winery has developed an impressive lineup of wines that best reflect the terroir, estate bottlings of concentrated, distinctive Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that thrive in the cool, windswept region. Over the past 30 years, the Raventós family of Spain’s esteemed Codorniu Group developed Artesa’s potential, starting with sparkling wine, then transitioning to still wines that channeled the grapes’ struggle in the shallow soils of the estate. Recently, Mark Beringer swung into Los Angeles to promote Artesa’s current releases, and I had the opportunity to taste and chat with him.

As Artesa’s Winemaker and Head of Production, Beringer finds many parallels between great wine and music. He conducts twenty different clonal selections of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from over 200 acres, blending them melodically, until they come together in perfect harmony. Mark’s philosophy? He looks at wine like a piece of music, he says, “you should have a beginning, it should build to some sort of crescendo, and then have a finale”. He believes that a lot of California Chardonnays are “just too impactful right off the bat, and don’t have any true progression on the palate”. What Mark envisions for Artesa is “the first thing you see in the mouth is the fruit, the place where it came from, it should be the terroir”. As the wine crosses the palate, Mark says, “it should build towards the mouthfeel, the richness, the breath of the wine. You should see the viscosity and the oiliness that comes from all the barrel aging and the sur lie contact”. And for the finish? “At the end, the oak should come. The oak should not be the predominant feature at the beginning, I want it to be what comes as the finale and have it hang around and linger, and have that be the thing, this nice toasty oak that just hangs around in the finish”. The coda of this composition is a haunting lilt of oak, which enriches the progression of the wine’s aromas and flavors. Mark feels “that’s what makes a complete wine, just like a complete piece of music”. In Beringer’s 5 years at Artesa, he has endeavored to bring out the personality and potential of these wines.

To see the video of Mark's music analogy to winemaking, click here.

continued in Part 2