Early in September, my friend and fellow blogger, Chris Oggenfuss of Vintuba and also Benziger Family Winery tweeted something about a day of pinot up at the farm (winery). Far be it for me to miss a pinot party, so off I went to Glen Ellen to visit Benziger, something I hadn’t done in many year s.I must say, in the past I had been somewhat disappointed in their winemaking efforts, being one of the stops I’d always take out of town visitors. Sure, the tram tour was cool adn the garden was delightful, but there was something just off about the wine. Fast forward 10 years and WOW! I had NO idea that they were up to some awfully good tricks up on that hill past Jack London State Park!
The Spotlighton Pinot Event focused on 5 premier offerings of pinot from Benziger, paired with some simply divine cheeses. Chris generously comped me my tasting tickets, and the staff were gracious and welcoming and poured and poured and poured!
The star of the event was Signaterra, Benziger’s new project headed by Rodrigo Soto, a Chilean import who is working wonders. Signaterra wines are the next step for Benziger’s farming philosophy (more on that in another post) and new journeys in wine from premier Sonoma-appellation vineyards. Signaterra’s magna carta is about integrating the right resources of the Earth, the inescapable forces of Nature, and the attentiveness of Man into a distinctive wine.
2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – The cool climate of the Sonoma Coast and Carneros vineyards kept sugars low and complexity high, while a long growing season stretched the harvest over three months. The net yields were lower, with more concentrated flavors of bright juicy raspberry, dark spicy notes of cola bark and spicy earth with stewed figs. There were also lovely flavors of deep dark cherry. I also felt a slight spritz that needs to mellow slightly, and it looked like it was unfiltered. I really enjoyed this wine and for $26 it has fabulous QPR and is an absolute BUY.
2007 Signaterra Giusti Ranch Pinot Noir – is from the Russian River Valley, and earned my #1 spot in this tasting. It was rich and luxurious, with dark figs and black fruit, followed by black cherries, black raspberries and cola syrup. The rich fruit had a back note of cinnamon, and a hint of mushroominess forest floor. It was $49, but wroth every penny and is a STRONG BUY.
2007 San Remo Vineyard Pinot Noir – is another Russian River example. This vineyard is in the heart of the Russian River region, and this area is known for it’s bold and elegant pinots, and the cool climate is perfect for Pinot. The granite soils offer excellent drainage, and is currently practicing sustainable farming techniques. The winds that sweep through the valley reduce the vigor of the vines, and keep the yield low, producing intense clusters. This wine had a lot of bright cherry, earthy mushrooms, bright red fruit, and nutmeg, with a tinge of rhubarb and cranberries. It was a big pinot but still delicate, and a slightly bitter finish of nutmeg. This wine was completely different than the Sonoma Coast Pinot, and it was my 3rd place wine. If you are feeling a splurge, go BUY this at $49.
2007 Bella luna Vineyard Pinot Noir – is a classically cool climate pinot. It had bright raspberry fruit, a dusty layer of spice, and an earthy finish. Bella Luna is in the redwoods, and is a cool region. It’s on the extreme Sonoma Coast, less than 10 miles from the pacific, which keeps the acids in check adn guards against the high temperature swings inland. This wasn’t my favorite, but you should try it for your self.
2007 De Coelo Terra Neuma Pinot Noir – more of a classically Burgundian wine, this was the last of the pinots I tasted. It was quite a departure from the bold cherry juice of the Signaterra, and the bright raspberry spice fo the Sonoma Coast, and is Benziger’s flagship reserve wine. The rocky soils that are spitting distance from Bodega Bay are idea for Pinot Noir, which loves the cool foggy temperatures. in the Terra Neuma, i tasted sweet Bing cherries, a touch of rosemary, nutmeg and bright red fruit all with a subtle earthiness and mroe restrained flavors. this wine is a splurge, but if you’re upf rot eh $69, it would be a great wine with cranberry sauce at your Thanksgiving Table. BUY
The lesson here of course, is have an open mind – go back and visit a winery you haven’t been to in a while. Try the wines again. Things change, things mature. The focus on the Benziger efforts after the sale of the Glen Ellen label, have produced outstanding results. I can’t wait to go try some of the other wines and this will be a regular stop (avoiding the busses of course!)
Thanks again to Chris and Benziger for a fun filled Pinotlicious day! For more on Benziger, Signaterra, and thier wines, stay tuned for The Benziger Blogger Follies!