The Benziger Blogger Follies!

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Benziger Family Vineyards sits inside an eruption cauldron, part of Sonoma Mountain, in Glen Ellen.  One beautiful early fall day, they took on a group of bloggers and showed us the VIP treatment and gave us a nice education and tasting lesson behind the scenes. Here at Benziger, the practice of biodynamics builds up the biological capital every year.  Building a closed ecosystem, the winery has created its own terroir through the careful management of the land, and the balance of nature and farming.  Eliminating the use of synthetic chemicals and starting more natural methods like crop rotation, composting, and natural insect and pest control changed the ecosystem. We started our day taking a tram tour around the property, where we had several stops where Mike Benziger, Kathy Benziger, and Next, we wandered down to the insectary, where Colby explained how the introduction of beneficial insects helps keep the farm in balance.  While in the insectary, we sipped on some 2008 Estate Sauvignon Blanc Paradiso de Maria, Sonoma Mountain while a Praying Mantis came to sit atop our bottle.  I tasted lemons, cream, grapefruit, with a whiff of petrol on the nose, as well as chalk and hay.  It had a great acidify and was lively with granny smith apple flavors.  500 cases of this wine were produces from a one acre block that was dry farmed with minimal intervention.  The wine was fermented on native yeast, which I always enjoy because I think it provides such a unique factor to every barrel.  It was fermented in 100% stainless steel barrels sur lie and was delicious! After the gardens, we moved on to the compost pile.  Yes, the compost pile.  Unfortunately, i didnt’ have any wine with me at the time, but luckily enough, it did NOT smell like my kitchen bucket.  Mike Benziger explained to us that there are no magic tricks when making great wine.  Benziger vines havfe very deep root growth on the property, which in part is caused by a change in the irrigation strategy.  Deep roots allow for more stability int he vines.  According to Mike, biodynamics is the best fine tuning system for nature, to make the best wine.  The compost piles are actually kept separate for each block, and they are put back on the land where they came from.  This adds to the closed ecosystem and prevents any cross contamination from occurring. Our next stop was the water treatment facility, which is a series of ponds that are aerated at the back of the property.  This is a man made wetland, which acts as a natural filter and helps to recycles and resue 2-4 million gallons (yes kids that’s a LOT of water!) annually. Before we moved in to the cave to taste smoe with, we stopped by the crushpad to see their new sorting table. As it was in the middle of crush, we saw the line in action.  this new vibrating sorting table allows the workers to sort out the duds, so they are […]

A Plethora of Pinot

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  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, […]