When you go to Benziger, be prepared for a long visit as there is lots to do here. For starters, this is a winery that is far off the main drag from other Sonoma wineries so getting there is a journey. It is located up a small, windy mountain road surrounded by secluded mountain residences. Dozens of buildings greet the visitor after passing through the white picket fence in a theme park-like atmosphere of gingerbread houses, passenger trams,and directional signs.
It is hard to not be charmed with an outhouse and as a winery, Offering charm, instruction, and great fun, I arrived too late in the date, but apparently the multi-passenger trams run several times a day and offer a 45-minute vineyard, garden, and wildlife sanctuary tour. Self-guided walking tours exist in adjacent gardens to show off what makes Benziger really special: Certified Organic and Biodynamic wines.
These are big buzzwords in the industry these days and I’m not going to provide an entire dissertation, but will give you a link: here. Suffice to say I have a growing appreciation for wineries promoting organic growing practices producing biodynamic wine. There are many doing it on a small scale, but here is an opportunity to see it on a large scale and taste multiple examples. Benziger is large, producing 176,000 cases of wine (not ALL biodynamic) and several dozen varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, multiple blends, and a sweet wine. I was selective in my tasting:
2000 Reserve Pinot Noir – 65% of the grapes come from the Bien Nacido Vineyards in the Santa Maria area of Santa Barbara and 35% from the Bodega area; Sterling Little Vineyards.. Huge, spicy nose with core of raspberry and cherry. Even and balanced, the smooth mouthfeel is defined and balanced. Predominately berry in its presentation. $37.00
2002 Bien Nacido Syrah – Medium-bodied, a dichotomy of aromas of boysenberry and a touch of hospital do not prepare for the intensely smooth, integrated mouth entry. Integrated and complex with a touch of sage on the finish. $37.00
2002 Petite Sirah, McNab Ranch, Mendocino – Spicy, dark blueberry liqueur in the small-production wine (380 cases). Surprisingly easy to drink, where many this young are bombs, this medium-bodied wine starts a little sweet, intensifies in the mid-palate, and finishes with a happy little bite of spice. $35.00
2003 Estate Sonoma Mountain Red – 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc. Dark cherry, cocoa, and tobacco aromas. Warm, soft entry shows deep, integrated terroir-driven notes with defined earthy components. $49.00
2001 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County – This wine has been blended from grapes that come from four different vineyards throughout Sonoma. Immediate bouquet of cedar and eucalyptus complements with dark fruit flavors. Smooth and velvety, easy tannins are supple and expressive. $42.00
2002 Tribute – Their flagship wine dedicated to Helen and Bruno Benziger, this wine is darkly intense with black cherry and tobacco. Smooth erotic with earthy qualities. The feelings in the mouth are redolent with smooth tannins and hints of smoke. The finish is long and supple. $75.00
Benziger ~ 1883 London Ranch Road ~ Sonoma ~ Ca ~ 95442 ~ 707-935-3000
Three different tasting menus available, five tastes each;
$5.00 for their large production family wines
$10.00 for reserve and single vineyard wines
$10.00 for biodynamic and premiere wines