Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen is the “total package”
We have so many great wineries in the Sonoma Valley – large and small producers, those with great tasting rooms and beautiful grounds and those sharing industrial space out on Eighth Street East. One of my all-time favorites and probably the one that is always on my short list of recommended wineries to visit is the Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen.
This family owned and operated winery really is the total package. A beautiful winery and vineyard estate located off the beaten path, but easy to get to; terrific wines across the board and on top of it all a commitment to sustainability and biodynamics that is not just some trendy idea from the marketing department.
All of this started in the late 1970s when Mike Benziger, the oldest son of Bruno and Helen Benziger and his wife Mary found the property that would become the Benziger wine estate in Glen Ellen. Bruno Benziger was a principal of wine importer Park, Benziger & Company in New York, so wine was long a part of Benziger family life. Once established, the family’s early fame was defined by the launch, success and eventual sale in 1993 of the Glen Ellen wine brand. From that point, the family’s attention shifted to a new brand: the Benziger Family Winery.
Early on Mike’s brothers Bob, Joe and Jerry and sister Patsy and her husband Tim Wallace (now company president) joined the business with the rest of the family coming out west and on board soon after.
It didn’t take long for Mike Benziger to begin to push a new idea to the family about how to manage their vineyards; a method that would help sustain and renew the land on which they intended to build their family’s future. The goal was to change their practices to achieve organic or biodynamic certification for all of their estate vineyards and to convince their independent growers to work toward the same ultimate goal. The result today is a wine portfolio where every wine carries a third-party certification of green farming practices – certified sustainable, organic or biodynamic. It’s a pretty admirable achievement.
Today, Benziger Family Winery produces a couple of dozen wines across five labels – Benziger Estate, Benziger Family Winery, Signaterra, Tribute and de Coelo. And that doesn’t include the related Imagery Estate Winery across the Valley to the east along Highway 12. Imagery Estate is another story for another column.
Wines under the Benziger Estate label include Oonapais Sonoma Mountain Red, a Bordeaux varietal blend ($55), Obsidian Point Cabernet Sauvignon ($65), Joaquin’s Inferno, a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Grenache ($60) and a Sauvignon Blanc named Paradiso de Maria ($35). Wines under the Benziger Family Winery label include Merlot from Rose Ranch ($37), a Sonoma Valley Zinfandel ($45), Cabernet Sauvignons from Dry Creek Valley ($42) and Puma Springs ($40), a Sonoma Valley Syrah ($37), a Carneros Chardonnay($29) a Rosé from Dragonsleaf Vineyard ($25) and a Port ($35).
Wines under the Signaterra label include Cabernet Sauvignons from Stone Farm Vineyard ($50), Gordenker Vineyard ($50) and Sunnyslope Vineyard ($66); a San Remo Vineyard Pinot Noir ($50), a Shone Farm Sauvignon Blanc ($25), a Chardonnay from Sangiacomo Vineyard called “West Rows” ($32) and a “Three Blocks” blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot ($50) The de Coelo label is home for very nice Pinot Noir from the Freestone area in Western Sonoma County. And arguably the family’s pride and joy is Tribute ($80), an estate blend of Bordeaux varieties and the first Demeter-certified biodynamic wine from Sonoma County.
Visiting the winery is a treat –they have great tours of the winery and the vineyard and full menu of tasting options. If you haven’t been there, check it out!
Benziger Family Winery is located at 1883 London Ranch Road in Glen Ellen and is open daily for tasting and tours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, please call 888.490.2739 or visit benzinger.com.
As always, you can email me with questions at email@example.com.
Greg Walter has been a Sonoma resident for more than 20 years. Greg has been in wine and food publishing for more than 30 years, 15 of which were spent as a senior editor and later president of Wine Spectator magazine. Today he writes the PinotReport newsletter (www.pinotreport.com) and publishes books through his Carneros Press imprint (www.carnerospress.com).