The Wine Guy - Greg Walter


Envolve Wines opens plaza tasting room

Before you all reach for your device of choice to groan at me via email, this is not another column about “Bachelor Ben.” It is a story about the latest step in the evolution of Ben Flajnik and to a lesser degree his partners Mike Benziger and Danny Fay from instant celebrities back to real Sonoma Valley vintners.

But first, a little background.

Envolve Wines (then Evolve Wines) was founded in 2008 by Flajnik and Benziger, longtime friends who shared a passion for interesting wines. Their focus and philosophy were on grape sources and wine production that were sustainable – organic or biodynamic. Sauvignon Blanc was a favorite varietal, so that and Cabernet Sauvignon became the initial lineup for the winery.

Ben Flajnik is a Sonoma native and recalls that he has been an entrepreneur most of his life. He became friends with Michael Benziger while the two were on the same baseball team. While in college majoring in music production Ben made his own homemade wine and beer. Mike Benziger is part of the local wine family that really needs no introduction. As part of Benziger Family Winery he’s lived in the wine business all of his life and in particular has learned and lived his family’s commitment to sustainable and biodynamic practices. Mike has spent much of his professional life in sales roles for Benziger and wholesaler Young’s Market Company.

Joining the team a little later was third partner Danny Fay. Fay was born in Oxford, England and came to Sonoma when he was 10 years old. He grew up in the valley and earned a bachelor’s degree in wine marketing from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo as well as a master’s degree in wine business from the Bordeaux Ecole de Management. He has traveled extensively, studying biodynamic winemaking.

So, on or right around July 4 this year, the trio opened their Envolve tasting room in the Sonoma Court Shops to showcase their two labels: Envolve and Epilogue. Open daily, the tasting room offers tasting in flights of wines and also is set up to serve private group tastings of up to 50 people with prior arrangements.

Wines under the Envolve label are the upper tier of the venture and feature Sonoma County AVAs and are made with a sustainable farming approach — specifically organic and biodynamic. Current releases include a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma Valley ($19.99), 2010 Chardonnay Carneros ($24.99), 2011 Rose Sonoma Mountain ($24.99), 2010 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($29.99), 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley ($39.99) and a 2010 Old Vine Primitivo Sonoma County ($34.99).

The Epilogue wines are value priced, “everyday” wines that according to the partners “encompass the spirit of friendship, education and fun…” Current releases include a 2010 Chardonnay North Coast ($13.99) and a 2010 Epilogue Red Blend ($15.99).

(Just a little snarky here, but is there still anyone out there that would make a buying decision because a wine was priced at $13.99 versus $14? Maybe if I were buying a thousand bottles, but otherwise? Ok, snarkiness complete.)

Tasting is offered in flights ranging from $5 for the three-wine Epilogue flight, to $10 for a flight of six wines (both Epilogue and Envolve) and $15 for a five-wine reserve flight of Envolve wines.

The Envolve tasting room is in the Sonoma Court Shops’ “Vine Alley,” 27 East Napa St. Suite A on the south side of the Plaza, and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 939.5985 or visit envolvewinery.com.

As always, please email me with any questions at gswalter@pinotreport.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).


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