• The last two articles I posted were on the grandiose methods of Biodynamic farming.

    The impetus for these articles was a private tour and tasting at Benziger Family Winery. Their estate vineyards are done entirely using these methods. In some ways the labor needed to put together such an organic ecosystem is mind boggling, but with almost two dozen family members helping they seem to have it well under control.

    Arriving at the vineyard I immediately was impressed by the people friendly setup. There was a tree shaded patio with tables and chairs at which you could enjoy your wine tasting or bottle purchases (complete with free WiFi if you just had to make your Facebook friends jealous.)

    Just past the patio was a kiosk, that was slightly bigger than a tollbooth, at which you could sign in for your tour or get information about the winery etc.

    They had large tour trams for about 15 people I’m guessing, and then they also had private VIP tours like the one I went on. The one on one interraction (or three to one seeing as how I was with two others) was nice because I really wanted to geek out with wine speak and get all the details.

    We got on our little tram as was guided by Todd Benziger Threlkeld. He was a dy-no-mite (as said by Jimmy Walker on Good Times) tour guide. He told us to holler if we wanted to stop for photos, get info or just take in the view.


    He discussed how when they owned the Glen Ellen label they were all about mass production. Under such intense usage the land lost its beneficial properties and was eroding at a terrifying rate. They eventually sold off the label and used the money they made from the sale to help revamp their vineyard.

    In the mid-90s they befriended Alan York, one of the leading international experts on Biodynamic farming. He helped them turn their winery into what it is today. With Alan’s help, they learned which flowers attracted the bugs they needed to keep pest populations in control. Habitats were created for birds and owls, and they brought cows, sheep and chickens to live on the property.


    We drove from our first viewpoint through two vines (the leaves brushed by on both sides.. it was a tight fit.)


    (I got a real close view of the grapes as we cruised through)


    When we came out the other side Todd introduced us to a cow and her calf.



    (He tried to coax them over for a bite, but they were comfy in the shade)

    In a lot of ways the tour was more informative and illustrated then any I’ve been on. I say illustrated because they had photos and illustrations about everything they currently do and everything they’ve done in the past to make their vineyard the way it is.

    One of my favorites was how they dug the ground up in between two vines to show the depth of the roots and the type of soil.

    They showed which types of bugs and animals were encouraged to live on the vineyard to assist in pest removal and grape production.


    The pyramid in the photo is a sort of chart how their farming works.


    The Benziger property also had nearly any fruit you could think of in it’s orchard. They also had a beautiful garden which one could traverse and also relax at numerous rest/drink spots all over.

    Their cellar was truly incredible. They bore out a 30,000 foot cellar to hold, at a naturally sustaining temperature of 67 degrees, all their barrels of wine (I asked to be left in, but it was a no go.)

    The tasting room was pleasant with all manner of wines and wine related items for sale. Todd gave us a their estate, Biodynamic, and single vineyard tasting menu. It had a few wines that were only available at the winery (always makes you feel special.)

    I found all their wines to be complex and somewhat raw, in a positive way. They really tried to let the terroir and farming methods speak for themselves.

    I think my favorite part of the whole tour was the door to nowhere. Obnoxious, just like me.


    All in all it was a pleasant trip with great wine and company. I highly recommend taking a trip there, and to make that easier Weeklygrape will be having a contest with a tour and tasting giveaway for Benziger very soon!


    In closing I would like to give you some tasting notes Benziger provided on three great wines I tried.  I believe they are only available at the tasting room (even more reason to go,) or by mail order.



    2011 Shone Farm Sauvignon Blanc
    <PRE>2011 Shone Farm Sauvignon Blanc</PRE>

    This wine features aromas of pineapple and green pepper that stimulate the senses, while flavors of asparagus and habañero pepper titillate the tongue. Tropical fruit undertones please the palate straight through to the finish. Its nice texture and crisp acids make this a very food-friendly wine.

    2010 Signaterra “West Rows” Chardonnay
    <PRE>2010 Signaterra "West Rows" Chardonnay</PRE>

    This richly textured, full-bodied Chardonnay has a mouthwatering array of stone fruit aromas and tropical fruit flavors which are echoed on the palate. Crafted in a Burgundian style, this wine is 100% barrel fermented to build up the mid-palate, adding a creamy texture without a heavy aroma. Although the body is dense, its fresh citrus finish lifts the palate.


    2009 Signaterra Pinot Noir, San Remo
    <PRE>2009 Signaterra Pinot Noir, San Remo</PRE>

    The 2009 San Remo has refreshing bright red cherry, raspberry, and strawberry flavors, indicative of the cooler growing season. In warmer seasons this wine has had a big, broad, sweet entry- chock full of dark fruit flavor; not so for the ’09 which has a more restrained horizontal entry with a nice mid-body.