Benovia Winery Debuts
When I recently visited the Russian River Valley for the Hospices of Sonoma, I
hung out with general manager Bob Mosby and winemaker Mike Sullivan of
Benovia Winery. I came away very impressed by the commitment to precision
viticulture, the state-of-the-art winery, and the deft winemaking here.. Benovia is
still a secret to even the most avid pinotaficionados since the winery has yet to release
a Pinot Noir (the inaugural Pinot Noirs will be introduced at this time next
year). My barrel sampling of the 2006 vintage of Pinot Noirs indicated that this
winery is poised for success.
The new venture is spearheaded by a group of businessmen headed by Joe
Anderson, who resides in Phoenix, Arizona, where his company, Schaller Anderson,
Inc., is a third-party administrator for health insurance. He has a passion for
fine wine and has committed significant financial resources to achieve his goal of
making extraordinary wines. The winery is managed by Bob Mosby, PhD, a noted
psychologist and business consultant who formerly lived in Phoenix . Bob is a
long-time wine enthusiast who helped out with the crush at Williams Selyem
beginning in 1989. After the winery was sold, he worked the harvest at Brogan
Cellars. Well-known viticulturist Daniel Roberts, PhD, has been hired to oversee
the management of the vineyards and direct all new planting projects.
Joe Anderson searched for a winemaker that “had experience and touch to
produce wines that are compelling, honest and dramatic.” The winemaker he
chose was Mike Sullivan, a graduate of Fresno State who has worked in the wine
industry for over 15 years. Most recently, he crafted refined and elegantly-styled
Pinot Noirs at Hartford Family Winery in Forestville. Under his leadership, Hartford
became one of California’s top producers of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and oldvine
Zinfandel. Mike has received a number of accolades including “2002 Wine
Personality of the Year” by Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate and “2002 Winemaker
of the Year” by Ronn Wiegand of Restaurant Wine. After his hiring, Mike
said, “I joined Benovia to make wines that transcend varietal correctness. I want to
create bottlings that meld the grape, climate and topography into something
unique and special. We’ve got some of the world’s finest cool-climate sites within
spitting distance of our winery. The cold winds that blow off the Pacific Ocean
and the complex soils and geography of the California coastline provide us with
some of the greatest natural resources on Earth. I am looking forward to vinifying
wines that are deep, concentrated and incredibly complex.”
Bob and Mike are too of the nicest guys you ever want to meet. I urge you to visit the winery and get to
know them. The vest brigade is pictured below (Bob on left, Mike in middle).
The winery is located on Hartman Road in Santa Rosa, in the heart of the Santa Rosa Plain. Originally,
the building (pictured below) was the home of Merry Edward’s first winery, Merry Vintners. It was
subsequently acquired by De Loach and expanded to produce nearly 30,000 cases. Joe acquired the
55-acre property from Cecil DeLoach. The winery has been downsized and equipped with the latest in
winemaking toys. The Martaella Vineyard, now Benovia Vineyard, is adjacent to the winery. This
vineyard is 18 acres, with 13.5 acres planted to the Pommard clone of Pinot Noir in 1998. Extensive
renovation has been done to lower yields for quality. In addition, new tight-spaced plantings (4’ x 4’)
are going in as I write this newsletter. The property also has a guest house (more about that later) and
an additional house which will be converted into a hospitality center in the future. See additional
photos on page 3.
Above left: taking notes with new planting and winery in background. Above right: new plantings with
guest house in far distance.
In addition to the Benovia Winery and vineyards, owner Joe Anderson purchased the Benovia Ranch,
formerly the Cohn Ranch in 2002. Bob took me for a drive to visit this magnificent 55-acre property.
The Cohn Vineyard is located in the hills off of Westside Road, west of Healdsburg. It is one of the
Russian River Valley’s heritage vineyards, with Pinot Noir and Zinfandel vines dating to 1975. Two
women owned the property initially and it was subsequently sold to the Cohn family. For several
years it was owned and farmed by De Loach Vineyards. The vineyard sits on a steep and rocky slope
surrounded by redwoods and has a stunning view of the Russian River Valley (photo below).
The Cohn Vineyard was made famous by Williams Selyem and most recently, Kosta Browne. The vineyard has undergone extensive refurbishment to bring it in line with modern farming goals including
severe pruning of the vines to markedly limit yields.
The name Benovia comes from a combination of the first names of the
Anderson family’s grandfathers. The winery’s ultimate goal is to produce
5,000 cases per year of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel. As an indication
of the commitment to quality here, no 2005 vintage of Pinot Noir was
bottled because it was not deemed worthy enough to represent the Benovia
label. Two wines have been released, a 2005 Benovia Winery Cohn
and a 2006 Benovia Winery Rosé of Pinot Noir.
Zinfandel has heady berry aromas with lip-smacking peppered fruit and
pleasing persistence. The Rosé is a crisp wine offering strawberry, orange
peel and watermelon flavors and a kiss of minerality on the lively finish.
I barrel tasted through the 2006 lineup of Pinot Noirs and one 2006
Chardonnay. The Chardonnay was sourced from a former apple orchard in
the Russian River Valley and I could swear that I tasted apple notes along
with citrus flavors in this perfectly fine wine. There were two Pinot Noir blends: one an entry level
wine from several vineyards and the second a blend of three vineyards. The latter was a step up with
attractive aromatics and a long finish. The Cohn Vineyard Pinot Noir was ridiculous - generously perfumed
and sensuous. There was a great core of intense cherry fruit, cola and spice, a silky texture,
and a clean finish. The Savoy Vineyard (Anderson Valley) Pinot Noir exhibited a more characteristic
structured and tannic backbone with nice herbal overtones on the backend. All of the wines were
well-made with pin-point balance and appealing textures. No alcohol or tannic overload whatsoever.
Mike says his style is “Old Word meets New World halfway.”
The Benovia Vineyard Hideaway is a three bedroom, two bath house surrounded by vineyards at the
end of Hartman Road. From every window there is a vineyard view. It is modern inside with plush
bedding (I stayed a week with the Princess and we slept like babies here). The house has many
amenities including a two-car garage, barbeque, spa, two porches, and even a fenced-in dog run.
Perfectly located, the house is 15 minutes from both Healdsburg and Sebastopol and very close to the
famous wineries of the Russian River Valley. I very highly recommend it for your adventures in Pinot
is located at 3339 Hartman Road, Santa Rosa. The phone number is 707-526-4441.
The website is www.benoviawinery.com
where more information on the winery and Vineyard Hideaway
can be found. You can visit by appointment by contacting Bob Mosby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the mailing list and keep apprised of open houses and future releases. I might add that Bob and
Mike know all the good bakeries, artisan food suppliers and restaurants in the Russian River Valley
which makes a stay here even more delightful.