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Benovia Winery

Benovia Winery is on the move. Workers are preparing a 40-acre parcel adjacent to the winery for planting. An extensive and expensive underground French drainage system has been installed to ensure good drainage of the vineyard. Root stock will be planted next year with grafting of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay clones onto the root stock the year after. A second property near Freestone is also undergoing preparation for planting. New vines are sprouting in parts of the estate Martaella Vineyard (see below). New and modern equipment is being added to the winery including a new bottling line which will allow bottling when the wine is ready and assure complete control of all variables in the bottling process. A new basket press is used for all red wines and modern refrigeration and heating systems have been installed in the barrel rooms. Soon, a reception facility and tasting room will be opened on the property. There has been no compromises at Benovia, and the quality of the wines are evidence of the commitment and high level of personal involvement. A new entrance to the winery signifies the emergence of Benovia Winery.

The vineyards at Benovia are farmed sustainably under the direction of Daniel Roberts, Ph.D., who is affectionately known as “Dr. Dirt.” Harvesting is done at night or in the early morning and each cluster is inspected before de-stemming and each berry is scrutinized after de-stemming. Small open-top fermenters are used. A pre-fermentation maceration of 5-8 days is followed by a slow fermentation driven by indigenous yeast. The Pinot Noirs are typically aged in French oak barrels for 14-16 months. The barrels are air dried for a minimum of three years to provide complimentary accents but not overwhelm the fruit. Talented winemaker Michael Sullivan is continually fine-tuning the winemaking process and is humbled by the challenge. He says, “What I love about winemaking is that perfection is unattainable.”

I recently visited Benovia and sat down with Winery Manager Bob Mosby to taste the 2006 Benovia Pinot Noirs. I re-tasted these later at home as well. For 2007 there will be little Cohn Vineyard wine as a fire there burned leaves and very little crop ripened. 2008 production will be limited as well. (Note: It was recently discovered that Cohn Vineyard lies just outside the northern boundary of the Russian River Valley AVA so the label now reads Sonoma County.) The 2007 vintage produced small clusters and small berries from other Benovia vineyards. The 2007 Savoy, Cohn and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs show great promise. 2008 was a warmer, riper vintage producing wines that are not as crisp or classic as 2006. A 2008 barrel sample I tried show dark, dark color and notable concentration.

2006 Benovia Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 950 cases, $45. A Spring 2008 release. · This wine has opened up quite a bit since last tasted. Pretty aromatics of fresh berries and floral notes. Well-structured and sinewy with earth-dusted dark berry and plum fruit flavors encased in supple tannins and finishing clean and bright.

2006 Benovia Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 220 cases, $55. Rich Savoy has been farming this venerable vineyard for 20 years. This wine contains clones 113, 115, Calera, Martini 13 and Pommard. Each clone is vinified separately and only the best barrels are chosen for the final blend. · Fullbodied and darkly fruited, this wine charms with its vibrant black raspberry and black cherry core of flavors. Still a little closed and needs to shed some tannins, but the persistent aromatic finish of cherries, herbs, and new oak is memorable.

2006 Benovia Bella Una Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 168 cases, $58. This was known in the barrel as the “proprietary blend” which doesn’t sound too appealing. Benovia turned to their customers who came up with the name which means “beautiful together” in Latin. · Deep and darkly colored. Intoxicating and gorgeous aromas of rich black cherry jam and ripe plums. Would love to bottle this nose. Luscious dark-fruited core that is rich and plush and nicely spiced with soft tannins and a finish that gradually fades away with a smooth follow through like a Kobe Bryant jump shot. A complete wine that offers finesse with power. The Pinot Geek would drink this wine now while the 2006 Cohn and Savoy Benovia Pinot Noirs develop in the bottle.

2006 Benovia Cohn Vineyard Sonoma County Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 220 cases, $62. At 34 years-old, 9-acre vineyard is one of the oldest in California. Previously, the vineyard supplied notable producers like Williams Selyem and Kosta Browne, but it now an estate property of Benovia. Yields in 2006 were 1.1 tons per acre. The clones are unknown and are planted on St. George rootstock. This wine is darkly colored. · Needs time to open up. Long and persistent scents of red and black cherries nicely spiced and accented by hints of smoke and white pepper. Juicy cherry and raspberry fruits fan out nicely on the palate with some minerality and tartness in the background, leaving a tangerine peel vibe on the lively finish. A Sarah Palin wine - slightly high-strung and vibrant. This wine will find fans.

Benovia Winery is located at 3339 Hartman Road in Santa Rosa. Tours and tasting are available by appointment (707-526-4441). The wines are sold exclusively through a mailing list at www.benoviawinery.com.

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