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Benziger Pinot Noir Program Now Shines

Benziger Family Winery has achieved a well-deserved reputation for pioneering sustainable, organic and Biodynamic© winegrowing in Sonoma County. In the past, Pinot Noir was not the winery’s main focus, but if you visit the website home page now, you will see Pinot Noir prominently touted including a special 3rd Annual Winemaker Pinot Noir Cellar Dinner on March 6, 2010 in the Benziger Wine Caves. At this dinner, winemakers Mike Benziger and Rodrigo Soto are to lead the attendees through a collection of limited production, single vineyard and estate Pinot Noirs.

The Benziger family has been growing grapes on Sonoma Mountain for close to thirty years. In the mid 1990s, Mike Benziger befriended Alan York, one of the leading international experts on biodynamic farming. The resulting transition to biodynamic farming resulted in a higher caliber of Benziger wines.

Chilean-born Rodrigo Soto joined Benziger as director of winemaking in 2006 and manages the Signaterra winemaking program. The Signaterra wines are premium vineyard designated varietals including Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and a Bordeaux blend. Soto’s experience with biodynamic farming dates to his work as winemaker at Matetic Vineyards in San Antonio, Chile. He works in tandem with Mike Benziger who acts as General Manager and primary winemaker for the Tribute line of Benziger wines.

The newest vintage of Pinot Noirs are wines you can really get your teeth into and are highly recommended. All four of the wines reviewed below are charming and beautifully balanced, and picking one out for special merit is really just a matter of personal preference. Winemaking is traditional for Pinot Noir. After destemming, the whole berries are fermented in open top fermenters and cold soaked for 5 to 6 days. Native yeast powers primary and secondary fermentations.

Benziger wines are available online at and The Sonoma Mountain tasting room is open daily and special estate vineyard tours and tastings are available by appointment (707-935-4527).

2007 Signaterra Benziger Bella Luna Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.50, 1,350 cases, $49. The Bella Luna Vineyard is one of the coolest vineyards in the Russian River Valley. Clones 115, 667 and 777 are planted in Goldridge soils and the vineyard is now in transition to official Demeter Biodynamic© certification. Aged 11 months in 35% new French oak. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Haunting aromas of darker berries, oak vanillin and toast. Very tasty panoply of purple fruits with hints of cranberry and pomegranate. Rich and persuasive on the palate filling the mouth with pleasure and leaving a smooth and soft imprint on the pleasing finish. A fruit driven style with restrained tannins and a hint of lemon peel on the lively finish. A lovely wine that will find many fans.

2007 Signaterra Benziger Giusti Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.47, 825 cases, $49. From a 7-acre vineyard planted in 2000 to clones 667, 115 and 777. The vineyard is located in one of the warmer areas of the Russian River Valley, nicknamed the “banana belt” of the appellation. Certified sustainably grown. Aged in 35% new French oak for 11 months. · A fruity nose displaying aromas of Bing cherries, strawberries, raspberries, cut flowers and herbs. Delicious black cherry bombast that is discreetly concentrated and embellished with notes of dark chocolate, cola, spice and edible flowers. Silky and delicate, this wine is quite charming with respectable length on the pleasing finish. Very good.

2007 Signaterra Benziger San Remo Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., pH 3.62, 650 cases, $49. 5.24 acres planted to Dijon 115, 667 and 777 in Goldridge series soils. Farmed sustainably. Aged 11 months in 35% new French oak. · I just loved the nose of delicately spiced cherries. Lovely and generously flavored dark red cherry, strawberry and rhubarb fruit with the faintest underpinning of oak, loamy earth and spice. Juicy and bright with the fruit-forwardness that has made Russian River Valley Pinots so desirable.

2007 de Coelo Benziger Quintos Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., pH 3.48, 475 cases, $69. Sourced from an estate vineyard located in the Freestone Occidental area five miles from the Pacific Ocean. 25 acres, Demeter Certified Biodynamic©, at the edge of where Pinot Noir will grow. Yields 2 tons per acre. Aged 18 months in 50% new French oak. · Distinct from Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs for its more savory, mineral-driven and earthy core. Aromas of wild dark berries, sweet pipe tobacco, forest floor and oak char. Intense and dense on the palate featuring the pure essence of dark red and black berries robed in sweet oak with a hint of citrus in the background from zippy acidity. Very smooth in the mouth with restrained tannins. Will need time to fully integrate the oak. This wine will appeal more to lovers of savory tones than fruity intensity . Very good.

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