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Benziger has invested heavily in a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir program. In 2000, Meia Angleman and Algeo Casul were looking for a buyer to take over their ranch west of Occidental. It had been in the family for over 100 years, and they had never treated the property with chemicals. They approached the Benzigers, impressed by their committment to biodynamics and the company signed a 45-year lease and planted Pinot Noir.
The de Coelo (day-chay-lo) Estate Vineyard is perched on a rugged hilltop five miles from the Pacific Ocean, where rocky, shallow soils and the cooling fog off Bodega Bay create ideal conditions for exceptional Pinot Noir. Because of the very cool temperatures in this part of the Sonoma Coast, the 25-acre, certified-Biodynamic de Coelo is truly on the edge of where Pinot Noir will grow. The vineyard’s name means “that which is from heaven”—a moniker befitting an estate that nurtures intensely flavorful fruit and a wine of complexity, rich concentration and a strong backbone.
There are two bottlings from the de Coelo Vineyard: Terra Neuma is from deeper soils and is the richer of the pair, while Quintus is from a lower elevation with less topsoil and is more delicate. Both are site-driven wines.
With the 2005 vintage, this wine will be certified Biodynamic. Benziger's sustainable philosophy promotes natural vineyard management, restoration of the land and biodiversity on their estate. They believe these practices result in wines that reflect the authentic flavors, aromas and character of the vineyard.
Rodrigo Soto came from his native Chile to revamp the Benziger Pinot Noir program, but resigned in 2011 to return to Chile and was replaced by Jeff McBride who had been Vice President of Winemaking at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. McBride's experience includes more than three decades of winemaking including stints at Kenwood, Dry Creek Vineyards and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.
Benziger has produced a Sonoma Coast appellation Pinot Noir and a vineyard-designate Pinot Noir (Ricci Vineyard) from Carneros. Under the Signaterra label, Russian River Valley single-vineyard Pinot Noirs are produced from Bella Luna Vineyard, San Remo Vineyard and Giusti Vineyards.
The winery, located in Glen Ellen, offers extensive tours of the vineyards and a tasting room. The winery is seriously committed to farming by biodynamic methods. The wines are sold through the website and retail channels.
2012 Valerie’s Vineyard One Acre Carneros Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 100 cases, $40. 10th vintage. Produced and bottled at Benziger Family Vineyards in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County by winemaker Jeff McBride. Aged no less than 18 months in new and twice filled French oak. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of strawberry, cherry, seasoned oak and brewed tea. Light to mid weight flavors of red cherry, strawberry, raspberry and herbs. Appealing brightness and crispness with a firm tannic backbone and a pleasing cut of acidity on the frisky finish. Score: 90. Reviewed July 19, 2014 ARTICLE »
2010 Signaterra Bella Luna Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.62, 629 cases, $50. Released September 2012. Demeter Certified Biodynamic® vineyard. Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777. Yields 2.52 tons per acre. Native yeast fermentation and spontaneous malolactic fermentation. Aged 18 months in 35% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of Bing cherries and espresso oak. Discretely concentrated core of dark cherry fruit with accents of clove, nutmeg and cola. Admirable restraint and appealingly delicate, with a lovely fruit core, but displaying too much of an oak topcoat at present. This wine will appeal to those who like plenty of oak with their Pinot Noir. Good. Reviewed December 8, 2012 ARTICLE »
2010 de Coelo Quintus Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.63, 177 cases, $75. From a Freestone-Occidental very cool site that is Demeter Certified Biodynamic®. “de Coelo” translates to “that which is of heaven.” Clones are 667, 777 and Swan. 25% whole cluster. Fermented with native yeast. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Alluring scents of earth, dark red cherries and berries, spice and oak. This wine tastes of the soil as well as dark cherry and red plum flavors, complimented by oak, finishing with refreshing acidity and a flourish of cherry. A lighter weight vintage for this wine. Better the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle indicating cellaring is advisable. Very good. Reviewed December 8, 2012 ARTICLE »
2010 de Coelo Tierra Neuma Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.63, 177 cases, $75. Demeter Certified Biodynamic® vineyard. 25% whole clusters. Fermented with natural yeast, unfiltered. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of oak-infused cherries, espresso and Christmas spices. Driven by fresh and uplifting acidity, this wine features dark red fruits that have an earthy underpinning. A little more body, tannins and finish than Quintus, with more oak topcoat. More appealing the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. Very good. Reviewed December 8, 2012 ARTICLE »
2009 de Coelo Terra Neuma Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Not released. Fermented with native yeast. Aged in French oak barrels for 16 months. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Exotically spiced Pinot fruits on the nose with flavors of dark berries and cherry cobbler that are generous in intensity even at this young age. An acid-driven minerality lifts the fruit. A striking wine that makes an immediate impression. Very good (+). Reviewed March 12, 2011 ARTICLE »
2008 de Coelo Quintus Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., Not released. · Initial: Sexy perfume of red cherries and cut flowers. Tight with oak showing. Later: Magnificent now showing an appealing earthiness enrobing the cherry fruit. The nose is bright with cherries and berries and the smell of bark, cigar box and the outdoor smell of underbrush. The dry fine grain tannins are restrained, and secondary notes of earthiness and grass have emerged. Very good. Reviewed June 22, 2010 ARTICLE »
2008 de Coelo Quintus Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $69. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Remarkably nuanced aromatic profile featuring scents of black cherries, spices, mocha java, smoky oak and exotic purple flowers. A wine of the earth with loam-infused black cherry and berry flavors, a hint of tar, dusty tannins and bright acidity that lifts the rustic finish. Clean and silky with many years of life ahead. Very Good (+). Reviewed December 14, 2010 ARTICLE »
2008 de Coelo Terra Neuma Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.38, 24 barrels, $69. 25% whole clusters. · Initially: Lighter in weight than the 2007 vintage. Fully ripe array of cherries and berries with an earthy underpinning and chalky tannins. Fruit and spice really shine with swirling. Later: Bright, sexy and aromatic now with riper flavors of soft berry fruit emerging. Intense and bold with the taste of the soil coming through on the finish. Very good. Reviewed June 22, 2010 ARTICLE »
2008 de Coelo Terra Neuma Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $69. · Moderate reddish-purple in the glass. Exotic and complex nose offering scents of wild berries, truffle, wine cask and forest floor. Luscious core of dark berries that cling to the finish. Earth, mineral, oak and cola undertones add interest. The fruit is vivid, framed by soft tannins and complimented by crisp acidity. A seamless wine that picks up interest over several hours in the glass. A Pinot Noir unbridled by convention. Reviewed December 14, 2010 ARTICLE »
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. Reviewed March 11, 2010 ARTICLE »
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. Reviewed March 11, 2010 ARTICLE »
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. Reviewed March 11, 2010 ARTICLE »
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. Reviewed March 11, 2010 ARTICLE »
2007 de Coelo Quintus Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.48, 19 barrels, $69 (sold out). Aged 18 months in 50% new French oak barrels. · Initially: More perfumed with brighter fruit. Lighter in weight with redder fruits including cherries and pomegranates. Soft in the mouth with a lively finish. Later: On the nose there are aromas of red fruits, vanilla and spice. Very tasty rich cherry core with a slight touch of tart cherry skins. Very good. Reviewed June 22, 2010 ARTICLE »
2007 de Coelo Terra Neuma Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.56, 18 barrels, $69. Aged 10.5 months in 50% new medium toast French oak barrels. · Initially: Definite minerality on the nose. Flavors of dark fruits, anise, earth and a hint of citrus on the finish. Later: More finesse with flavors of dried cherries and red currants and a subtle underlying savory herbaceousnecss. Very good. Reviewed June 22, 2010 ARTICLE »
2006 Benziger Signaterra Bella Luna Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $40. · Fairly garnet color. A light and elegantly styled Pinot Noir that has some charming ripe cherry and berry fruit aromas and flavors with underlying dark caramel notes from oak and a juicy grip of citric peel on the bright finish. Harmonious with ripe, dry tannins and alluring finesse. Reviewed July 9, 2009 ARTICLE »
2005 Benziger Family Winery Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $19. · Not particularly appealing forest floor and green tomato aromas. Heavily weighed down by a green vegetable tone throughout. Smooth, viscous texture with fine tannins. Reviewed April 7, 2008 ARTICLE »