We visited the Benziger Family Winery in November and were very surprised at how nice the weather was. It was sunny, warm and very pleasant, and a perfect time to tour this historical Estate property. As we arrived at the Benziger Family winery, we were greeted by Jill Benziger, daughter to Winemaker Joe Benziger. Jill was very cheerful and welcomed us to the winery. We felt as though we were part of the family. She took us on a tram tour of the Benziger Estate and she explained in great detail how the family started with the purchase of the property, and how it transformed into the recognizable Estate Winery of today. Jill’s passion for her family and work was evident in her excitement, as we listened to her tell the inspiring stories that drew us in.
We were fortunate to have visited on such a beautiful day as the property was still in the late stages of fall and the rolling hills of Glen Ellen seemed almost magical against the setting sun. The Benziger property is truly one of a kind and over the course of more than 3 decades has cultivated into the perfect marriage of ecology and wine growing. The property is certified as an official biodynamic farm which adds to the richness and instinctive quality that makes them a successful wine producer.
Jill explained to us in detail how the biodynamic farming began, and why the family decided to focus in that direction. Biodynamic farming has many advantages including soil regeneration, elimination of chemicals, as well as a haven for plants and insects all working together to improve growing, and the environment.
The Benziger Estate developed an Insectary which contained hand selected plants that attract supporting insects all beneficial to the property and vineyards. We stopped at the Insectary and were served a crisp and refreshing 2014 Paradiso De Maria Sauvignon Blanc, followed by a wonderful full bodied 2013 Signaterra Chardonnay. Jill explained how the garden worked together with the vineyards making them stronger and more resilient to the environment. The garden also has fruit trees, and raised beds for vegetables and herbs, which they sell locally to restaurants.
As we continued on the tour, we stopped by a large pond located at the lower area of the Estate which supplies water to the property. The pond collects ground water from the hills and is reclaimed so it can be re- used for irrigation. The estate also houses sheep and Scottish Highlander Cattle which play an important role in weed removal and natural fertilization. We really enjoyed listening to Jill explain how everything works together in unison to provide a natural sustainable environment throughout the property.
The Benziger family spent many years perfecting this farming technique to develop a high standard of agriculture which is expressed in their fine wines. A detailed description of their farming techniques and history can be found on the Benziger website at www.benziger.com.
As we continued back to the Winery, we met will Jill’s father Joe Benziger. Joe was a true gentleman and greeted us with the same enthusiasm as Jill. We talked for a while and really appreciated that Joe took the time to stop by and talk with us. After our enjoyable conversation, we were escorted to an outstanding wine cave decorated with beautiful tapestries and antiques.
Jill continued to impress us with her family history and explained the family wines associated with their family traditions. We started out with a 2013 De Coelo Pinot Noir, Abore Sacra that had great berry flavors with a great finish. The Benziger family takes great pride in the next wine in honor of their 2013 Joaquin’s Inferno, named after Joaquin Corona who has been with the Benziger family for over 30 years. This special wine is a perfect blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Granache that have subtle tanins with rich dark fruit characteristics. We finished the cave tour with a phenomenal 2012 Estate Grown Tribute. This Bordeaux blend was amazing with complex flavor profiles of fruit, black tea, and spice. This wine left a lasting impression as an exceptional Bordeaux blend.
After the tour, we joined Jill in the tasting room and indulged in a few more select wines completing a perfect end to our day. The Benziger tasting room has an impressive selection of great wines to choose from. We sincerely had a great time at the Benziger Estate Winery and really appreciated the amazing tour of the Estate. It was a perfect day accompanied with “esprit de corps”, and we look forward to seeing Jill and Joe again.
We wanted to show a timeline of events that led to the Benziger Winery success because we were impressed with the Benziger family unity, and the years of hard work it took working together as a family, to become the exceptional winery it is today.
- In the year 1973, Mike and Mary Benziger moved from their home state of New York after getting married and decide to settle in Northern California.
- 1980- Mike and Bruno Benziger acquire the historical Wegener Ranch in beautiful Glen Ellen, California.
- 1982-1988- The additional 4 siblings move to California to join their family.
- 1995-2000- Benziger Sonoma Mountain Estate converts to Biodynamic farming and in 2000 becomes an officially Certified Biodynamic Farm recognized by the Demeter Association.
- 2001- The wine label “Tribute” becomes the first Certified Biodynamic Release of the Benziger Estate.
- 2006- All Benziger wines become Certified as either Sustainable, Organic, or Biodynamic.
- The official Timeline and family Bois can be found on the Benziger website at www.benziger.com.
The Benziger Family Saga is one of those great stories of labor and love. The impression that we had when we left was one of true admiration. The Benziger Family Winery is a true testament to the family’s appreciation for hard work and passion for winemaking.