Virtual Tasting Line Up with Benziger Wines
This past Earth Day, which was April 22, millions of people around the world will explore ways to help preserve our planet through eco-friendly practices.
“Every day is earth day” is the slogan at Benziger Winery and this is a winery that practices what they preach. From being certified as a biodynamic farm by the Demeter Association 20 years ago, to producing every wine as certified sustainable, organic or biodynamic, to the animals and plants strategically placed around the vineyard, green farming is a way of life, not a buzzword.
But it didn’t start out that way. This week I was on a Zoom chat with Chris Benziger, Vice President of Trade Relations for Benziger Winery, and he talked about the evolution of being green. He talked about the Benziger’s family roots, first as bootleggers, wine sellers and then a winery owner. Newlyweds Mike & Mary Benziger drove west and permanently settled in Northern California in the early 70s and purchased the Wegener Ranch property on Sonoma Mountain in 1973.
Chris told us that it was a ghost town back then and actually was a marijuana farm. There was an old 1860s ranch house with chickens running freely through the hallway.
Almost a decade later the other siblings, Bob, Joe, Jerry, and Patsy, along with their spouses came in a moving van to California. He talked about some of the creative measures that were taken to get their first tanks, describing their supplier as being out of the cast of Sons of Anarchy. The stainless steel tanks arrived, once used as dairy tanker trucks, dripping milk but were fermenting chardonnay and sauvignon blanc a short time later.
I loved Chris’ awakening of how the land changed over ten years from being lush, green and vibrant with the sounds of nature to where the vineyards were silent, and you could only hear the wind. The family decided that using the chemicals that everyone else did was not resulting in better wines and it was time to make a change. The vineyard stopped spraying in 1993 and started green farming.
“It was time to stop pushing nature out and start letting it back in,” Chris said. They brought in several biodynamic experts and took the vineyards out of production to begin the transformation. Originally 85 acres under vine, today 35 of that property is used for gardens, flowers, olive trees, citrus and plants.
Today “fertilizer” is a herd of Scottish highlanders and a flock of sheep. Cover crops are uniquely planted to the setting.
Chris told us how frustrating it was that sustainability has become the term of the day due to no legal restrictions. “You can look at a winery that refers to itself as green, but its backyard looks like Chernobyl.”
“Our goal now is to save the land for our kids, make wines authentic to the site and help the industry define the real meaning of natural,” he said.
He also talked about the new reality of trying to reach consumers in the midst of this pandemic. The winery is putting Wi-Fi hotspots in the vineyards to take consumers live into night harvesting and to show them the beauty of the vineyards.
We tasted several of their signature wines available to wine club members and I fell in love with these small production, eco-responsible wines.
It is clear that this is a mantra, passion and love – for the land, the wine, the family and the industry. This wines truly reflect their sense of place and the Benziger family purpose to improve the world one wine at a time.