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Friday, April 6, 2012

A Family Winery

Editor: Elizabeth Wieck
copuright 2012  Art of Living, PrimaMedia,Inc

Situated in northern California’s beautiful Sonoma Valley area resides a unique one-of-a-kind vineyard called the Benziger Family Winery. Aptly named due to the more than twenty family members that run the enterprise, the winery employs green Biodynamic technology to create a distinctive atmosphere to the compound and a matchless flavor to their wines.

When Mike Benziger and his wife Mary laid eyes on the 85-acre land in the 1970s, they knew it would be the perfect place to cultivate grapes and run a winery. With much persuasion to the old doctor who at the time had owned the land, and apparently enjoyed consuming wine more than producing it, they finally obtained the property that now houses Benziger Family Winery. Not long after Mike and Mary made their purchase, siblings Chris, Joe, Bob, Jerry, and Patsy joined the venture along with their parents. Since then, their work ethic and values have been centered on family, great wine, and healthy vineyards.

They initially farmed and cared for their vineyards in the same manner as everyone else. They used the same pesticides and other chemicals to tend to the growing grapes and other aspects for creating their wines. Eventually they found that these harsh chemicals were taking a toll on their soil, and that it was not as rich as it had once been. The family began to research Biodynamic and organic farming, and decided to make the big switch in the mid 1990s.

Becoming Biodynamic certified is a very arduous process, as it takes time, research, and a lot of effort. The Benzigers eliminated all artificial and chemical products and changed to a more natural way of wine production. With the aid of an entomologist, they created orchards with certain plants that attracted bugs to keep the pest population under control. They began to employ water-recycling techniques and now recycle two million gallons of water each year. Birds, owls, cows, and chickens were brought to live on the property to add a more holistic feel and to use manure as fertilizer. A unique feature of the vineyard is the underground wine cave were the fermenting barrels are stored. Because of its situation under the cool California hillside, the cave does not require refrigeration, furthering green economical values. Their conversion to an organic way of viticulture began in 1996 and was complete in 2000, making them the first Biodynamic certified winemaker in the Napa and Sonoma valleys.

Once the estate was in order, the Benzigers and customers discovered a distinct flavor in the wines. Because the compound is situated in a fertile volcanic bowl, there is a diverse spectrum of soil types, which creates the concept of farming for flavors. One of their chief ideas in the winemaking process is that the personality of the vineyard is preserved, creating wines that have “character and conscience.”

The Benzigers offer about twenty different wines per year, with current releases including cabernet and Bordeaux blends, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, merlot, zinfandel, and port. Their bottles are moderately priced, with the cheapest being around twenty dollars.

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