28 October 2011

Benziger Wines

These are the wines sampled during a recent online event with Benziger of Sonoma. I visited Benziger back in 2009, and I had a great time. It's a beautiful property and the commitment to sustainable grape growing was impressive.

All of these wines are biodynamic from Sonoma Mountain. If you're not familiar with the method, it's sort of an organic meets folk wisdom philosophy. Arguments fly back and forth about the subject, but at the end of the day my opinion is this: I don't make wine decisions based on whether it's blessed by a priest or a rabbi, whether it came from a country that beat my team in the World Cup, or whether it is certified organic, vegan, biodynamic, or otherwise. But if you give grapes the kind of love and attention that Benziger does, in a great region, in small batches, you're going to make some amazing wine.

Since we're dealing with small production here, remember that 1 barrel = 25 cases = 300 bottles (750mL).

2007 Benziger Oonapais
63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot and 1% Zinfandel
$50, 14.2% abv.
8 Barrels Made
Yes, just 8 barrels. You probably won't get to try this wine, but I lucked out. Rich plum and chocolate, with a hint of juniper and spice. Mellow tannins and a soft fruit presence of black plums. Should be great with grilled lamb or braised lamb shanks. Both of the Oonapais wines use the Miwok name for Sonoma Mountain, an extinct volcano.

2006 Benziger Oonapais
58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 11% Petit Verdot
$50, 14.5% abv.
110 Barrels Made
Similar aroma and flavor, but surprisingly bolder and more tannic than the above. I really wish I had the chance to set most of these wines aside for a few years to let them age and develop.

2008 Benziger Obsidian Point Cabernet Sauvignon
49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot
$65, 14.6% abv.
245 Cases Made
I mentioned that Sonoma Mountain was a volcano above, and this name refers to black volcanic glass that can be found in the soil (and can make razor sharp knives). Delicate aroma of fig, cherry, and blackberry with medium tannins.

2007 Benziger Obsidian Point Cabernet Sauvignon
49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot
$65, 14.5% abv.
24 Barrels Made
Very similar to the 2008, but lighter, milder, and more refined. With all of these wines I had the chance to share them with a group of friends and it was so much fun to let everyone sip back and forth between two adjacent vintages.

2008 Joaquin's Inferno Zinfandel
73% Zinfandel, 27% Petit Sirah
$50, 15.5% abv.
186 Cases Made
I tried the 2005 a few years ago, and I found that it was surprisingly consistent over the years. As I said back then, it's named after the vineyard manager's complaints about farming high up on the hill, out of reach of mechanized equipment and on a steep slope. Dark fruit and a hint of cinnamon and black pepper. Lovely balance.

2007 Benziger Tribute
84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot
$80, 14.6% abv.
102 Barrels Made
The real star of the show, and lovingly enjoyed with a savory ribeye roast as God intended. Mild wonderful, delicious. Blackberry and tea, with hints of leather, chocolate, and tobacco. Long, lingering finish that caused one attractive guest seated to my left to repeatedly catch every stray drop from the neck of the bottle and lick it off her finger. As I was standing there trying to explain volcanic soils and fermentation, it was distracting to say the least. But not in a bad way.

A really spectacular lineup, and I loved the opportunity to try these. But I've got an additional five Benziger wines that I've tasted in the past month, and will have those up soon...

Note: These wines were received as samples.

No comments: