This past summer, the good people at Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen, California, sent me a sweet care package of recently released wine, estate olive oil and wildflower seeds to celebrate and enjoy the riches of the Demeter-certified Biodynamic winery from the comfort of my Kansas home.
(I was also able to enjoy some wine from the comfort of the Benzigers’ guest home at the end of the summer!)
The teacher man and I popped open the bottle of 2010 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc first. I’ll admit that, after a few less-than-stellar experiences with overly tart sauvignon blancs, I was a little worried going into our taste test. However, I was pleasantly surprised: This sauvignon blanc had light citrus (mangoes and peaches), herb and grass flavors. Its balanced acidity kept my formerly sauvignon blanc-zapped palate refreshed.
Another great thing that was pleasantly surprising about this beautiful, sustainable wine: its price, $13.
If you want to delve a little deeper into this wine before you head to your local liquor store to pick up Benziger’s Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, check out my quick Q&A with Benziger’s founder and winemaker, Mike Benziger.
1. How does this wine capture the sights, sounds and tastes of Sonoma County?
The Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in the Sonoma County program are grown in vineyards perfect for the varietal. The vineyards allow for a cool and even ripening process and have rich soils. The vines are able to support canopies that give the grapes shade so that we can emphasize the more beautiful fruit and preserve the fresh acidity that is associated with the grape. We farm our sauvignon blanc in a way that protects freshness and aromatics. Our vineyards are located in the Russian River Valley, in Alexander Valley and in Sonoma Valley, all vineyards that are able to produce grassy citrusy flavors with balanced, clean acidity. The whole purpose of our sauvignon blanc is to wake up your senses and to stimulate your appetite so that you want to enjoy good food and enjoy another glass of Benziger.
2. Describe the 2010 harvest. How does it compare to other years? What are the differences and similarities in the Sonoma County Sauvignon Blancs from year to year?
The 2010 harvest had its challenges. We had variable weather, cold and warm, but the location of the vineyard so close to the ocean moderated and stabilized a lot of the variability. For us, it was basically a cooler vintage, and you can see how that reflected beautifully in the flavor and the aromas of the wine. With the cooler vintage, the wine has a beautiful varietal character with beautiful grassy, citrus blossom and dried herbs aromas. 2010 has slightly more grassy, cut hay and alfalfa aromas, which are true to varietal flavors. The 2010 also has a beautiful textural quality, a creaminess that other vintages don’t have. The grassy alfalfa and the creaminess make 2010 outstanding. In warmer years the sauvignon blancs tend to be more fruit-driven, with an emphasis on apple and pear flavors with a little bit richer body and more subdued acidities. In cooler years, aromatics are grassy and hay-like with beautiful fresh acidity.
3. How does sustainable agriculture influence the harvest from year to year?
Our Sauvignon Blanc is sustainably farmed, and this technique allows us to taste what is unique and different about each location where the grapes are grown. We farm it in a way that enhances that difference while increasing the health of the environment.
4. What food would you pair this sauvignon blanc with for lunch or dinner?
For lunch, this sauvignon blanc could be paired with fish tacos or a fresh summer salad. For dinner, this wine is the perfect pair for shrimp kebobs or a light white fish.
5. What type of person would enjoy this sauvignon blanc?
This wine is for anybody who wants a wake-up call for his or her palate. It’s just like drinking out of a glacier stream or breathing in beautiful mountain air. It’s refreshing. Even people who don’t drink wine could appreciate this wine.
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