As mentioned in my previous post, a few months ago, the sweet Benziger family of Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen, California, sent me a beautiful 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!)
I made the teacher man wait for a special dinner night to open the $49 bottle of Signaterra Three Blocks, a Sonoma Valley Bordeaux blend. What’s funny is, months later, I don’t even remember what we made for dinner, but I can still smell the aromas of dark chocolate and taste the bold flavorings of currant, plum and coffee in this rich red. Signaterra Three Blocks has soft tannins and a nice, long finish that leaves you satisfied — but able, and wanting to, take another sip.
I can understand why Signaterra Three Blocks is one of Benziger’s signature Biodynamic wines. It captures the sights, smells and tastes of the sustainably farmed vineyard in its blend of 76 percent cabernet sauvignon and 24 percent merlot. Benziger Family Winery founder and winemaker Mike Benziger explains a little more about what goes into a bottle of Signaterra Three Blocks.
1. How does this wine capture the sights, sounds and tastes of the Sonoma Mountain area?
One of the things that makes Three Blocks unique is that it is situated behind Sonoma Mountain. Sonoma Mountain acts as a windbreak and so in the area where Three Blocks is grown, there is an oven-like effect that allows the vineyard to get really nice warm temperatures that ripen the cabernet perfectly. Sonoma County is a collection of little valleys and it is very difficult, because each valley is so small, for each to hold heat and get temps warm enough. Sonoma County has a reputation of having rustic, rough cabernets because the valleys can’t get hot enough. Napa has a much better design for being able to hold heat and high temperatures, and so they do a stellar job with cabernet.
Where we are located, at the eastern most part of Sonoma County closest to Napa, we have a large mountain that blocks sea breezes and creates Napa-like heat where Three Blocks is grown. Three unique geologies make up the soils where Three Blocks is grown.
Sunny Slope, which is volcanic rock, contributes to the smooth tannins in finish of the wine.
Stone Farm’s soil is alluvial river rock, which means there is a lot of minerals in the soil. This minerality is concentrated in the middle palate of the wine.
Lastly, Gordenker, which is made up of silt and clay, creates richness and sweetness in the wine. Gordenker is responsible for the nice sweet entry of wine. Three Blocks is beautiful all the way through.
2. Describe the 2007 harvest. How does it compare to other years? What are the differences and similarities in the Three Blocks Red from year to year?
Basically all the even vintages for the last several years — 2004, 2006 and 2008 — were warm vintages, whereas 2005, 2007 and 2009 have been cooler vintages. 2007 was a remarkable vintage because it was a vintage where there was little stress for the grapes as the weather was perfect. There was very few heat spikes, very few cold days and the temperature stayed nice and even. The grapes were able to ripen perfectly, and we had a beautiful Indian summer during harvest. It was a “no excuses whatsoever” vintage, and it all came together into exceptional wines, not only for flavor and complexity, but for age-ability. The wines are complex and very elegant. The wines from 2008, a much warmer vintage, were more powerful, with bigger tannins. 2009 was cooler with wines with lower alcohol and lots of complexity and beautiful texture.
3. How does Biodynamic agriculture influence the harvest from year to year? Can you describe the rituals and any attachments to the land as you go through the cycle year after year?
The whole purpose of a Biodynamic wine is not to be perfect, but to be completely true and honest and authentic to the location and the vintage. The object is to produce a liquid portrait of that particular year. In biodynamics what we try to do is to identify and work with as many patterns in nature as we can understand and the better we are at doing this the more authentic to place the wines are.
4. What food would you pair Signaterra Three Blocks Red with for lunch and dinner?
For lunch, Three Blocks would go perfectly with a zesty pesto and tomato burger. The acidity of the tomato is cut easily with the bulky tannins in the cab. For dinner, Three Blocks and steak are a match made in heaven. Try pairing the wine with a Tuscan-style New York Strip with arugula-artichoke salad.
5. What type of person would enjoy Three Blocks Red?
Novice wine drinkers can appreciate Three Blocks because the wine is so smooth and silky, but it of course is also appreciated by knowledegable drinkers because the wine is so complex.
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