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Sonoma County Gazette
Pinot Grapes

Wine Banter by John Haggard

Tasting Chardonnay at Benovia Winery

Jun 26, 2017
by John Haggard, Sophie's Cellars


I had the great opportunity of enjoying a tasting at Benovia with my guest, Vesta of the Sonoma County Gazette. The tasting room is in a stunning location in a most beautiful and simplistic Sonoma way – a lot of wooded areas surround the vineyards and the estate. The trees aid in the drainage of the vineyards which form a natural basin to collect the winter run-off. Michael McCauley was our hospitality host and Bob Cooley their VP of Sales and Marketing was very generous with his time pouring our tasting. Bob talked about the sustainability and philosophy behind the Benovia Winery. Benovia practices sustainable farming. Their estate vineyards are made up of 71 acres of vineyards in Sonoma County. Cohn Vineyard, one of the Benovia’s three estate vineyards is located in the Russian River Valley AVA, and, these pinot noir vines planted in 1970 are some of the oldest in the Russian River Valley. At the same site, Benovia also farms some nine acres of zinfandel. The Cohn Vineyard is farmed organically without the use of any herbicides of pesticides.

The Martaella Vineyard pinot noir is composed of more than nine different clones of pinot noir. The vines are densely planted, giving each vine a smaller footprint, taking up less water, producing smaller berries, but ones with more concentrated flavors and Benovia has planted vines in a similar manner at its coastal vineyard of Tilton Hill (Sonoma Coast AVA).

Our first tasting was the Benovia Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2014 – Benovia’s “entry level” chardonnay sourced from Martaella Estate and Zio Tony Ranch, retailing at $36.  This Wente Clone chardonnay is more classically French in style as all the chardonnays were. What I enjoyed about this chardonnay is its ability to not only perform as a sipping wine with subtle orange rind and bright acidity through the palate, it also provides for a few years of aging as well as making a great pairing for poultry dishes. There’s really no need for over-chilling this chardonnay as it was so very enjoyable to sip at room temperature.

The Benovia Russian River Valley La Pommeraie Chardonnay 2014 is much more distinctive of the style of Wente Clone – a typical hint of orange rind, acid and mineral are well-balanced and while the oak is present it’s not over-whelming. A great pairing for scallops.

I was also very impressed with the 2015 Benovia Three Sisters Chardonnay - also exhibiting an exceptional well-balanced flavor of orange rind, subtle cream and acidity and crème caramel on the finish and not at all sweet – simply pure perfection. As with all of the wines I tasted, the low production numbers really require one to make an appointment and go to the winery – and if you find a wine that you like – this will be your best opportunity to purchase it. It is chardonnays like this that continue to convince me that we have a future in producing wines very much in the style of the finest French “white burgundies”.

When it came to the pinot noirs there was a very large breadth yet consistency in each of them. All of the Benovia pinot noirs we tasted including their “entry level” Russian River Valley 2015 Pinot Noir which retails at $40 have a capacity for aging.

The Benovia 2014 Sonoma Coast Tilton Hill was distinctly different to the other pinot noirs and had been whole-cluster fermented – which means that the stems were whole-clustered and punched down into the de-stemmed berries to create a very distinct spicy pinot noir with flavors of cinnamon and Chinese five-spice and is truly meant to be paired with food such as duck breast. No decanting necessary enjoy now through 2024. For more information on Benovia Winery or to book a tasting appointment, visit:

Upcoming Wine Road Tours:  - there is a “Magical Mystery Tour” in the Dry Creek Valley on July 15th, and one in the Russian River Valley on August 19th. For more information visit



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