One of the California Wineries I respect the most is Benziger Family Winery. Why? They practice what they preach! Since the mid 90’s Benziger has been a proponent of biodynamic wine making and a leader in the industry. Second, when they say Family Winery they sure mean it! From what I saw on my last visit to their beautiful estate in Sonoma Valley, most of the winery employees are family, all related in one way or another. And the employees that weren’t relatives appeared to be treated like family anyhow.
Biodynamic agriculture is a method of farming that views the land, plants, animals, and everything within the farm as a whole, looking to achieve a healthy balance between all things. Think of it as organic on steroids. Like organic farming, pesticides and other chemicals are forbidden. However, biodynamics takes things a few steps further, harnessing cosmic forces and the earths own life force using techniques that, at first glance, sound downright superstitious. A few examples include planting and harvesting based on astrological cycles and stirring manure preparations in a specific manner to create a vortex in different directions.
I haven’t decided yet whether I entirely believe in all the practices used in biodynamics. The basics (like using cover crops and farm animals to control weeds and maintain vineyards , encouraging indigenous birds and insects to inhabit the vineyard and control pests that can harm vines, using natural manure as fertilizer) that all sounds like a great alternative using chemicals. And you can’t argue with results. In my almost 10 years as a sommelier I have noticed that wines produced using the principals of biodynamics are, more often than not, excellent quality. Whether this is because they are saturated with cosmic love or the practice simply encourages a greater attention to detail, I don’t really care. As long as the wine turns out delicious!
We carry a number of Benziger products at Provence, including their flagship blend, Tribute. Tribute is a Bordeaux styled blend consisting of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petite Verdot rounding things out. Our currently available vintage is 2005, which you are unlikely to find anywhere else in Vancouver as we have been hanging on to this gem for a few years. It’s drinking very well right now, with everything in perfect balance. Bold and intense, yet nuanced with a lengthy finish. Expect classic Cabernet notes of cassis and cigar box intermingled with a touch of smoky oak, cocoa and licorice. Excellent with anything meaty. A bottle of Tribute paired with our Beef Tenderloin is the perfect indulgence!
As I’m sure I have mentioned before, I do enjoy the oaky buttery style of Chardonnay that is typical in California. Benziger ‘Los Carneros’ Chardonnay has been our go-to glass pour in this style for years. It is consistent in quality and always delivers value for the price. There is plenty of the buttery oaky tones that I love, but all in balance with ripe fruit and generous acidity. This style absolutely sings with anything seafood, but it is delicious good with our butter laden Crab and Lobster Risotto.
For more information on biodynamics in the vineyard check out the Benziger website at http://www.benziger.com/Winegrowing-Practices