Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, September 09, 2022, Page 12, Image 12

Below is the OCR text representation for this newspapers page. It is also available as plain text as well as XML.

Friday, September 9, 2022
Benziger Family Winery: Vineyard brings family westward
For the Capital Press
GLEN ELLEN, Calif. —
The Benziger Family Winery
has a delicious mission state-
ment of three items: fam-
ily, great wine and healthy
“We moved out to Cal-
ifornia from upstate New
York in the late 1970s when
my oldest brother, Mike Ben-
ziger, found a remarkable
property in Sonoma Valley,”
said Chris Benziger. “Over
the next fi ve years, the entire
family moved from the East
Coast to Sonoma. We had 29
Benzigers living on the ranch
in the 1980s.”
ily moved to pursue their
shared dream of becoming
At its height, 16 fam-
ily members worked full-
time in the business and fi ve
family members worked in
Benziger Family Winery
Chris Benziger, of Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma County, Calif., walks the rows of
grapes with his dog Blue.
The home ranch has 35
acres of grapes and fi ve other
vineyards add 230 acres of
Sheep, cows, insects and
birds have jobs, too. The
sheep replace the need for
mowing; they also aerate
the soil while continuously
depositing nutrient-rich fer-
tilizer in the vineyards.
A small herd of Scot-
tish Highland cattle provides
organic manure to the vine-
yard, and the birds help pol-
linate the garden.
Benziger also grows
plants that attract benefi cial
insects that kill others that
are harmful to the vineyards.
On the home ranch grow
nine varietals: the Bordeaux
fi ve (Cabernet Sauvignon,
Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit
Verdot and Malbec), Sauvi-
gnon blanc, petit Sirah, Zin-
fandel and Grenache.
Benziger also grows Pinot
and Chardonnay in the other
The ongoing drought has
produced some unexpected
results in the vineyards —
smaller yields but more
intense favors.
“We are lucky because
over 30 years of biodynamic
farming has allowed the roots
to go very deep and fi nd their
own sources of moisture,”
Chris said. “The vines for the
most part are self-suffi cient.”
He described biodynamic as
“a very high level of organic
Sauvignon blanc is the
most popular wine in the tast-
ing rooms, Pinot rose is sec-
ond and Cabernet is third on
the list of favorites.
Benziger Winery and the
industry as a whole have
faced many challenges
in the last fi ve years. Cli-
mate change, water, smoke,
COVID and changing drink-
ing habits head the list.
“We have seen many chal-
lenges in our 40-plus years of
growing grapes and making
wine, but the last fi ve years
have been the most extreme
with multi-large fi res aff ect-
ing harvest, persistent drought
and a worldwide pandemic,”
Benziger said.
“In addition,” he said,
“the wine industry is see-
ing its fi rst real decline in
Such challenges leave
him undeterred.
“Despite all the gather-
ing storm clouds, the wine
business continues to be
an amazing and rewarding
enterprise,” he said. “I can-
not think of a better line of
work. I strongly encourage
our younger generations to
join in.”