A family affair: “green” wine-making at Sonoma’s Benziger

Tiffany Carey Abby Tegnelia

Tiffany and I in front of the entrance of the Benziger barrel caves.

Yes, Benziger certainly has the acres and acres of rolling green hills that wineries in Sonoma are known for, but they were also groundbreakers when it came to “green” wine-making tactics.  The winery is famous for becoming the first in the area to be named Demeter-certified Biodynamic, the highest level of organic farming. To get there, the family-owned affair rotates crops, balances vines with olive trees, creates eco-systems that control insects instead of killing them with pesticides, and recycles a whopping two million gallons of water a year through ponds. No wonder Tiffany and I had an extra pep in our step! After an amazing kick-off at Robert Mondavi, we loved the gorgeous ride out to Benziger — and then when we got there, we were rewarded with sun and lengthy tour outdoors in all of that pesticide-free fresh air.

Having spent so many years in the southwest, I am a sucker for agave plants. It’s amazing to me how many types there are — and how tall they get. Then of course, they bloom only once!

Agave wineries in Sonoma


Springtime! There were colorful flowers in bloom everywhere we looked.

Flowers Benzinger wineries in Sonoma


Our guide? Kathy Benziger, the youngest of the seven siblings whose parents, Bruno and Helen, helped brother Mike buy the vineyard in 1981. We indulged in an outdoor mini- wine-tasting and, glass of chardonnay in hand, we jumped in a golf cart and took off to tour the grounds.

Kathy Benzinger wineries in Sonoma


The grounds did not disappoint! While we toured, Kathy told us what it was like to be the youngest of such a tight-knit family of winos. She was still in high school when the family left New York for wine country. Did I mention that her six older siblings were all boys?

Benzinger wineries in Sonoma

Benzinger ride wineries in Sonoma


The grand finale? A peek into Benziger’s famous barrel caves — finished in 2000, they keep the aging wine at 67 degrees year-round, naturally.

Benzinger barrel caves wineries in Sonoma


Estate tour with private tasting: $40. (Three times a day, reservations recommended.)

Tram tour with tasting: $30 (On the half hour, reservations recommended.)  707.935.4527

Contact info: 707-935-4527, Benziger


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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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  1. Benziger is a great winery, tasty wine and solid tour. We prefer Sonoma over Napa and when we were there five years ago Benziger was our last winery to visit, and the only one we toured. We also bought several bottles to ship home to Tennessee even though we can buy the wine here.

  2. So many people are very much pro-Sonoma or Napa! Love that you shipped some home. There’s something special about having bottles from your trip to the winery, especially if they’re ones that can only be purchased there!

  3. Guilt free wine and a tour on what looks like a gorgeous place? Sign me up! It doesn’t get much better than that.

  4. Right? What a way to spend the afternoon!

  5. What a fabulous trip! Makes me miss our time in Napa soooooo much!!!

  6. Confession: This blog post is great but I can not get over the fact that you are wearing JEANS in the photo at the top! I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in jeans!!

  7. Right? Haha I never wear pants! It IS weird!

  8. That’s it! You really are a wine blogger these days 🙂 I love it! Sounds like a fun niche to me…

  9. How can it be that I haven’t been to Benzinger yet — after all the time I’ve spent visiting Sonoma County? It’s an outrage and I’ll fix that next time I’m up there. Loved your pics and learning about Kathy and the family (and their eco-friendly wines)!

  10. I’ll go with you!!

  11. I love a good winery visit. Just did a wine trip through france. So much fun and sooo much wine! Love your new blog!

  12. just leave me in the cellar! Ha. Great shots of the vines, flowers and all that makes it so pretty there.

  13. That’s actually a really good price for a private wine tasting. Where do I sign you? 🙂

  14. Love wine, love California, love the philosophy. I think I’m going to have to visit Benziger asap.

  15. This sounds lovely right now. I wish I could have joined you! FYI: Scott and I will be in San Francisco in mid September!

  16. Swoon! We visited Napa a few years back and I have vague memories of cellar doors, tasting sessions and delicious meals! Those barrel caves are awesome! it’s great to see a producer doing so much to keep the natural balance of the process.

  17. Very cool photos! I love how it is Demeter-certified biodynamic! Thanks for sharing your visit!

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