Now that Comcast has restored my internet connection to full speed, I’m able to access AWB! Although most of my contributions will continue to be photography, I’ll add an article every now and then, mainly focusing on wine “education.”
I am one of those geeks who thinks every vacation should also include an “educational experience.” That’s probably due to growing up in a home with a school teacher Mom and a school principal Dad. Luckily, my husband likes to indulge me in these, or perhaps humor me, by going along.
So, our last trip to Sonoma required at least one vineyard tour. We were lucky enough to choose Benziger Family Winery early enough in the day to purchase tickets for the mid-day tour. Benziger uses biodynamic and organic farming practices — so we were treated to more than just the usual, “See the vines; here are the grapes; see the barrels; taste our wine” tour.
Benziger uses a tram for its tour, and while we waited with other guests, I took the time to stop and smell the roses — literally. Like many of the wineries we visited in Sonoma, Benziger has beautiful flowers, including sunflowers.
We then boarded the tram, to travel through the vineyards with our entertaining tour guide (whose name now escapes me). Along the way, we stopped to look at a model, while our fine host explained Benziger’s organic and biodynamic faming practices. Appealing to my science-geek side, a really cool science-class type model morphed out of the ground like the batmobile when it goes from auto to marine! This is the point in the tour where our guide instructs guests in the proper responses of “Ooooh!” and “Ahhh!”
Check out the model–and flash back to the lecture on volcanos and how they impact the layers of the earth from geology class.
Here’s what Benziger says about it’s farming practices:
Biodynamic-is the highest form of organic farming. It goes beyond the elimination of all chemical inputs. It incorporates the environment in and around the vineyard and works with nature to apply the knowledge of life forces to bring about balance and healing in the soil.
Organic-grape growing avoids the use of synthetic chemicals and uses natural methods like crop rotation, tillage and natural composts to maintain soil health as well as natural methods to control weeds, insects and other pests.
Farming for Flavors-is an advanced certified sustainable farming program for all Benziger growers that are not already certified Biodynamic or Organic. The program challenges growers to use sound environmental techniques to cultivate grapes with more site-specific characters, flavors and aromas.
After winding its way through the vineyard, the tram tour ends at the barrel caves (bring a sweater for those not ready for the underground “air-conditioning”). Then tourists walk from the caves to the stainless steel fermentation tanks, where our tour guide explains the process that takes the farmed grapes and turns them into a tasty beverage!
Tourists walk from the tanks to the outside tasting area to sample the most recently bottled white wine. And just like most tours, the final destination invites guests into the advanced tasting and “retail area” where for a small fee, guests can enjoy additional offerings, purchase some wine to ship home, and pick up some Beringer Family Winery “swag” as well.
Benziger Family Winery offers tram tours daily, weather permitting, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As of October 2008, cost for the tour is $15.00 per guest, $5.00 for those under 21 years old. To check out a Benziger Family Winery tour, call (888) 490-2739 or visit their tour and special events page for more information.
The next time you’re visiting Wine Country, make sure you enjoy of the educational vineyard tours. If for nothing else, it will give you some “down time” between tastings, to give your metabolism a chance to catch up.
~ Amy Corron Power, aka WineWonkette