At Benovia Winery, we embrace the time-honored philosophy that it takes great vineyards and great people to make great wine. Each of our wines is handcrafted to showcase the uniqueness of our estate vineyards or to explore diverse expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from select vineyards in the Russian River Valley and beyond. Our winemaking team is a group of accomplished professionals with some 150 years of combined experienced led by Benovia Co-owner & Winemaker Mike Sullivan.
It Starts in the Vineyard
In the vineyard, our goal is to know each vineyard block and its special qualities, to attentively meet each vine's needs, and to promote optimum ripeness and flavor development. Every day, Benovia straddles the line between innovation and tradition.
We have made a significant financial investment in upgrading our vineyards with the latest farming and irrigation technology, but we rely more on knowledge, instinct and experience to handcraft Benovia's exceptional, high quality wines. At harvest time, Mike Sullivan can be found in the vineyards, tasting the grapes and making the critical decisions on when to pick and when to wait. The grapes are harvested at night or early morning to ensure that they arrive at the winery in peak condition.
In the Winery
The process of creating Benovia's flagship Pinot Noir wines begins with careful and attentive hand labor. The grapes are conveyed to the destemmer with a sorting table. Each cluster is inspected by hand prior to destemming. A second sorting area allows us to inspect each berry after destemming. Nothing goes into the fermentation tank that isn't ideally ripe and free of debris. Pinot Noir is a delicate grape, and needs to be treated gently to produce wines with power and finesse.
After a pre-fermentation maceration of five to eight days, we allow the indigenous yeast to complete fermentation and encourage very long, slow malolactic fermentation. Employing the full knowledge of fermentation science, we can control quality without too much handling, preserving the character of the wine.
After settling, the juice (now called "must") is moved to French oak barrels to ferment at a cool temperature for approximately four to six weeks. The barrels are inoculated for malolactic fermentation, and the lees are stirred weekly until the process is complete. This method helps the malolactic fermentation, integrates the new oak, and builds body and structure in the wine.
Our Chardonnay grapes follow a similar process with the same care and feeding in the vineyard and gentle handling at the winery. After hand-sorting, the clusters are transferred directly to press. Whole cluster pressing helps minimize the amount of harsh malic acid and astringent tannins that naturally exist in the skins, seeds and stems from entering the wine.
The Zinfandel grapes we grow at our historic Cohn Vineyard are also harvested whole cluster, sorted, destemmed, and then berry sorted before going to press.
Our wines spend 14 to 16 months aging in French oak barrels until they are ready to be bottled and labeled at our winery.
"What I love about winemaking is that perfection is unattainable," says Mike Sullivan. "Winemaking is about the journey and not the destination."