Our entire portfolio of Benziger wine is certified sustainable, organic or Biodynamic©. Not because we want to be known as “the green winery,” but because our experience has shown that great wine has green values. In our pursuit of fine wine, we follow agricultural, winemaking and business practices that are good for the earth and the vine, good for the farm worker and the farmer, and good for our colleagues and our customers.
Our family has been growing grapes on Sonoma Mountain for close to thirty years. My brother Mike and his wife Mary discovered this vineyard in the late seventies and purchased the
property with the help of my parents Bruno and Helen. It soon became a real family affair when our brothers Joe, Bob and Jerry joined the business, followed by my sister Patsy and her husband Tim. As the youngest siblings, my sister Kathy and I came along with our parents and spent our high school years as New York transplants in a Sonoma vineyard.
In the beginning we farmed the same way as everyone else around here. You spray to keep the weeds in check, to keep the bugs away, and to increase yield per vine. It worked for a little while and the wines were decent. But after a few years Mike really pushed us to consider something different. The earth didn’t look as rich as it once had. Things seemed drier and harder and quieter. Once we really started thinking about the cycles of nature and how interrelated everything is, we realized that our farming approach – while certainly modern – was a little backward. – Chris Benziger
The Biodynamic Transition
In the mid-90’s, Mike befriended a man named Alan York who was one of the leading international experts on Biodynamic farming. In this ultra-organic approach, the vineyard is viewed
holistically. Chemicals and artificial inputs are eliminated and natural balances are re-instated. With Alan’s help, we learned which flowers attracted the bugs we needed to keep pest populations in control. Habitats were created for birds and owls, and we brought cows, sheep and chickens to live on the property.
Once the estate found its balance, the wines did too. As we tasted the wines grown from such a healthy and vibrant place, we realized that the distinctiveness and authenticity we were lacking before was right in the glass. Healing the land had led to an amazing new caliber of wines and we knew we had to begin applying the lessons learned on our estate to all the vineyards we worked with.
Around 2001, Mark Burningham, VP of Winegrowing and the only non-Benziger Partner in our company, put together a sustainable farming program for all of our growers. Within it, he created protocols, metrics and guidelines that would help a farmer tailor a sustainability plan to his specific vineyard, one that would require him to make progress each year towards an ultimate goal of organic or Biodynamic certification. Since 2007, Stellar Certification Services has audited our program each year and inspects all the vineyards that hold its certification.Today with over a dozen Benzigers active in our winery business, our family is committed to this philosophy now and for generations to come.