As I have said before, enjoying wine is more than just the liquid in the glass. To deeply appreciate the wine, understanding what it takes to get the juice into the glass is integral. That’s why last weekend’s vine pruning seminar at Benovia Winery was both fascinating and educational.
Pruning grape vines is a vital process in maintaining and in some cases enhancing the vigor of wine grape vines. Chris Kangas, Vineyard Manager at Benovia lead the thorough and fun vineyard adventure. Aided by three able members of Atlas Vineyard Management (contract vineyard management company employed by Benovia and many other Vintners) team Chris began the experience with a detailed safety briefing regarding the pruning tools used and the hazards of a real vineyard e.g. gopher holes, spiders and snakes.
After breakfast pastries, coffee and introductions, Chris and the Atlas Team lead their 21 guests into the Martaella Vineyard at the Hartman Road home base of Benovia. The 58-acre property has 42 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay located in the heart of the Russian River Valley in Laguna de Santa Rosa. The vineyards had been mostly pruned before our arrival but Chris and team had left 3 rows in two different blocks as our classroom. One was cane pruned while the other was cordon pruned as two examples of pruning styles. Chris answered questions and demonstrated the various objectives and techniques revealing the depth of his experience after 36 years in the vineyards.
We broke down into 4 teams with Chris or one of the Atlas team leading groups of about 5 each. We spent the next 90 minutes being coached and corrected by the experts as we each worked the various techniques while pruning the different blocks. Chris showed us one block where the pruning techniques were being used to restore a vineyard that was showing less vigor than desired. The phrase, ‘listening to the vines’ or the ‘vines talking to the pruner’ rang so true as the lesson continued. The judgment displayed by the experts made it clear that there is both a science and an art to successful pruning.
When sufficient learning had occurred, we were invited back into the wine production facility where we had the opportunity to taste 6 different Benovia wines. VP of Sales, Bob Cooley lead the tasting, beginning with a Blanc de Blanc, a Chardonnay and then 4 different Pinot Noir. All exceptional although the 2014 Cohn Vineyard, Russian River Pinot Noir was my favorite. It was elegant, smooth and so well balanced with a plush velvety mouth-feel. It retails for $75 a bottle and is worth it.
After the pruning and tasting we were treated to a delicious lunch catered by the locally renowned, Forestville based, fusion restaurant, Backyard. The Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Biscuits, Carrot and Vegetable Salads were to die for. Nicole Kosta, Benovia’s Events Director, assisted by teammate Gail, provided overall event planning, coordination and execution to great effect.
This was an unusually informative seminar but like all things Benovia no detail was missed in creating a memorable guest experience. We’ve have had many and expect we will have many more in the future.
Benovia Winery is located at 3339 Hartman Road in Santa Rosa. Tastings and Tours are by appointment only although they do participate in various Wine Road events, the next of which is Barrel Tasting on the weekends of 2-4 March (Benovia is only participating in this first weekend) and 9-11 March 2018. Tickets are available.