On my most recent trip to Napa Valley I had the opportunity to visit Benessere Vineyards, while there I spent some time with winemaker Jack Stuart. He’s been on board at Benessere for roughly a year and he’s set to usher in the winery’s next era. Of late he’d been working on his own projects, but prior to that he’d been the winemaker at Napa Valley stalwart Silverado for more than 20 years. The focus at Benessere is on Italian varietals. Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio. Muscat Canelli, and Aglianico are all part of the portfolio. Their Rosato contains Sangiovese as well, and they make several Zinfandels in addition to a couple of other releases. Each wine in the portfolio I tasted on my visit was distinct. What ties the Benessere wines together is that they are well balanced offerings loaded with varietal character; each of them is primed to pair with food.
In speaking to Jack I was able the gleam quite a bit about his approach to winemaking and what changes he intends on a go forward basis for the Benessere wines. In fact it’s fair to say that his intent is to take the traits I feel are already strong about the wines and take them to the next level. From a technical standpoint he’s making small changes with the oak treatment some of the wines receive, using French instead of American in spots he feels that’s appropriate. Another example is improving the Pinot Grigio by working to craft one without the bit of residual sugar that has cropped up in some vintages.
Benessere makes a couple of single vineyard Zinfandels which are impressive for a couple of reasons. Importantly, the Benessere Zinfandels are distinct, as single vineyard wines should be. Unfortunately not every single-vineyard wine on the market is as distinct and special as that designation is intended to indicate. That’s not an issue at Benessere where the Zinfandel is made in a classic style which compared to some of the other Zinfandels on the market today would be considered restrained. In truth what they are is impeccably balanced and age-worthy, showing off a sense of place that makes them noteworthy.
Benessere Vineyards is located at 1010 Big Tree Road in St Helena and they’re open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. Check there website for more specific details as well as tasting and tour options. Benessere sits up on a quiet road in St. Helena, one of the least hectic parts of Napa Valley. It’s a serene atmosphere that seems far removed from the hustle and bustle that so often embodies Highway 29, just a stones throw away. The folks at Benessere are friendly and the wines are well made, quite delicious and more than fairly priced. If you’re going to be in Napa Valley I highly recommend setting aside some time out to visit them. Take a break from the endless array of Cabernet Sauvignon and sample some well made California versions of classic Italian varieties.
Also, please stay tuned as I’ll take a close look at some of the current releases from Benessere Vineyards right here over the next few weeks.