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Friday, July 15, 2011

The Bennett Valley Appellation

You may have never heard of Bennett Valley or seen it on wine labels.  The appellation is less than ten years old and was a product of Jess Jackson wanting to distinguish his Matanzas Creek Winery products from other Sonoma Valley wines.

Morning fog over the vineyards

Bennett Valley has a higher elevation than the Sonoma Valley floor, but it's different mostly because of a cooler weather pattern during the grape growing season.  The valley has an ancient volcanic origin plus has a couple fault lines running through the area. There are three long-dormant volcanic peaks circling the valley--Taylor Mtn, Sonoma Mtn, and Bennett Ridge.

Bennett Valley was named after a pioneer who arrived with his family during the 1849 gold rush.  There is still a strong sense of community among the residents.  The Bennett Valley Grange is the oldest continuously operating grange in the country. Granges were farming community organizations that started in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Dry Stack Vineyards (and it's for sale)!

The valley is about three by five miles in size with 700 acres of grapes planted--mostly Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Syrah, but also Sauvignon Blanc, other Rhone varieties and even a bit of Cab and Cab Franc.  The only winery open to the public in Bennett Valley is Matanzas Creek.  There still seems to be more horse and cattle ranches than vineyards.  I've had wines from some of the smaller producers including Bennett Valley Cellars that makes a great under thirty dollar Pinot.

There are over 30 growers in Bennett Valley and over 30 wineries buying grapes from there  including Carlisle, Deloach, Ferrari-Carano, Gloria Ferrer, Kunde, Landmark, Quintessa, Rodney Strong, Sonoma-Cutrer, and  Williams Selyem.

More info:  Bennett Valley Grape Growers