Understanding the history of the land, and the climate, and the types of grapes, and production that comes from a particular area is just part of what I try and explain when I meet with a new client. Most of the folks I work with, even if they are ready to make a 3 or 4 million dollar investment, need some education about why they would purchase a property in one part of Sonoma or Napa as opposed to another. They need to understand what types of grapes are there, and what the production is likely to mean for them, and their ROI. In this (admittedly long) post, I want to introduce you to tiny Bennett Valley Appellation.
Located just outside Santa Rosa California the beautiful Bennett Valley Appellation is perfectly situated between once volcanic mountain ranges of Taylor Mountain to the west, Sonoma Mountain to the south, and Bennett Peak to the east. Not only does the valley have an ancient volcanic origin, it also has several fault lines running through the area. This particular AVA is less than 10 years old making it one of the youngest AVA’s – and since it has less than 700 acres of vineyards planted, it is also one of the smallest AVA’s in California.
Bennett Valley AVA is positioned exactly where you would want grapes to grow, on hillside slopes of the Mountains, in well-drained volcanic soils. This Appellation has a higher elevation than the Sonoma Valley floor. Most growers feel, however, that it’s special because of a cooler weather pattern during the grape growing season that works to make this an ideal grape-growing environment for the production of ultra-premium wines.. That’s one of the reasons Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and other cool-climate grapes thrive here.
In 1862, Isaac DeTurk planted 30 acres of vines in Bennett Valley, and later founded Belle Mount Winery. Along with grapes, apples, wheat, and oats were important agricultural products. Phylloxera hit the region particularly hard during the 1890s, followed by Prohibition in 1918. This effectively ended widespread winemaking for a few decades. Matanzas Creek was established in 1975, when they planted their first 20 acres of vineyards.
After prohibition, the Valley was mostly forgotten. John Taylor arrived in 1953, and bought 2,000 acres in the valley, planting some of his land with Zinfandel and Mission grapes. But John was a dairy farmer at heart and most of the land was dominated by his dairy production and cattle. Purchasing over 100 acres of that dairy land at a liquidation sale in 1971, Sandra MacIver went on to change history as she and her husband established Matanzas Creek Winery. During the late 1980′s, early 1990′s the MacIver’s spent countless hours running tests on various handcrafted methods for their wines. And in 1993, they released JOURNEY which was Crafted from the finest one percent of 700 Chardonnay barrels. The two hundred cases sold out upon release, even at the $70 a bottle retail price. Critics still measure other California wines to JOURNEY, as it is hailed by many as the finest Chardonnay ever produced in America.
That sort of prestige caught the attention of many winemakers, and most people attribute legendary founder of Kendall Jackson, Jess Jackson (who died earlier this year) with “creating” the Bennett Valley AVA in 2003. He wanted to distinguish Matanzas Creek Winery products from other Sonoma Valley wines.
In addition to wonderful grapes, Matanzas Creek Winery is also home to an acre of lavender which blooms annually to produce over 2 million stems of lavender! Because of this, one of our favorite Wine Country Events is the “Days of Wine and Lavender” at the Estate each June. The lavender harvest fits beautifully into the wine making cycle, as the flowers usually reach their zenith in June, well before the busy grape harvest. The staff makes use of all parts of the lavender in it’s production of unique bath and body products, wonderfully sached home products – and culinary delights! Lavender in Lamb and Chicken? If you haven’t tried it – you should!
But there’s more to Bennett Valley AVA than Matanzas Winery! You’ll also find Alta Ridge Vineyards, Annadel Winery, Argot Wines. Barbed Oak Vineyard, Bennett Valley Cellars, Bevan Cellars, Flanagan Family Vineyards, Frostwatch Vineyard & Winery, Grey Stack Cellars, Jemrose Vineyards, Mackie Family Wines, Nelson Estates Wines, Sable Ridge Vineyards, Silver Pines Vineyards Westerhold Family Vineyards. Here’s an interactive map to the various vineyards and wineries in Bennett Valley AVA.
If you are considering a vineyard as a second home, or a new business, it’s important to understand that the County of Sonoma is somewhat restrictive to “cookie cutter” neighborhoods. Custom Homes are typically built on land parcels ranging from five to 40 acres. There’s a property currently listed on Bennett Road with 55 acres, that’s just waiting to be planted! If you have questions about vineyards and wineries for sale in Sonoma and Bennett Valley – please call Mark Stornetta at 707-815-8749. I’m uniquely qualified to help you make an investment if you want to purchase a vineyard in Sonoma, or a winery in Napa. I understand the history and the challenges of owning a vineyard home… and I understand ROI and EBIT, and can show you the formulas I use. Our office has several beautiful Bennett Valley AVA Properties for sale.