Monday, February 25, 2013

Bennett Lane Winery – Mustard Flowers in the Calistoga Vineyards

The forecast for this past weekend was sunny with clear skies and mid-day temperatures in the low 60’s – perfect for doing wine country photography during the Mustard Season. So I returned to the Napa Valley in search of a winery that has vineyards blooming with mustard flowers and yet one that I had never been to before, or at least had never reviewed. 

Since the year 2000 I have visited 121 wineries in the Napa Valley but many of those were before I began this blog, photography and videos. There are also many vineyards in the valley that have beautiful vineyards laden with the golden wild flowers but they are not associated with a specific winery. Of course there are also many wineries that I have not visited but don’t have any mustard flowers so I’ll sample their wines some other day. 

Searching for a “new” winery to visit was a bit of a challenge but as I drove into Calistoga I noticed that there were several wineries with mustard flower in their vineyards that had not been there just a couple weeks ago. I visited some of these wineries many years ago, but had not reviewed them. So for the next couple weeks if we continue to have sun and clear skies I’ll be revisiting and reviewing these wineries.

After driving through the valley up highway 29, I passed through Calistoga (the most northern end of the valley) and decided to keep on driving just to see if there was anything of interest. To my surprise and sheer delight I came across Bennett Lane Winery where the vineyards were exploding with mustard flowers. Back in 2003 I visited the tasting room shortly after they had opened. The winery is located at the northernmost end of the Napa Valley, where the valley floor meets an intersection of the Vaca Mountain Range and the Mayacamas Mountains. So not only did the vineyards have plenty of flowers but the mountains are provide a beautiful background in the picture. The winery itself is done in a hacienda-style and has a large water fountain in the front.

The winery is owned by Randy and Lisa Lynch who purchased Bennett Lane Winery in 2003. He formerly raced NASCAR and now owns his own NASCAR West race-car team, and on occasion a race car is on the winery premises.

While visiting I sampled the following wines:

The first pour was the 2009 Reserve Chardonnay. On the nose I picked up pears, apples, cream, butter and vanilla with underlying tropical notes of mango and pineapple. On the palate this wine is rich and creamy, medium (+) bodied with crisp acidity and a prolonged finish. Definitely a full-malolactic style wine and yet the butter isn’t over the top and all the various components are well balanced and harmoniously integrated. A really nice Chard for $45 a bottle.

The second sample was my favorite in the line-up, the 2008 Maximus. A proprietary blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 14% Syrah and 4% Cabernet Franc this wine has pronounced ripe fruit aromas of cherries, cassis, and boysenberries. On the palate it is fruit forward with refined velvety tannins, refreshing acidity, it is medium (+) bodied with a prolonged finish. It is an explosive wine that reminds me of St. Francis’ Claret which is also made up of Bordeaux varietals but it has Zinfandel rather than Syrah in the blend. In comparrision this wine has a lot more “umph” and costs a bit more at $35 bottle. Yet it tastes more like a $50 a bottle. I liked this wine so much that I brought two of them home.

The third wine was the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has pronounced aromas of plums, dark cherries, black currants and chocolate with a touch of earthiness. On the palate it is fruit forward on entry followed by a velvety mid palate transition and then it has a prolonged cocoa and dark chocolate finish. It is full bodied with firm and yet supple tannins and medium acidity and a prolonged follow through on the finish. A great wine but a bit steep at $55 a bottle.

The final pour was the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this Cab is not as pronounced as the ‘06 and it has more fruity aromas of cherries, red currants and just a hint of black licorice. On the palate it is fruit forward, medium bodied, it has refined tannins and bright acidity. Whereas the ’06 is darker and earthier this one is more delicate. I prefer the ’06 to this wine which sells for the same price at $55 a bottle. But, it would be interesting to revisit this wine in 2015 and see how it develops.

To see more pictures, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Bennett Lane Winery
3340 Highway 128
Calistoga, CA 94515
Phone: 1-707-942-6684 / 1-877-629-6272