We have always wanted to make great wine. And we have always known the land underneath our feet on Sonoma Mountain was capable of producing it. It turned out to be more involved than we thought.
Back in 1980 when we started growing grapes on our Estate Ranch on Sonoma Mountain, we did it the way everyone else in California did it.... plant, fertilize, spray, harvest, vinify… prune, fertilize, spray, harvest, vinify; consistency and volume were the goals and we used the latest and greatest products we thought would help. Yet after a decade of successful “modern” farming, it was clear to us something wasn’t right. What we were putting into the land was not only killing the weeds, it was killing any hint of differentiation the property had. This insight became a turning point.
DIFFERENCE IS A DISTINCTION, NOT A DEFICIT.
In my early twenties, my wife and I had ridden bikes in France, through the handful of really famous vineyards that produce world class wines and I was introduced to this idea of terroir. This concept – that a great vineyard’s makeup could be as different and as individualistic as a fingerprint – that a wine could reflect these differences, highlight them, and showcase them even in properties that were a mere stone’s throw from one another – was ingrained in their 900 year old farming principles. And it became the spark that began my search for a better way of growing grapes and making wine.
In 1995, I heard about Biodynamics, a way of farming in concert with Nature, not against it. Biodynamics was almost the opposite of what we had been doing. It required a complete mindset overhaul. Nature stopped being something to fight against, something that challenged progress, and instead became the root of our understanding. When we began working in tune with nature’s rhythms, instead of against them, a whole new world opened up for us.jjk
Following the blueprint Rudolf Steiner, the great Austrian philosopher, had laid out in the 1920s, we set up our own composting systems, planted insectary gardens and began applying holistic sprays to the vineyard during key times of the year. Our Sonoma Mountain vineyard became the first Demeter-certified Biodynamic vineyard in America. And the results of this mountain of work were very apparent. The vineyard began showing healthy signs of life, biodiversity blossomed all around the property and the wine began to take on incredible complexity and authenticity. We’d found something specific to this mountain, something worth cherishing.
We released our first vintage of Tribute in 2001. We’re now in our sixth vintage and we remain utterly convinced that Biodynamics is the best and only way to get the true individuality of the vineyard into the bottle. We’re blessed to be stewards of this place for this brief moment in time and we take that responsibility very seriously.
The wine born here is named Tribute to honor the Earth and the philosophy of Biodynamics.
Mike Benziger, 2009