The wines of Benovia
Boutique Sonoma winery based in the Russian River Valley, California


Benovia is a fairly new winery in the Russian River Valley subregion of California’s Sonoma, owned by Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane. ‘Benovia’ is a hybrid name made from the names of both their fathers. It draws on 71 acres of vineyards planted across three sites in Russian River and Sonoma County, plus fruit from a small band of growers. 

I visited with winemaker Mike Sullivan (above) to taste through some wines. The Pinot Noirs are really impressive here, combining ripeness and elegance very effectively. Chardonnay is also superb.

All the fruit is hand picked, and much of this is picked at night, although a limiting factor here is the availability for lights to make this possible. The temperatures at night during harvest get quite low, which makes a difference to the grapes that are picked: night picked grapes have different cell structure, different skin and hold acidity better.

Timing harvesting is the key challenge here. Because the autumns are usually quite settled, there’s no urgent need to bring grapes in before rains. So choosing the right moment to pick is important, because you can leave it too late. 

For his reds, Mike destems fruit but doesn’t crush it, and uses a bit of whole bunch. ‘Whole cluster gives and umami quality, and a different texture to the wine,’ says Mike. ‘At its best, it gives you peppermint and spearmint quality, but this can go to bell pepper.’


Benovia Chardonnay 2009 Sonoma Coast
Whole cluster pressed with wild ferment, but inoculated for malolactic. 35% new French oak. Lovely toast and herb complexity here, with good acidity and fine fruit. Nicely spicy. Very fine with good fruit purity. Textured, fresh and complex. 94/100 ($42)

Benovia Pinot Noir Rosé 2009
Juice liberated at destemming, barrel fermented. Richly textured and bold with nice sweet fruit and some freshness. Tasty. 89/100 ($18)

Benovia Cohn Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009
From a vineyard planted in 1970 on a rocky hillside with 11 x 9 foot spacing. Beautiful aromatics: sweet, open and pure with dark cherry notes. The palate is really stylish and elegant with a silky texture. Ripe but fresh with real elegance and some spiciness. 94/100 ($62)

Benovia Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2009
Taut plum and dark cherry fruit nose. Fresh fruit-driven palate with some structure and also lovely fruit. Real purity and elegance: what it lacks in aromatics it makes up for in fruit and structure on the palate. 93/100 ($55)

Benovia Bella Una Pinot Noir 2009 Russian River Valley
From two sites, high density plantings, Dijon clones 115 and 828. Almost dry farmed. Deep coloured. Lovely pure sweet black cherry and plum fruit nose with a hint of beetroot. The palate shows richness and ripeness with some spicy structure under the dark fruits. A big wine but really expressive: dense, lively and mineral. 94/100 ($56)

Benovia La Pommeraie Pinot Noir 2009
Very sleek, ripe, pure blackberry and cherry nose. Fresh but ripe. The palate is so pure and sweet with lovely ripe fruit and also nice acidity and structure. Fresh and expressive with great concentration of sweet fruit to the fore. 93/100 ($56)

Benovia Zinfandel Cohn Vineyard 2009
15.8% alcohol. Sweet, ripe and berrish with lush plum and spice notes. Just enough sweet lushness, without it tipping over to overripeness. Some mineral notes. Delicious. 92/100 ($38)

Wines tasted 02/11  
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