Yesterday afternoon was fun, with two contrasting winery visits. Scott Burr, my host, arranged two appointments, on a gloriously bright spring day. On the one hand, Kenwood: a relatively large winery in the Sonoma Valley (production – 500 000 cases), and on the other, Benovia, a boutique operation producing 4000 cases.
Both were very good. Pat Henderson, chief winemaker at Kenwood, showed me around. I was really impressed by the staggering value for money his wines represent. A beautifully pure, characterful Sauvignon for $10; a really lively, vibrant and quite delicious Pinot Noir for $16; and the beautifully elegant, expressive Jack London vineyard Merlot at $20. By California standards, this is cheap – the wines are worth more.
Benovia is playing in a very different segment of the market. Mike Sullivan, the winemaker, took me through his 2009 vineyard designate Pinot Noirs, which sell for $50-$60, and yet still represent superb value because they are quite brilliant. They all have their own personality, ranging from the exuberantly aromatic Cohn Vineyard, to the richer, more structured Bella Una. The fruit for these wines comes from three sites in the Russian River Valley. There’s also a superb Chardonnay and a fun Pinot Noir rose.