Bye Bye ABC: Explore Chardonnay’s Many Expressions

It’s no secret that Chardonnay is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world. A truly versatile, green-skinned varietal that’s capable of great expression, Chardonnay is growing in pretty much every wine-producing region. The public has had its share in the rise (and fall) in popularity of the grape, as winemakers around the world have turned their hand to adapting it to a broad array of styles.

What better way to mark both #NationalWineDay (May 25) and #ChardonnayDay (May 27) in 2021 than with a celebration of Chardonnay based wines. Nielsen data show it is the second most popular wine in U.S. by sales volume, after Cabernet Sauvignon. (52 weeks ending 11/28/20).

Writers: if you’re challenged to find new and interesting angles, Benson’s client roster has a bevy of Chardonnays – from unoaked to oaky still wines, bubbly and attention-grabbing packaging and campaigns, there’s an array of Chardonnay in our court to choose from. Below are just a select few to tickle your palate!

No Oak Bomb Here

Balletto Vineyards Teresa’s Unoaked Chardonnay – Russian River Valley, California – SRP $20 – At Balletto Vineyards, one of the few family-owned estate wineries in the Russian River Valley wine region of Sonoma County, all the wines are grown on sustainably farmed estate vineyards and reflect the Balletto family’s passion for the land. This one continues to define California’s Unoaked Chardonnay category. Crisp and vibrant, yet amazingly luscious, it showcases how chardonnay does not need flashy oak or malolactic fermentation to be distinct and delicious. It’s mouthwatering with refreshing acidity that contrasts its surprisingly robust and weighted mid-palate.

Bubble Up!

Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blanc – Robertson, Western Cape, South Africa – SRP $30 – This 100% Chardonnay Méthode Cap Classique wine (the South African style of méthode champenoise). Only the cuvée juice (premium quality) was used for fermentation from the best selection of grapes in Robertson. It is one of South Africa’s most awarded sparkling wines and showcases what the “Graham Beck way” truly means.

Hahn Winery Selection Blanc de Blanc – Santa Lucia Highlands, California – SRP $50 – Limited production. Carefully sourced from of select vineyards in Monterey County, this sparkling wine is crafted from 100% Chardonnay, picked in early August when sugars were low and acid beautiful. Done in a Méthode Champenoise, this wine spent 30 months in the bottle. Generous aromas of strawberry and cranberry are complimented by fresh floral notes. The palate opens with flavors of peach, cantaloupe, and strawberry, finishing with hints of honey, light minerality and beautiful acidity.

Packaging & Inspirational Campaigns

Bread & Butter Chardonnay – California – SRP $15.99 – Bread & Butter believes good things shouldn’t be complicated, and neither should you! They launched a 360-degree campaign dubbed, “Don’t Overthink It” essentially giving wine lovers the freedom to simply enjoy. Made for beautiful spring afternoons, Bread & Butter Chardonnay is a simple and easy drinking wine. Delicately balancing flavors of green apple and citrus, this Chardonnay is made to be enjoyed year-round.

Hahn Appellation Series Chardonnay – Arroyo Seco, California – SRP $17.99 – The Hahn Appellation Series, a new addition to Hahn Family Wines, is replete with gorgeous dark teal and copper packaging and screw cap. Grapes for this wine are sourced from Ste. Nicholas vineyard, one of the family’s six certified sustainable estate vineyards, in Arroyo Seco, one of the smallest AVAs in California. Bright light gold in appearance with aromas of tropical fruit, vanilla, honey and caramel. On the palate, vibrant flavors of pineapple, lemon, apricot and gentle notes of honey, followed by nuanced toasty spice on the finish.

True Myth Chardonnay – Edna Valley, California – SRP $18 – With inspiration drawn from Mother Nature, this wine honors the grace and beauty of the vineyard. Cool climate Edna Valley is an ideal environment for Chardonnay, producing a rich and creamy wine bursting with tropical fruit flavors, making it a great wine for the spring. BONUS: Stay Tuned for limited-edition Ryder Cup x True Myth Edna Valley Chardonnay summer 2021; perfect gift idea for the golf enthusiast in your life!

Everyday Occasions Under $20

Highlands 41 Chardonnay – Monterey, California – SRP $15 – Artfully crafted by fourth generation winemaker Anthony Riboli, Highlands 41 Chardonnay is grown from sustainably farmed estate vineyards in the heart of Monterey and produced at the Riboli Family sustainably certified winery in Paso Robles. It greets the nose with an array of ripe fruit aromas, including citrus, guava, and orange peel. A touch of spicy oak adds complexity. Balanced acidity creates structure and a long, complex finish. This brand captures the energy and excitement of visiting somewhere new, meeting new people, and exploring new adventures.

Reata Sonoma Coast Chardonnay – Sonoma Coast, California – SRP $20 – Created with grapes from Russian River Valley and Los Carneros during a perfect and extended growing season, this Chardonnay has naturally high acidity with fresh fruit aromatics and flavors of apple blossom, honeydew melon, guava and grapefruit zest. The creamy texture and rich flavors of toasted oak are framed by its bright acidity that lifts the fruit and leaves a lingering finish. Made by veteran winemaker Linda Trotta with more than 35 years of winemaking experience.

Step It Up $20+

Baileyana Firepeak Chardonnay – Edna Valley, California – SRP $28 – Grown in the coolest climate region in California, which also enjoys an extended growing season, this Chardonnay has intense and complex varietal flavors. It’s smooth and balanced with refined acid structure and a creamy finish. Named after the Acacia Baileyana plant that is beloved for its yellow flowers and is synonymous with the traverse mountain ranges of California, including Edna Valley, the beautiful label design pays homage to this namesake.

Balletto Vineyards Chardonnay – Russian River Valley, California – SRP $29 – Made by Balletto Vineyards, one of the few family-owned estate wineries in the Russian River Valley wine region of Sonoma County, the texture and balance are spot on, making it one of those wines that draws you in for another sip. Both complex and elegant, showing its cool-climate heritage with concentrated flavors and a dark and lasting texture that has perfectly bright citrus tones for balance. It opens with warm spices, ripe pear and lemon aromas. New oak has been used sparingly to enhance the wine with subtle toasted tones, rather than dominate the aromatic profile. This is serious Chardonnay with depth, structure and finesse.

Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay – North Carolina – SRP $25 – Bearing the North Carolina designation, the Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay was crafted with grapes from the estate vineyard. In this way the wine honors the legacy of self-sufficiency that George Vanderbilt originally envisioned for his estate. Channel a bit of Vanderbilt level hospitality with this Chardonnay.

Hahn SLH Chardonnay – Santa Lucia Highlands, California – SRP $25 – Great Value, Tastes Expensive. The ‘SLH’ label is the flagship of Hahn Family Wines, celebrating their 40th anniversary. This is a true ‘gem’ from the small, but mighty Santa Lucia Highlands. This wine greets the nose with citrus and stone fruits, followed with hints of ripe tropical fruit and vanilla. On the palate, this wine is full-bodied with a viscous round mouthfeel, balanced acidity and flavors of lemon, vanilla and delicate butter notes that lead to an elegant long finish.

Lucienne Chardonnay, Lone Oak Vineyard – Santa Lucia Highlands, California – SRP $40 – Family Owned. Estate Grown. Limited production. This 90+ rated wine from Hahn Family Wine’s 146-acre certified sustainable Lone Oak Vineyard sits at the northern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands where it is cooled by ocean breezes from the Monterey Bay. This 2018 Chardonnay is beautifully balanced with a profile that is sophisticated and nuanced. Aromas of fruity floral lychee, honeysuckle and ripe citrus with a hint of vanilla. The palate is feminine and dry in character, with delicate and elegant notes of silky citrus, hints of toasty oak and medium acidic finish.

Rosé vs. Seltzer: Let the Summer Games Begin!

‘Rosé Season’ is upon us again and at Benson we’re watching a few trends: 1) the popularity of the rosé category remains unflagging with wine lovers but, 2) seltzer and other adult beverages are taking a share of the consumer’s wallet.

Writers: if you’re challenged to find new and interesting angles, Benson’s client roster has several Rosé options to offer: from stories on unique packaging, to attention grabbing marketing campaigns, as well as some off the beaten path vineyard locales and wine styles.

Stylish Every Day

Bread & Butter California Rosé – SRP $16 – Choosing a delicious wine, especially rosé, should be an easy choice to make. Don’t overthink it and grab this bottle from the fastest growing wine brand in the $12-$15 category – Bread & Butter. Leave the complexity to the winemaking team at Bread & Butter and simply enjoy the layered flavors of strawberry and melon and a balanced acidity that makes this pink wonder such a versatile wine.

Hahn California Rosé – SRP $15 – This rosé comes from pinot noir grapes grown on the Arroyo Seco appellation in Monterey County where it was sustainably grown on a SIP-certified vineyard. The elegant beauty is pale salmon in color with soft aromas of red fruits, watermelon and grapefruit. This version is as accessible on the palate as it is on the wallet!

Say ‘Oui’ to Côtes de Provence

Barton & Guestier Côtes de Provence Tourmaline Rosé – SRP $20 – A stylish new addition to the Provence rosé category, the punt at the bottom of this bottle is designed to resemble the famous pink gemstone after which this wine is named. Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault combine to provide a true-to-type Provençal experience in the bottle. Oui oui!

Can Do!

Tangent Edna Valley Rosé (in 375ml can) – SRP $6-8/375ml – Pack this gorgeous can of rosé from California’s Edna Valley for your next excursion and you’ll be the host or hostess with the most-est. Easy to chill, easy to open, and definitely easy to enjoy! But always enjoy this one responsibly! Just a humble reminder that 375ml cans are equivalent to half a standard bottle; overindulging is always a ‘can don’t.’

Experience North Carolina Hospitality

Biltmore Reserve Rosé, North Carolina – SRP $24 – Drink up – Vanderbilt style! Yes, North Carolina can produce some great wines. Grapes for this wine are grown on the eponymous estate in Asheville, where George Vanderbilt once hosted some of the best parties and provided top-notch hospitality. Ask us to put you in touch with winemaker Sharon Fenchak to see how she does it.

Pinot’s Other Favorite Expression

Baileyana Edna Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir – SRP $24 – Just five miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Edna Valley produces some of the freshest rosé wines due to its cool climate and extended growing season. This rosé produced on a SIP-certified vineyard is bursting with watermelon and strawberry aromas making it perfect year-round. Did we mention its gorgeous photo-ready bottle? Hello, wedding season!

Balletto Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir – SRP $20 – Made with estate-grown grapes from Russian River Valley, the Balletto Rosé of Pinot Noir is a testament to growing rosé ‘with intention,’ says winemaker Anthony Beckman. Anthony and owner John Balletto grow the pinot noir grapes for this rosé with the express use for their Rosé of Pinot Noir.

POP! Rosé Sparkles, Too!

Graham Beck Brut Rosé NV – SRP $20 – Hailing from South Africa’s Western Cape, this Méthode Cap Classique Brut Rosé embodies style and elegance meant to be enjoyed during moments that matter. American wine lovers have really fallen in love with this wine.

Veuve du Vernay Ice Rosé – SRP $15 – Go ahead, you know you want to add a bit of ice. This delightful sparkler is MADE to be enjoyed over ice. Veuve du Vernay’s Ice Rosé is slightly sweet, but not too sweet with floral aromas. It’s the easiest ‘cocktail’ ever for serving poolside or by the beach, so grab a wide-brimmed hat, some glasses and pour this during your next getaway or staycation.

Balletto Brut Rosé 2015 – SRP $42 – This sparkling Brut Rosé comes from Balletto Vineyards, one of the few family-owned estate wineries in the Russian River Valley wine region of Sonoma County. It’s delicate, pretty, and delicious – the soft, coral-hued color sets the stage, and the tiny, persistent bubbles confirm that this is a serious sparkler. The aromas are integrated and full with a dollop of cherry-strawberry that highlights the core mineral focus. Perfect for creating that coral focused Instagram page.

Sauvignon Blanc: Through the Eyes of Winemakers

Sauvignon Blanc is having a moment.

In July 2020, Nielsen reported it was the fastest growing wine type with a 38 percent increase in sales. Even before the pandemic, volume was up 8.9 percent in 2019. This can be attributed to a variety of factors like how the grape grows very well in multiple regions, its accessibility around the world, and its range of price points for buyers.

Benson’s press webinar was held April 22, 2021. To review materials, view this Dropbox link.  Or, you can view the webinar on YouTube here.

Take it from these winemakers who have mastered the grape’s potential and consistently create standout bottles.

Anthony Beckman, Balletto Vineyards 

Working with 850 acres of estate vineyards at Balletto Vineyards, Anthony Beckman is able to create unique wines specific to the Russian River Valley area. Working there since 2007, he has contributed to much of the vineyard’s success and continues to do so with his approach to winemaking. His philosophy is to let the vineyards authentically speak through the wines to make the statement, “this wine can only be grown and made here.”  

Let the vineyard speak to you through this Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California – SRP $20 

Elunda Basson

Elunda Basson, Steenberg Vineyards 

An accomplished winemaker and respected specialist in South Africa with more than 20 years of experience, Elunda Basson took her talent to Steenberg Vineyards as Cellarmaster in 2019. The vineyard produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the country due to its location in the Constantia area near the ocean and its storied winemaking history dating back to 1682. Under Elunda’s expertise, the wines exhibit freshness, elegance, and finesse.  

Enjoy this unique twist on Sauvignon Blanc: Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, Constantia, South Africa  SRP $18 

Juan Jo VerdinaJuan Jo Verdina, Hahn Family Wines 

Joining Hahn Family Wines in 2002 as part of the cellar team and working toward becoming Winemaker, Juan Jo Verdina knows the wine production of the estate inside and out. He heads the Hahn and Boneshaker brands with Hahn’s portfolio including six varietals and Boneshakers focusing on a robust Lodi Zinfandel from 40-year-old vines. The Hahn Winery Selection Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from a vineyard in Monterey County that experienced a mild vintage resulting in a naturally balanced acidity.  

Taste the Hahn experience with its Sauvignon BancHahn Winery Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey, California​​ – SRP $32 

Rob Takigawa, Tangent Wines  

With 20 years of experience working with Tangent, Rob Takigawa worked his way up starting as a Tank Room Managerthen Assistant winemaker, Winemaker and now, Director of Winemaking. He has grown further knowledge with each passing vintage, learning how to capture Edna Valley’s uniqueness to the rest of California’s growing regions. The Sauvignon Blanc is harvested at different levels to achieve the ideal finish and sourced from a vineyard with Sustainability in Practice Vineyard Certification. 

Try a uniquely Edna Valley Sauvignon Blanc: Tangent Sauvignon Blanc, Edna Valley, California – SRP $17 

 

Linda Trotta, North Coast Winemaker, WX Brands

With 30+ years in the industry, Linda has worked harvests around the world including Italy, South Africa and Chile. One thing she is most proud of in her career is that in her leadership role(s), she mentored and developed talent who have gone on to make their own marks of excellence in winemaking and viticulture. Her Bread & Butter Sauvignon Blanc shines with bright aromas of lemon zest and a hint of tropical fruit. The Silver Spur Lake County Sauvignon Blanc is made from sustainably grown Sauvignon Musque Clone, known for its intensity and array of aromas and notes associated with expressive and fine Sauvignon Blanc.

Silver Spur Lake County Sauvignon Blanc 2019, SRP $18 Wine.com

Bread & Butter Sauvignon Blanc 2019, SRP $16.99 Online shop

 

Celebrating the Women Behind Wine

With each glass selected, we have the opportunity to champion women and the other underrepresented winemakers in our communities.

To celebrate Women’s History Month,  today we spotlighted four spirited women from coveted regions across the U.S. as well as South Africa in a virtual tasting for press. (For some additional background, these stories in Uproxx and News-Press feature women in wine including our clients described below.)

Sharon Fenchak

Sharon Fenchak, Winemaker for Biltmore Wines

Sharon joined the team at Biltmore Wines (you’ll recognize that name from the Biltmore® Estate in Asheville, NC) in 1999 and is Head Winemaker as of 2018. She oversees wine production not only from Biltmore’s estate vineyards in North Carolina, but also with fruit sourced from key growers and partners in prime wine appellations on the west coast as well. In this way, she is crafting a storied wine portfolio for Biltmore to continue the legacy of hospitality set by George Vanderbilt himself. Share in some of this storied Vanderbilt hospitality by enjoying a Biltmore wine with your friends and family! Two wines to try:

Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina 2018, SRP $24

Biltmore Estate American Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, SRP $22

Megan McCullough

Megan McCollough, Winemaker for Smith & Hook, of Hahn Family Wines

Megan McCollough, Winemaker for Smith & Hook, leads Hahn Family Wines’ Central Coast red wines that pay homage to the Hahn family’s first Monterey County properties, known today as the Smith Vineyard and Hook Vineyard. With nearly a decade of winemaking experiences under her belt, McCollough is setting an example for other young women winemakers in California. Try some of her latest reds:

Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, SRP $25

Smith & Hook Proprietary Red Blend 2017, SRP $25

Smith & Hook Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, SRP $45

 

Linda Trotta, North Coast Winemaker, WX Brands

Linda Trotta —  With 30+ years in the industry, Linda has worked harvests around the world including Italy, South Africa and Chile. One thing she is most proud of in her career is that in her leadership role(s), she mentored and developed talent who have gone on to make their own marks of excellence in winemaking and viticulture.  In her role with WX Brands, she she has received numerous accolades for her wines, including a Wine Spectator Top 100 selection for her 2018 Reata Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. We recommend:

Reata Sonoma County Chardonnay and Three County Pinot Noir ($25)

Silver Spur Lake County Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18)

Silver Spur Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($28)

Elunda Basson

Elunda Basson, Winemaker for Steenberg Vineyards

Steenberg Cellarmaster Elunda Basson is an accomplished winemaker and respected specialist of her craft. She joined South Africa’s Steenberg Vineyards in June 2019 at the pinnacle of an illustrious career spanning more than two decades making still and sparkling wines for leaders in the industry. Located in South Africa’s storied Constantia wine region, Steenberg Vineyards can also boast of being the oldest registered farm in the country, dating to 1682. Today the property thrives under Elunda’s expertise, producing some of the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the country. Steenberg’s distinctive terroir results in wines exhibiting freshness, elegance and finesse. Alongside Sauvignon Blanc, the vineyards are home to Bordeaux varietals and one of the few investments in Nebbiolo in the Cape area.

Check out this truly unique take on Sauvignon Blanc — traditional method sparkling twist on everyone’s favorite varietal!

NV Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc ($18)

Contact Alex Parker, parker@bensonmarketing.com, to connect with these women and their wines.

Among many other outlets, FirstLeaf (not a client of Benson) featured a blog post in March on women re-imagining the industry.

The Modern Wine Rack

The Modern Wine Rack

We’ve assembled our criteria for each coveted spot in a six-bottle wine rack. So here’s our take on “the modern wine rack.”

Sparkling Wines Shared at Other Iconic Celebrations
Save a space for some bubbly, because there will always be something to celebrate – even during Shelter in Place.

Hospitality Wine
Another space in this rack needs to be home to your ‘house wine’. You never know when you might be having someone to dinner, or even when that next virtual happy hour is.

It’s Always Rosé Season
No longer a fleeting style only seen and enjoyed during a few months of the year, rosé wine should now command a permanent space in your collection. We recommend an easy-going and approachable rosé.

Put Your Money Where Your Values Are
What really resonates with you about a wine is its story, not just its age ability. When looking at what to buy, we recommend stocking up on wines that are giving back to their communities or are produced in a way that aligns with your own values. There are also ways to support the #BLM movement by stocking up on wines from black owned wineries or winemakers.

Travel Through the Power of Your Glass
Everyone needs an escape now and then and if we can’t do it physically, do it through a wine glass. Stock up on wines from a place you’ve been to and truly love, or even some place you haven’t been, but have always wanted to explore.

Whatever Wine You Are Curious to Learn More About
There’s always something new to learn about wine, but you can also always go more in depth with the familiar. So, keep a slot in your wine rack dedicated to wines that represent something you want to learn more about.

Let us know if you need help finding a wine in any of these categories. Our clients have an array of wine that is sure to hit the spot! Contact monty@bensonmarketing.com to connect with wines to fill your rack.

Sparkling Wines for Anytime

Sparkling Wines for Anytime

Sparkling wines are great for any occasion — holidays, springtime, or any Tuesday night!

Here are some sparkling wines your readers will want to have on hand to add something to any moment. They transform the mundane into the celebratory, and they are also great for gifting.

 

Graham Beck Brut NV and Graham Beck Brut Rosé NV: Both of these lively wines are made of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - the two seminal varietals of Graham Beck’s prestigious Méthode Cap Classique wines. Fun fact: The Brut NV was served at both Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and to celebrate Barack Obama’s presidential nomination.  SRP: $20

Steenberg Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc NV: Created from grapes from the oldest registered farm in South Africa, the Steenberg Vineyards Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc is a testament to the strengths of the storied Constantia wine region. Traditional method fermentation adds another fun and fresh level to this wine; aromas of passion fruit and lime give it a fruity nose while the palate is light and smooth. It’s the ideal drink for a hot summer day. SRP $18

2018 Biltmore Estate Brut:  Crafted using the traditional méthode champenoise, this bottle of sparkling dry wine is the ideal choice for gatherings large or small. It was created using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes to create a high-quality glass of bubbly perfect for any occasion from Mother’s Day brunch to New Year’s Eve. Up your hospitality game to “Vanderbilt” level by sharing this with your close circle. SRP $35

Veuve du Vernay: Ranked #1 by IMPACT Hot Prospect Brand Award for Imported Wines from 2017-2019, Veuve du Vernay is the leading French sparkling wine brand in the U.S. and shows no sign of slowing down. The intersection of both sparkling and rosé is poised to explode, as both categories continued to grow in 2020.

Veuve du Vernay Ice Rosé NV: Crafted to be enjoyed over ice, Ice Rosé is slightly sweet with red fruit aromas to match its pink hue. From the bottle to the glass this wine epitomizes a fun, flirty Parisian lifestyle. SRP $14.99

Veuve du Vernay Sparkling Organic NV: Made from a blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Ugni Blanc vinified in the Chartmat method, the Sparkling Organic was created using organic and sustainable agricultural practices. It is certified organic with the NOP3 designation from France, a certification recognized in the U.S. A commitment to more sustainable production is echoed in the wine’s packaging as the label is made from recycled paper without chlorine treatment and the writing is done with organic ink. SRP $18.99

2014 Balletto Brut Rosé: This sparkling Brut Rosé comes from Balletto Vineyards, one of the few family-owned estate wineries in the Russian Rivery Valley of Sonoma County. It’s delicate, pretty and delicious – the soft, coral-hued color sets the stage, and the tiny, persistent bubbles confirm that this is a serious sparkler. Perfect for creating that coral focused Instagram page. SRP $42

Sunday Funday Sparkling Rosé: Made to suit afternoons on the couch, porch or pool, this delicate and charming sparkling rosé has freshness and (international) style for days. Sit back and watch the world with rosé colored glasses. This wine is as delicious as its packaging is adorable.  SRP $12

 

Let us know how we can help you identify the best sparkling wine option for your stories.
Contact liebler@bensonmarketing.com to hear more about what we have in our portfolio.