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Simplifying the Complexity of Wine Sourcing

Many wine consumers have a romantic notion that any given bottle of wine comes from a winery with vines growing on-site and all operations happening in one place. While there are plenty of estate-produced wines, that isn’t always the case. In fact, a good majority of wines are sourced from other growers.  

Sourcing is a way for wineries to meet customer demand. Whether they simply don’t grow enough grapes themselves or want flexibility with the wines they offer and produce, sourcing allows winemakers to stay creative and give people what they want. It allows them to stay consistent each year and produce better wine than they would be able to otherwise. 

Watch Benson Live: Simplifying the Complexity of Wine Sourcing
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdMZ3kWrvvw&t=21s  

Take Sharon Fenchak, VP Winemaker at Biltmore Winery in Asheville, North Carolina. With conditions in North Carolina being less predictable for grape growing, she augments her supply by sourcing grapes and juice from the west coast. The Biltmore Estate sees hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, making Biltmore Winery one of the most visited in the country. It’s necessary for them to source grapes to produce the more than 45 SKUs they serve on site. 

Biltmore Winery, Winemaker

Even wineries on the west coast find themselves sourcing grapes. Two winemakers for WX Brands, Rob Takigawa, winemaker for Baileyana Winery, and Kip Lorenzetti winemaker for Chronic Cellars, use growing partners to keep their wines consistent and high quality. Rob Takigawa’s portfolio focuses on the Edna Valley AVA and started with the Paragon Vineyard under the Niven family. Expansion of the brand under WX ownership has allowed him to look to other growers and sources for more variety and complexity.  

Kip Lorenzetti focuses on red wine blends with grapes from the Paso Robles AVA. The brand’s flagship wine, Sofa King Bueno, contains varying amounts of syrah, petite syrah, mourvedre and grenache which must be sourced to keep quality high. Each vintage is different which allows him to keep a consistent representation of the region while staying creative.  

Rob Takigawa, Chronic Cellars Winemaker

Contact us to learn more about these brands and others…. 

Discover California's Central Coast

Discovering California’s Central Coast

California’s Central Coast is garnering an increasing share of the spotlight, and deservedly so.

In 2022, the San Luis Obispo Coast AVA was recognized, joining previously recognized areas like Paso Robles, Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco. This addition is a new chapter in the region’s evolution as one of California’s top wine producing regions, and good reason to discover, or rediscover, California’s Central Coast.

Beyond the wine, the Central Coast also has people’s attention as home to fantastic aquatic activities, hiking trails, and relaxing spas. Located half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the region has an incredible amount to offer and can be more approachable than some wine regions to the north. Featuring unique takes on Bordeaux and Rhone blends, Central Coast wineries have something to whet everyone’s palate.

Here’s a look at a few key wineries and their wines:

Hahn Family Wines has tasting rooms in the towns of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Soledad. Pioneers in the Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH), Nicolaus (Nicky) Hahn first purchased land in the 1970s and was keen to see its potential as a renowned wine region. He led efforts to officially establish Santa Lucia Highlands as an official AVA. Today, Hahn Family Wines owns one of the largest shares of planted vines in the SLH, farming 650 acres (10% of SLH). They remain an independent, family-owned, and operated wine company focused on growing and producing luxury and ultra-premium wines from certified sustainable estate vineyards. Their wines include:

Hahn SLH Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands – SRP $35 – Hahn Family Wines was one of the first wineries in the region to have all its estate vineyards certified under the rigorous Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Program. The vineyards used for sourcing the Pinot Noir grapes for this wine experience a long and dry growing season that results in wines with remarkable depth, complexity and ripe fruit flavors.

Discover California's Central Coast

San Luis Obispo Coast AVA Vineyard

Hahn Appellation Series Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco – SRP $20 – Located south of the Santa Lucia Highlands, Arroyo Seco is one of the smallest AVAs in California, boasting one of the longest growing seasons in the state due to cool winds that blow in daily from Monterey Bay. As a result, this Chardonnay is vibrant on the palate, with flavors of pineapple, lemon, apricot and gentle notes of honey, followed by nuanced toasty spice on the finish. Hahn Appellation Series includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Grenache Syrah Mourvédre (GSM) priced $20-25/750ml.

Smith & Hook Proprietary Red Blend, Central Coast – SRP $25 – The Smith & Hook story begins 40 years ago in the hills of Monterey County where the Hahn family founded Smith & Hook, launching a decades-long exploration of Central Coast winemaking. Today Winemaker Megan McCollough produces excellent Cabernet Sauvignon wines, priced $25-45, as well as this classic Bordeaux blend of primarily Merlot, Petite Sirah, Malbec & Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit is sourced from three prestigious appellations of the Central Coast: Arroyo Seco, Santa Lucia Highlands and San Antonio Valley. This expressive blend features vibrant aromas of cranberry, dark cherry and plum, underscored by notes of mushroom and subtle hints of lavender.

Chronic Cellars in Paso Robles is fully committed to making seriously good wine for people looking for a little dose of adventure. Their disruptive style is matched only by the killer quality of their wines, made with character to match the clever and playful labels.

Chronic Cellars Sir Real Cabernet Sauvignon – SRP $17 – Noble to the core and made with character in Paso Robles, Sir Real delivers striking but approachable layers of dark fruit, currants and dried cherry with cedar and tobacco flavors.

Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise – SRP $17 – Catch a lucky break with Purple Paradise. This Zinfandel-dominated blend rolls out blackberry fruit, cherry cola and touches of mocha and lavender. The alluring balanced acidity and mild tannins float towards a blissful finish as an ode to the perfect landscape where it originates.

Discover California's Central Coast

Morro Bay, California

Baileyana Winery in San Luis Obispo (SLO) has numerous accolades from Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator and is in SLO’s historic Independence Schoolhouse, built in 1909. The winery has award-winning wines that hail from lush vineyard vines set against the backdrop of the gorgeous Santa Lucia mountains in the Edna Valley. They also produce wines under the True Myth label from Paso Robles.

Baileyana Firepeak Chardonnay, Edna Valley – SRP $28 – A chardonnay as bright and complex as the central coast with upfront flavors of crisp pear, lemon zest, pineapple and a hint of vanilla. This wine has a smooth and relaxed finish.

True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon – SRP $24 – Coming from hand-selected vineyard sites, this wine showcases the power and lushness of Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles. Sourced from old vines, which bring the bold, powerful and opulent notes of black cherry, cassis and pepper associated with high-quality Cab. Rich yet smooth, this wine is very approachable now, and will continue to mature for years to come.

Riboli Family Wines was one of the first wineries to come out of Los Angeles (they still have a winery there along with a restaurant). The brand has recently expanded to Paso Robles and the central coast. It has been family owned since 1917. San Antonio Winery, the Los Angeles property, was opened by Anthony Riboli (4th generation winemaker’s) great great uncle, Santo Cambianica who came to the US from Lombardia, Italy. Anthony’s grandfather, Stefano Riboli, joined the family business and expanded it with his wife, Maddelena who is turning 100 this year. The third- and fourth generations of Ribolis consider themselves stewards of the 1,400 acres of estate vineyard now under their care. Since 2019, REG has maintained sustainability certifications from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance for all of its estate vineyards, as well as the Paso Robles winery facility – something fewer than 5% of all California wineries can claim.

Maddalena Rosé – SRP $15 – Named after the matriarch and founder of Riboli Family Wines, this sustainably produced Rosé is a bright, luscious wine with ripe red plum and raspberry flavors.

San Simeon Sauvignon Blanc – SRP $19 – Located near the coastal town of San Simeon, the estate vineyards are located within the El Pomar district of the renowned Paso Robles appellation. Small lots are picked and fermented individually with minimal intervention to allow the true expression of the soil and climate. This is a bright, refreshing wine with intense flavors of citrus and pear. The nose reveals bright aromas of white peach and lime zest. Mineral notes express the rocky terroir of the vineyard.

San Simeon Stormwatch – SRP $70 –  Steep hillsides and rocky soils produce the intense flavors and aromas of this Bordeaux-style blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc). The wine is dark, rich, and mouth-filling complete with ripe flavors of blackberry and raspberry with touches of spice and vanilla.

Let us know if we can help you discover California’s Central Coast. Contact Nadea at mina@bensonmarketing.com to learn more.

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).  We conducted another in our series, BensonLive Presents, called “Cheers to Chardonnay,” which aired May 25, 2021; you can view the video on our YouTube channel.

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.

Edna Valley Vineyards of Baileyana Winery

Why Cool Climate Edna Valley is Hot

Five things to know about Edna Valley AVA.

Burr

The Coolest AVA Around.  Sitting just 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean and Morro Bay, Edna Valley is the single coolest AVA in California, as cited in a study from the University of Southern Oregon. This rare transverse valley funnels fog from three entry points keeping the valley particularly cool creating a long growing season. Additionally, the Morro Rock sits at the mouth of the valley. A deep, underwater ravine right off the coast creates a large mass of cool water that feeds afternoon winds and fog that settles in overnight.

Longest Growing Season

Perhaps the longest growing season in the state. Budbreak can occur as early as February and harvest lasting into November. Long, cool growing season = ultimate ripeness of fruit, while maintaining refreshing acidity levels.

Cool Climate Varieties Star

Chardonnay is the leading variety planted in the Edna Valley AVA followed by Pinot Noir. The Baileyana Firepeak Chardonnay at $20 showcases the region’s famous style – fruit forward wines balanced by a backbone of acidity.

Baileyana Wines

From Chick Peas to Chardonnay

The modern era of grape growing in Edna Valley started in 1973 when the region was better known for its garbanzo beans than its Chardonnays. The AVA was recognized in 1982. Baileyana Winery’s founder Jack Niven came to the valley in the early 70s. With input from both UC Davis and Fresno State Universities, he began planting wine grapes in 1973. Jack Niven was also instrumental in the Edna Valley becoming officially recognized as an AVA.

Small but Mighty

The AVA is home to less than two dozen wineries, including client Baileyana Winery. 25,000 acres are planted in total within the AVA. (For context, there are approximately 637,000 acres under vine throughout California according to the Wine Institute – 2018. Napa Valley, another small AVA, has 46,000 acres planted to vines).

Bonus

The San Luis Obispo region, as a whole, is a favorite with filmmakers. The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, for example, were used in the 2007 Pirates of the Caribbean installment

Expert Source: John H. Niven, Baileyana Brand Ambassador. John H. Niven, grandson of the late Baileyana founders, has lived and breathed Edna Valley wines for the last 20 years.

Baileyana Portfolio Joins Benson

Benson’s PR engagement with WX Brands, a top 20 U.S. wine company, has expanded to include the 100,000+ case portfolio of wines from the Niven family, widely considered as the pioneers of the Edna Valley AVA. In January, WX Brands announced the purchase of the portfolio, including True Myth, Tangent, Baileyana, and Zocker.

These additional wineries join Benson’s national PR campaign for current client, WX Brands: Bread & Butter Wines, the Jamieson Ranch Vineyards portfolio (Double Lariat, Reata, Silver Spur, Whiplash and Light Horse), Chronic Cellars, Our Daily Wines, Jelly Jar, and Reckless Love Wines.

From the Acquisition Press Release

“The Niven family has farmed in Edna Valley for more than 40 years. Their understanding and love of the region is reflected in the wines they produce,” said WX Brands President and CEO Peter Byck. “With their quality, regional focus, and price segments, this collection of consumer and trade favorites fits perfectly into our existing portfolio of nationally distributed wines. WX Brands is proud to carry on the Niven legacy.”

The Niven family developed a diverse portfolio of wine that focused on exploring the endless potential of Edna Valley and the Central Coast and in the process established the region as a credible and highly-sought-after source for cool-climate grape varieties.

  • Baileyana was founded more than 30 years ago to reflect the best of cool climate varietals. Refined, rich, and balanced, Baileyana wines exhibit the best of Edna Valley’s unique climates. (Price range: $25-50)
  • True Myth takes advantage of the rich and fertile soils of California’s Central Coast. The wines embrace the best of San Luis Obispo County – Chardonnay from the cool ocean influenced Edna Valley and Cabernet Sauvignon from the rugged terrain of Paso Robles. (Price range: $18-55)
  • Tangent wines explore cool climate, alternative white wines from Edna Valley, the coolest AVA in California. The focus is on fresh, easy-drinking white wines that are extremely food friendly. (Price range: $17-32)
  • Zocker means ‘gambler’ in German. The Niven family took a gamble that Edna Valley could produce Grüner Veltliner and the result is a food-friendly wine worthy of a gamble. (Price: $20)