Nature's Way

A winemaking family embraces earth-friendly gardening at their Sonoma vineyard

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  • The insectary garden contains a smorgasbord of flowering perennials, including the beauties pictured here.


    Thomas J. Story

    Click to Enlarge

"We've created an environmental safe house that allows the vines to spread out and develop their own personalities," explains Mike, the winemaker and Bob's older brother. Mike and his wife, Mary, discovered the sprawling, sunbaked old ranch in 1980, bought it, then set out to find a "different way to farm." He credits horticulturist Alan York with introducing him to an environmentally responsible land-management system called biodynamics, which is winning acceptance among winemakers and home gardeners alike.

"Our goal is to produce wines that reflect the land and those who farm it," says Mike. After tasting Tribute, a smooth, dark ruby Bordeaux blend with a rich berry flavor, I'm convinced they're well on their way. Released last June, it's the first certified biodynamic wine produced from Napa and Sonoma Counties.

But for the Benziger clan, all two dozen of them, the biggest reward is working the vineyard together, doing what they love. As Mike puts it, "The closer you are to the land, the more passionate you become [about its stewardship]."

INFO: Benziger Family Winery (1883 London Ranch Rd., Glen Ellen; or 888/490-2739 is open 10-5 daily.




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