In keeping with my New Year’s Resolution, I am both keeping better track of the samples I receive and catching up with the backlog. These great wines from Benzger Family Winery and Imagery Estate Winery fall into both camps. They arrived at some point when I was traveling a bunch and I neglected to put them into my inventory. So I forgot about them.
Until now. What a dope.
The Imagery Estate wines, while all Excellent or Outstanding, were made from particularly rare varieties, at least in the U.S., and came from one of the newer appellations in California, Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak, which I had visited way back in 2014, shortly after it became an official AVA.
2018 Imagery Estate Winery Barbera, Upper Ridge Vineyard, Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak, CA: Retail $49. Under cork. I visited the then newly formed appellation of Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak back in 2014 and tasted a few Imagery wines, they were wonderful. When I received a few wines from the Benziger sister winery, I was ecstatic. This Barbera, which is certainly rare in California, is pretty fantastic. Great fruit on both the nose and the palate with red and dark fruit frolicking famously. The tartness is both of the charts and balancing, serving as a counter-measure to all of that fruit. Excellent. 92 Points.
2019 Imagery Estate Winery Tempranillo, Upper Ridge Vineyard, Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak, CA: Retail $55. 100% Tempranillo. Under cork. I have ridden (or at least attempted to ride) my bike up to the Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak appellation and it is no joke; it is a tough ride. And it is up there–2,600 feet above sea level. Ouch. The wines, though, in this relatively new appellation, benefit from the elevation, particularly the diurnal shift (hot days and cool nights). While Cabernet rules (80% of the vines), this Tempranillo certainly shines. A bit dark in color and in aromas (cassis to the nines, here), the palate is surprisingly tart, zingy, and lively, with plenty of fruit but even more balancing acidity. The tannins, while present, are silky and largely integrated. A strong effort. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2018 Imagery Estate Winery Pallas Estate, Sonoma Valley, CA: Retail $65. Trying to find information on this wine online was surprisingly fruitless–there was really no info to be found not only on this 2018 vintage, but the Pallas line in general. Dark in the glass with plenty of dark fruit: blackberry, plum, cassis, that went right up to, but stopped short of brooding. There is a vibrancy here that is palpable on the nose, which pairs well with the spice and herbal aspects. The palate follows suit: fruity, tart, earthy, herbal, and spicy. I just wish there were more information about the wine available. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 Imagery Estate Winery Lagrein, Upper Ridge Vineyard, Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak, CA: Retail $42. 100% Lagrein. One does not find a lot of Lagrein in this country, or anywhere else for that matter. It is grown in Northern Italy, where it achieves great heights. It is also found in Australia, apparently, but I can not wax poetically at all about the down under Lagrein as I have never had any. This particular bottle comes from Northern California, Pine Mountain–Cloverdale Peak to be specific, a region that I visited a while ago as the appellation was formed. The vineyards I toured were, well, spectacular and this wine follows suit: dark, brooding, and even mysterious in the glass with all the black fruits one could conjure. Rich, dark, layered, complex–this is a wine that I would gladly serve at my table. Any. Day. Of. The. Week. Outstanding. 94 Points.
The kind folks at Benziger/Imagery also sent me a trio of wines from the mothership, Benziger Family Winery (which I almost always spell incorrectly, wanting to put an additional “n” in there), which was founded in 1980 on Sonoma Mountain.
2020 Benziger Family Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma Valley, CA: Retail $16. Under screw cap. Light straw in the glass with lovely peach and pear aromas along with honeysuckle and acacia. The palate is quite rich and fruity with a weighty mouthfeel and tons of verve. Yowza. I have stated many times that Sauvignon Blanc is never my go-to wine, but I would only need one hand to count the number of SBs in this country that I would pick over this one. Excellent. 92 Points.
2019 Benziger Family Winery Joaquin’s Inferno, Sonoma Mountain, CA: Retail $70. Heavy bottle. 63% Zinfandel, 26% Grenache, 11% Petite Sirah. Under cork. Super dark in the glass (thank you Petite Sirah) with brooding aromas of cassis, black plum, and an herbal black pepper note. The fruit is predominant on the palate, but considerable finesse comes through on the mid-palate. A nice wine with a bit of a hefty price tag. Excellent. 90 Points.
2017 Benziger Family Winery Tribute, Sonoma Mountain, CA: Retail $85. Heavy Bottle. 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. Made with Demeter Certified Biodynamic grapes (if you go to all the trouble and expense to get Demeter certification, why use the environmentally irresponsible heavy bottle?). Dark in the glass as well as with the aromas as there is plenty of dark fruit, dark spice, and even some dark mocha. Pretty dark. Did I mention that? Well, the palate is much livelier, brighter, even lighter than the nose indicated. Plenty of fruit, but it is far from brooding, in fact it is much more tart than gloomy, much more. That acidity carries all the way through to the lengthy finish. Impressive. Outstanding. 93 Points.