Harvest is long gone. The hordes of tourists that flock to the Napa Valley during the fall have dissipated as well. Now is a great time for you to go wine tasting in Wine Country. Beginning this week, we’re going to showcase a different winery in the Napa Valley or Sonoma County on a regular basis. While there are literally hundreds of wineries, each one is special in its own right. Today we’re taking you to the north end of the Valley, where the valley floor meets the edge of the Mayacamas Mountains and where affable vintners Randy and Lisa Lynch are the proud proprietors of Bennett Lane Winery.
It seems that every vintner has an interesting background, and Randy doesn’t disappoint in this area. The Danville native is a long-time race car aficionado and former racecar driver whose Bennett Lane Winery team won the NASCAR West Series Championship in 2007. He and Lisa purchased Bennett Lane Winery in 2003—although that was not their intention when they bought a Calistoga home the year prior— with the vision of showcasing wines that best reflect their Calistoga and Napa Valley terroir. Bennett Lane Winery is best known for its lushly-textured Cabernet Sauvignon and an expressive red wine blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah called Maximus.
Veteran winemaker Rob Hunter handles those duties for Bennett Lane Winery, home of 37 90+ point wines from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
Here are seven other things you should know about Bennett Lane Winery and its offerings:
“Cozy Up To Calistoga Cab” Tasting
Launched last month and continuing through December 31, the guided tasting, led by a seasoned wine specialist, features four exceptional Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet blends from Bennett Lane. After warming up the palate with a taste of the popular Bennett Lane Chardonnay, Sangiacomo Vineyard, Carneros, you’ll be treated to a fab Cab wine lineup including, Maximus Red Feasting Wine, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the very limited-release, single vineyard-designated Bennett Lane ‘Lynch Family Estate’ Cabernet Sauvignon. As an added treat, a barrel sample of a future vintage of the pinnacle Lynch Family Cabernet will be available for enjoyment as well. The flight is $55.00 per person for private groups of 2-6 people.
“Seated Tasting” option
This year-round offering allows groups of two to six people to do a deep dive into the winery’s more exclusive wine offerings under the guidance of a personal wine specialist. You’ll be greeted upon arrival by your host and seated at a private table. The specialist will then lead you and your crew through a tasting of four of Bennett Lane’s top end wines, including their Bennett Lane Napa Valley Chardonnay, Maximus Red, Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings. In this intimate and relaxed setting (a bit like having a personal wine steward in your own living room), there will be plenty of time for tasting and exploring each wine in depth. Moving at a leisurely pace, the personal wine expert will share the full story on each bottling and answer any questions regarding winemaking, fruit sourcing, cellaring and more. Priced at $35 per person, it’s a classic example of the intimate hospitality that Bennett Lane is known for – comfortable, relaxed, informative and above all, friendly.
This is the most exclusive experience available at Bennett Lane. It features a vineyard tour and a sensory evaluation seminar focused on Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah—the principal components in Bennett Lane’s signature red Maximus blend —followed by a custom blending experience and cheese pairing. During the blending you will blend your own bottle of Maximus Red Feasting Wine using the same lab techniques and equipment a winemaker would use. Once you have your blend finalized you will: bottle, cork, foil, and label your own individual bottles (one per person). After you blend your wine you will get to sit down with a glass of your blend and enjoy a custom cheese plate. The experience is capped off by a private reserve wine tasting. This experience costs $225 per person, or for groups of 6 or more, the price is $175 per person due to setup, exclusivity, and the materials involved.
Photo Credit: Kelly E. Carter
Hot Air Balloon
Bennett Lane Winery became the first in northern California wine country to have its own branded hot air balloon, from which you can view the spectacular valley below from 3,000 feet in the air. ‘We wanted to give visitors to the Valley—and locals for that matter—a chance to experience the region in a whole new way,’ Randy says. “With our unique brand of hospitality at Bennett Lane, we couldn’t think of a better way to do that than with a hot air balloon ride, accompanied by a wine tasting.” The Bennett Lane Winery balloon, operated by Calistoga Balloons, was built by Kubicek Balloons in the Czech Republic. The balloon stands 67 feet high when inflated and has a diameter of 65 feet. It took over a month of sewing to create the balloon’s envelope, which measures 142,400 cubic feet, from 16,000 square feet of special ripstop polyester fabric. It also took twenty-five days of dying for the fabric for the special grape color shade for the Bennett Lane logo of grape clusters.
Trust us when we say your driver will most certainly appreciate having his or her own waiting room to relax in while you sip Bennett Lane Winery’s offerings. That’s right, drivers no longer have to sit in a cold (or hot on summer days) car waiting for their clients to return. Attentive drivers can keep their eyes on their clients from the video monitor in the limo room.
If you visit soon, you may still be able to catch leaves on the vines. And at Bennett Lane Winery, you’ll appreciate the “petting zoo” where several varietals are planted side-by-side and labeled so you can see the difference between the types of grapevines.
The perfect place to have an afternoon picnic is the tranquil garden on the grounds of Bennett Lane Winery. This perk is available to Wine Club members only and just another reason for you to join!
Bennett Lane Winery, 3340 Highway 128, Calistoga, (877) 629-6272; Open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily http://bennettlane.com
Photos by Kelly E. Carter