It's getting rare these days to find family-owned wineries that are still in the hands of the family that founded them. It's even rarer to find a whole clan of family members who work in, love and take pride in a family wine-making enterprise. Benziger Family Winery is one of the finest examples of that family tradition that we've had the pleasure to visit.
After years of trying to fence nature out using traditional vineyard management practices, Benziger decided to adopt a more natural approach, transforming itself into a certified Biodynamic, organic and sustainable farm. The Benzigers believe that by allowing their land to come into a natural balance, their wines also became more distinctive. An equally important result is how beautiful and healthy the vineyards surrounding the winery look, and what a nice counterpoint the areas planted to attract beneficial insects give to the scene.
Benziger Family Winery Review
Wine Quality: Good. Their wines often score more than 90 points in publications like Wine Enthusiast and Wine and Spirits and they won Winery of the Year at the 2011 San Diego International Wine Competition.
Tourist Experience: Excellent, especially if you take the tram tour
You can walk in at Benziger and take a self-guided stroll through their biodyanmic wine-making display and visit their tasting room, but the real fun here is taking a tour. Their 45-minute vineyard tour in an open-sided tram pulled by a tractor is a hit with everyone, even the kids. You'll go up into the vineyards, see the property from a hillside vista point and learn why there's a flower garden where grapevines could be growing. This popular tour gets a bit crowded during summer weekends and you may enjoy it even more if you can manage to go on a weekday or off-season.
For a more in-depth experience with a smaller group, the Partners Tour takes you even more behind the scenes and includes a seated tasting - all for the price of a standard, stand-up tasting at some wineries in Napa Valley. These tours are limited to 10 people for a more personal experience.
The pretty picnic area is open to anyone - but of course it's only polite to buy a bottle of their wine if you use it. If you go on weekend during busier times, they serve freshly-made pizzas on the patio, cooked in a wood-fired oven.
One of our few complaints about Benziger is that it's hard to find the link to their tour and tasting information on the website. You'll find it by clicking the photograph that says "Come Visit" or under "Contact Us."
Overall, Benziger offers one of the most enjoyable winery visits in Sonoma and we count it among the top wineries in Sonoma Valley. If you're including it in a weekend visit, use this getaway planner to find more fun things to do.
Just the Facts About Benziger Family WineryTypes of Wines: Several varieties of red and white
Charge for Tasting: Yes, varies by type
Winery Tours: They offer two tours, a behind-the-scenes vineyard tour and exclusive seated wine tasting and a vineyard tram tour. Reserve online at least 24 hours in advance or call to see if they have any space open at the last minute.
Wine Price: Most are $30 per bottle and up
Getting to Benziger Family Winery
1883 London Ranch Road
Glen Ellen, CA
Benziger Family Winery Website
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a complimentary tour for the purpose of reviewing Benziger Family Winery. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.