Russian River Valley’s Benovia Winery

Tasting Notes

A recent visit with Winemaker Mike Sullivan at Benovia Winery was enlightening.  Mike is also co-owner (along with husband/wife founders Mary Dewane and Joe Anderson) of this impressive winery situated in the heart of Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley.   The bucolic landscape and delightful breeze during my visit created a serene, peaceful setting.

No stranger to the wine world, Mike grew up tending vines at their family’s vineyard on Sonoma Mountain.  The wines Mike crafts are simply stunning.  Benovia’s extraordinary Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, planted on diverse soils, reflect unique personalities, and each are equally impressive:

2016 Russian River Valley Chardonnay:  The alluring aroma of tree fruits and hints of warm croissants sets the stage for this Heritage Clone Chardonnay.  Rich while maintaining brilliant acidity, with notes of juicy Honeycrisp apple, creamy Bartlett pear, buttered toast undertones, a splash of citrus, and a touch of brown spice.  Smooth and bright with a finish that continues long after the final sip.  SRP:  $34

2016 La Pommeraie Chardonnay; Russian River Valley:  From rich Goldridge soil over sandstone, this gem is complex and deliciously flavorful.  Sleek and minerally with brisk acids, it flows onto the palate effortlessly, revealing tropical fruit, Granny Smith apples, honeysuckle, lemon verbena, vanilla custard and well managed oak.  Silky and well balanced with a dash of crushed herbs on the lingering finale.  SRP:  $48

2016 Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir:  Forest floor nuances and fragrant spice on the nose are intoxicating, and clearly identify varietal characteristics.  The vines thrive on well-drained marine, volcanic, loamy clay soils. Decorating the palate are delectable layers of Bing cherries, raspberries, earthy notes, anise, and a twist of orange peel.  It finishes memorably with a kick of spice.  SRP:  $45

2016 Cohn Vineyard Pinot Noir; Sonoma County:  From this certified organic vineyard comes a pure and expressive Pinot Noir, delivering aromas of bright red cherries, cedar and fresh turned earth.  On the palate, red and black cherries, raspberry preserves, a solid thread of minerality, wild mushrooms, sandalwood and a dash of cinnamon unfold elegantly.  Precise in balance with silky tannins, and the finish never gives up!  SRP:  $75

2016 Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley:  This Russian River Valley vineyard planted in well-drained Jory soil is the source for this juicy PN.   Deeply fruited and aromatic, with a succulent core of boysenberries, black cherries and olallieberries accented by exotic spice, a touch of citrus, a splash of cola, and perfectly managed oak (16-month aging in barrel).  The smooth texture and fine balance steer the wine to a vibrant and lifted close.  SRP:  $62

2016 Tilton Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir; Sonoma Coast:  This cooler climate Russian River Valley vineyard sits further south, gaining more maritime influence from the nearby sea.   Opening with inviting floral and damp earth nuances on the nose, it expands broadly on the palate.  Layers of red cherry, pomegranate, savory mushroom tart, potpourri, and forest floor earthiness join well integrated oak notes.   Silky tannins and purity gleam through the extended finish.  SRP:  $62

2016 Pommeraie Vineyard Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley:   The Pommeraie Vineyard (previously an apple orchard, hence the name), is located adjacent to the Green Valley AVA.  Highly aromatic with violets and cherries at first whiff, it’s a compelling Pinot Noir.  The allure continues as rich flavors of sweet black cherries, purple plums, allspice, black truffles, and nicely understated oak traverse the palate in harmony.  This seductive wine is deeply structured with refined tannins and pristine balance.   SRP:  $62

2016 Bella Una Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley:   Crushed herbs and earthy tones captivate the senses up front with this complex, multi-layered wine.   Named Bella Una (Latin for beautiful together), this beauty is crafted of Heirloom Pinot Noir clones from two estate vineyards–Martaella Vineyard and Tilton Hill Vineyard.  Immaculately balanced and velvety smooth on the palate with forest floor elements, dark bramble berry fruits, floral notes, licorice, warm cherry rhubarb pie, and spiced oak nuances wrapped around a spine of firm tannins.  Approachable now, and ageworthy.   SRP: $80

Seek additional details on Benovia’s website,, including details on booking a visit.  You’ll be glad you did!