Wine of the week: Benziger, 2020 North Coast Sauvignon Blanc
Lisa Amaroli was first attracted to the wine world when she lived and worked in Europe after high school.
“Living in Europe was a playground of wine discovery for me,” said the director of winemaking for Sonoma Valley’s Benziger Family Winery. “Wine is part of life and the community there. Having wine with a meal was as natural as breathing.”
Amaroli is behind our wine of the week winner, the Benziger, 2020 North Coast Sauvignon Blanc at $14. This sauvignon blanc has refreshing notes of mineral and citrus: grapefruit, lemon and a twist of lime. Buoyed by bright acid, it has great balance and it finishes crisp. It definitely over-delivers at this price point.
Other tasty sauvignon blancs include: Acumen, 2020 Napa Valley Mountainside Sauvignon Blanc, 14.1%, $30; Bodkin, 2020 The Victor’s Spoils, Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 13.2%, $18; Rodney Strong, 2020 Charlotte’s Home, Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 13.5%, $18; and Foppiano, 2019 Estate Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc, 13.8%, $20.
As for the winning Benziger sauvignon blanc, Amaroli said “our North Coast sauvignon blanc is really a friendly-style landing in the middle of the sauvignon blanc spectrum. It is citrusy with a hint of grass and some stone fruit in the background.”
What makes this bottling unique, she said, is that the grapes are sourced from alluvial soils, which promote vigorous canopies that shade the grape clusters, avoiding direct sunlight.
“We harvest carefully, with a goal of preserving bright fresh fruit while retaining enough acidity to keep the wine lively,” Amaroli said. “This bottling is 100% stainless steel fermentation with no oak influence.”
The winemaker said she’s a good fit to produce sauvignon blanc because she fancies the varietal.
“I love all the styles of sauvignon blanc, from the jalapeño pepper/green grass all the way to a sun-kissed tropical fruit,” she said. “For this wine, we strive for balance and freshness.”
The most challenging part of making sauvignon blanc, Amaroli said, is finding the right fruit to flesh out the expression you want to craft.
“What’s key is finding great sourcing to fit your style,” she said, “and then keeping it clean and fresh during processing and fermenting, with attention to detail.”
Amaroli studied at Sonoma State University, graduating in 1997 with a degree in biology and chemistry. She supplemented that with courses at the Santa Rosa Junior College and UC Davis.
The Wine Group acquired Benziger Family Winery and Imagery Estate Winery in 2015. Chris Benziger continues to fill the role of brand manager.
“The amazing thing is that it (The Wine Group) has left us alone and supported us in our endeavor to make the best biodynamic, CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers certification) and certified sustainable wines we can,” Benziger said. “The proof is in our wines, and I believe we’re making some of our best wines ever.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at email@example.com or 707-521-5310.