Benziger Family Winery was founded in 1981 when Mike and Mary Benziger, then a young married couple, settled in northern California. Within a few years Mike’s father Bruno Benziger, a successful New Jersey wine and spirits importer, purchased property in Sonoma Valley to start a grape-growing and farming business. The family specialized in well-made but modestly-priced wines, and by 1985 they were producing 380,000 bottles annually. Eventually Benziger’s six other adult children moved west and joined the business. Their Glen Ellen and M.G. Vallejo brands were sold to Heublein Inc. in 1993. However the family also started a line of fine wines in the 1980s and today the 100-acre estate includes vineyards in the Russian River Valley, the Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Mountain appellations. The estate is biodynamic and produces a broad portfolio of wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and blends. The estate is still owned and operated by the Benziger family.
Sonoma County is not an AVA, but it is a commonly used informal designation for wines made outside of more specific AVAs within Sonoma, which is a large wine producing region just west of Napa Valley. Though Sonoma is often overshadowed by its glamorous neighbor Napa Valley, it has a long history of wine production. The area specialized in jug wine until the mid-20th century, when Sonoma producers took a cue from Napa and started improving quality. Unlike Napa, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king, Sonoma specialized in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, though excellent Cabs are produced too. There are at present 16 AVAs within Sonoma County, and, like much of the West Coast of the United States, new AVAs are created in Sonoma County with regularity. Some Sonoma appellations, such as the Russian River Valley, are renowned for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The Merlot grape is such a deep blue that it is named for the blackbird. It’s an early ripening grape and one of the primary varietals used In Bordeaux. Merlot is also grown in the "International style," which is harvested later to bring out more tannins and body.