Get to know an appellation in three easy steps! by Lee Stipp

An appellation is one of the most important aspects of the wine but one of the most overlooked. Geography and weather are two top characteristics of an appellation but there are other factors such as history that come into play. Every bottle of wine should tell a story. Let us tell you the story of the Bennett Valley: an appellation so rich in history and unique in character, we chose to put it on our label.

Step One: Where

The Bennett Valley appellation lies entirely within the Sonoma Valley appellation, and overlaps part of both Sonoma Mountain and the Sonoma Coast appellations. The boundaries of the AVA roughly correspond to the Matanzas Creek watershed. With 8140 total acres, about 650 acres are planted to wine grapes, making it one of the smallest AVAs in Sonoma County. Most of the planted acreage sits on a benchland between 400 and 1100 feet above sea level, while the elevation of the region extends up to 1887 feet.

 Image: Bennett Valley lies wholly within the Sonoma Valley between Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen.

Image: Bennett Valley lies wholly within the Sonoma Valley between Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen.

Step Two:  Why

Weather and soil are predominant factors in making the Bennett Valley a unique place. Consistent marine influence defines this cool-climate region. Through a deep gap in the mountains (known as the Petaluma Wind Gap), early morning coastal fog and cool marine breezes  pour into the valley on a regular basis throughout the growing season. While the AVA is classified as a very cool climate, the mountains that define its boundaries shelter the vineyards and protect them from extremes. More of an alluvial bench than a valley, volcanic activity created both the diverse topography and a wide range of soil types, exposures and terrains. The volcanic history of the landscape defines the soils: steep, rocky soils with good drainage encourage deep roots and intense flavors without dilution.

 Image: Fog rolls through the Petaluma Gap and into the Bennett Valley resulting in perfect growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Image: Fog rolls through the Petaluma Gap and into the Bennett Valley resulting in perfect growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Step Three: How

How did this wonderful place get discovered? The Bennett Valley has a rich history of human involvement that linguistic experts believe go back to 7000 BCE. From there, Russian and Spanish settlements began in the early 1800’s (around Fort Ross). The late 1840’s Gold Rush era brought even more people, mainly from established US states. One notable person, John Bennett, was an influential politician for which the valley was named after. John Bennett’s daughter died of Typhoid Fever at an early age and is said to have been buried in the Bennett Valley. Wine grapes were planted in the 1850’s and up until a massive phylloxera infestation put an end to wine grape growing until Matanzas Creek Winery was born in 1977. On December 23, 2003, Bennett Valley became an officially recognized American Viticultural Area.

Getting to know Bennett Valley Cellars

Via Italia!

Pietro Zanin, born in 1881 in Rivamonte, Italy, purchased a vineyard in the Veneto region. There was no family meal without wine.

Fortunato Zanin, born in 1904 is Rivamonte, Italy, followed his father’s footsteps in the vineyard and made sure that his grandchildren would inherit the vineyard to ensure family ownership.

Emilio Zanin, born in 1939 in Agordo, Italy in the Italian Alps, maintained part ownership of the Veneto vineyard until he immigrated to the US. He sold his ownership in the vineyard to purchase Marina’s Vineyard in the Bennett Valley.

Luca Zanin, born in 1970 in Flushing, NY, worked with Emilio and his cousin Mark Zanin in creating a winery supply company located in Windsor, CA. Shortly after founding their Company, Luca bought a vineyard down the street from Emilio’s in the Bennett Valley now known as Simpatico Ranch.

What's in the bottle? (click on bottle(s) to learn more)


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