Wine Time

Dennis Sodomka is a guest columnist | Contact Dennis

Wine Time: Benziger Sauvignon Blanc North Coast 2011, California

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COST: $14-16

WHAT: Just in time for the hot summer, we get a new release from Benziger Family Winery, their tasty Benziger Sauvignon Blanc 2011. It’s a refreshing wine at a great price.

This is a crisp, clean winner that you can turn to all year long, but it will be especially good as the temperature climbs. Tastes of green apple and lemon, with a hint of lime, offer a palate-cleansing freshness in your mouth.

It tastes like it was fermented in stainless steel and didn’t see any oak. The bright flavors really put a smile on your face. The fruit and acid are well balanced.

I wouldn’t describe the wine as smooth, but then I don’t like a smooth Sauvignon Blanc. This is a perfect expression of the grape, with razor-sharp fruit flavors and a refreshing, long finish.

Benziger has been making outstanding wines for several years, as they have turned to sustainable farming and Biodynamics to keep their vineyards healthy. This wine is further proof that their efforts are working.

The sustainable farming movement has been gaining strength in wine country because it seems to be producing better wines like this one. The Benzigers work on such things as biodiversity, soil revitalization and integrated pest management.

They have ripped out vineyards, planted other vegetation and used natural means to keep out harmful insects and attract helpful insects. They want to let the natural flavors of the soil come through the grapes, and their efforts have improved their wines.

I have been following their wines for the past three or four years, and they seem to be getting better all the time. This is a perfect example of what sustainable farming can do. Benziger also offers a smooth, tasty Chardonnay in the same price range.

WINERY: The family has been growing grapes on Sonoma Mountain for more than 30 years, and now more than 20 family members work there.

They started out farming the same way everyone else did: spraying to keep the weeds and bugs down and fertilizing to keep the grape yield up. But after a few years they noticed the vines didn’t look as hardy and the soil didn’t look as rich.

Mike Benziger started pushing for greener practices, eventually discovering Biodynamics, an ultra-organic approach. They grow all kinds of fruit and vegetables on their land and raise animals as well. Water is recycled and purified naturally. They go to extraordinary lengths to let the character of the land show through in their wines.

They even have a program for grape suppliers on land they don’t own to allow them to be sustainable farmers. All of the Benziger wines are certified sustainable, organic or Biodynamic.

They produce many varietals at several price points. The Benziger Family wines, such as this one, are the least expensive. Considering the high quality of the wines, they should be considered terrific bargains.

GOES WITH: It was a perfect pairing with seafood. My wife, Teri, and I had this with shrimp steamed in water and Old Bay seasoning. I would pair this with all kinds of mild fish or shellfish, some mild cheeses or something like a shrimp taco. I think it would be perfect with grilled shrimp in a ginger-lime marinade.

This wine also will be great for sipping by itself on a warm summer evening on the porch. Serve it well chilled.

WINE EVENTS

MAY 31

Wine and tapas tasting, 5-6:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas, $19.99; (706) 722-4805

JUNE 1

Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three white wines and three reds and matching cheeses, $5 with $3 rebate on purchase of one of the featured wines; (803) 279-9522

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; price dependent on flight selection; (706) 922-9463

JUNE 2

Wine and beer tasting, 1-6 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; price dependent on flight selection; (706) 922-9463

JUNE 7

Wine tasting and wine cruise planning meeting, 4:30-6:30 p.m., 5 O’Clock Bistro, 2111 Kings Way; with presentations from Travel Planners and AMA Waterways; $8; reservations required at (706) 394-8952 and (706) 736-7999

JUNE 10

Wine dinner, 5:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; six courses paired with Lava Cap wines, $75; reservations, (706) 722-4805


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