- Rating: 92 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $40 or Free with 3-Bottle Purchase
- Accepts Reservations: Yes
- Reservation Required: false
Calistoga, CA 94515
The more wineries I visit in Calistoga, the more convinced I become that it’s the hidden value area of Napa. Bennett Lane was not on my radar before I began planning an itinerary for the weekend; I just happened to notice that it was directly next to where the Spire Collection holds its tastings. It isn’t as ostentatious as other wineries, but it makes solid wines that balance the fruit development with the weight and acidity on the palate. And if you are a patient buyer, you may find discounted bottles on distribution sites, such as Vivino, and use the opportunity to stock up! Having tasted at the winery and enjoyed several bottlings through online purchases, I highly recommend you visit and taste for yourself!
Bennett Lane Winery’s beginnings follow that of many others - the owner(s) were influenced by wine or a wine region at some point in their life and realized that living that dream is the next step after accomplishing what they set out to do in business. It certainly is my dream. From both the architecture and their blends (the Maximus brand), you can tell that Italy was the main influence and it translates well to this property. The pictures above and below hopefully give you some insight on what to expect in the tasting room.
Similar to the winery itself, the wine ambassador was courteous and direct about the tasting. We chose the reserve tasting (and that lineup is reflected below), but one may also choose the traditional tasting to get a better sense of the Maximus wines. At a previous tasting, I heard about the high quality and decent prices for their Cabernets, but I would also love to visit again to taste their blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscat Canelli (Maximus White) and their Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot (Maxiumus Red).
We did not spend much time discussing the owners’ nor winemakers’ backgrounds, so I recommend visiting their website if you are interested in learning more, as that will equal the knowledge I have access to. Instead, we talked much more about the wines and what makes them different than others in the valley. A summary on each of the available wines can also be found on the winery’s website.
- 2016 Reserve Chardonnay ($53)
- Produced using sourced fruit from Carneros. 10% MLF allowed in order to round out the acid but keep the butter and cream notes as supporting character in the wine. Fresh primary aromas of lemon and yellow apple. The palate is medium body, medium(+) acid, and a touch of salinity that stimulates the palate before the crisp yellow apple, pear, vanilla, and hint of melon follows through. Wine Advocate scored it 90pts (impressive for a white wine) and I’d agree. The Chardonnay is for the crowd that doesn’t want the full, unctuous wines of Napa but rather a ripe representation of the varietal character.
- 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($105)
- This wine reminds me slightly of the Left-Bank as it has balanced deep red fruit, but also some green and tertiary notes on the nose. You’ll want to decant this bottle for an hour or open-and-recork it and leave overnight. The acid is more present than the tannin, which makes this very drinkable right now. Medium(-) body with flavors that are a bit more earthy and feels like its at is optimum aging point. Cherry, blackberry, cocoa and leather. Again, it doesn’t feel underdeveloped, just very light for the Napa Valley (understandable considering the 2011 vintage). Many places found it hard to produce wines in 2011 and this is pretty darn drinkable.
- 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($105)
- Dark cherry, cassis, berries, mocha, cocoa, vanilla, and a caramel sensation on the nose. Even with all of these aromas, the nose feels bright thanks to the acidity. The palate is mellow and integrated but with lots of layers and decent complexity. The 2012 has soft tannins, so it’s ready now, but they won’t hold on for too long - I recommend you finish the bottle the same day that you open it. And I’m fine with that considering this lighter bodied, fruit-forward wine. Just a darn good bottle of wine that is fairly rich but not too big.
- 2013 Lynch Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($125)
- The gem of the lineup as it’s their only single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. I know this sounds very strange, but there is a odd note on the nose that is reminiscent of Denorex Shampoo. Almost like a herbal mint and caramel blended together. Once you get past the semi-shock of the nose, the wine is very nice. There is a cherry cola component that integrates well with the high acid/tannin and it has a medium(-) body that makes it dance across the palate. Still, I’d describe this as an easy drinking wine (though a really nice one at that) which has a fair bit of complexity.
- 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($62)
- They were nice to let me try this wine outside of my tasting menu. Cherry and cocoa on the nose with similar flavors on the palate. Although it is less intense and concentrated than the Reserve, it isn’t short by much. Although it’s a 2013, this is drinking very well right now and a good value buy (I purchased bottles of this to get my tasting free). Soft and balanced, this wine is medium bodied, medium(+) tannin, and medium(+) acid that is integrated. You could serve this wine no matter the food pairing at dinner.
Although Bennett Lane Winery isn’t my favorite winery for its wines, ambiance, nor presentation, it does a pretty solid job in all of the categories and should be a nice, quiet location to enjoy several glasses of wine. The care and attention to detail are there without the price point nor the need to schedule a tasting in advance. So meander on through the region and make this a pitstop to rehydrate! Cheers!
Rating: 92 out of 100