If there was ever a prime example of how we see things quite a bit differently that the wine media, it is with Benovia winery. We have been big fans of winemaker Mike Sullivan since back in his early Zin days with Deloach, and through an impressive group of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels as he got the Hartford Court project going. We have been quite pleased with his work since becoming the mind behind Benovia and have recommended a number of things from there over the years.
We’ll be the first to admit that the Benovia wines aren’t the kind of blowsy monsters that get easily noticed by the media. They are, rather, succinct, pure and harmonious with well-woven flavors and nothing sticking out. These are the kinds of wines to drink because they are outstanding examples of California classics of the type that were prevalent back in California's more 'formative' years.
Not a lot of evident wood here, the style of this Chardonnay is an exploration of the terroir of the Russian River. You’ve got finely meshed apple and citrus fruit with hints of almond and spice notes, the result of night harvesting, indigenous yeast and whole cluster fermentation and a sojourn of 12 months in oak.
The flavors are clean, persistent, and engaging while always fresh and vibrant. The Benovia Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2015 comes mainly from the winery’s Martaella estate and relies on a layered, nuanced, rather impressive demonstration of the vivid house style for its impression. It will probably again get modest reviews from the press because it isn’t overtly big (though don’t get us wrong there is plenty of character). But this one impresses where it counts, in the glass. That is where this Chardonnay is made to perform, and we'd rather drink this than a lot of the other, higher- scoring (often oaky and flabby) options we have.
It would be easier for us to simply point to a Chardonnay that got a big review, and we have those, too. But this is one we believe in and the 2015 is a fine example to make new friends for what we feel is one of the more under-rated wineries around simply because the wines are balanced and made to drink rather than to go after 'numbers'.