2008 Benoni Pinot Noir "La Brume" Russian River Valley

Benoni Pinot Noir We were standing in some pretty special rows, a unique spot where the Petaluma Wind Gap provides a direct conduit between the cold Pacific and the Russian River Valley. The berries were tiny, perfect, small, conical clusters, the kind of fruit that Pinot Noir makers dream about. The vineyard had been farmed to perfection by the best grape-growing family this side of the Oakville Grade. The berries were set in tiny, conical clusters, the kind of fruit that Pinot Noir makers dream about -- but rarely see.

The 2008 Benoni Pinot Noir "La Brume" was made from three vineyard sources -- each of which sits in the heart of the Green Valley gold rush. When we made "the deal" that brought us these precious grapes, we knew we were going to get a few cases of sensational Pinot Noir at the winemaker's cost. But even then, we didn't know just how good the finished wine would be -- how deeply colored and flavored, and more importantly, just how sturdy. We opened this gorgeous, tight red-fruit beauty last Monday, drank a third of the bottle and left it on the kitchen counter until Tuesday. We polished off the last glass on Wednesday and "La Brume" was in full bloom, having added a little weight, and fleshed out. Like the best Pinots, it hadn't given back anything on the finish.

The only way to get farmers to tend vines as these were tended is to pay the grower to restrict yields. So rather than buying grapes by the ton, you buy by the acre. Like many of the great wines of Sonoma, and almost all of the greatest Cabernets of Napa, Benoni grapes were purchased by the acre -- almost $10,000/acre. The arithmetic problem? When clusters are this small, each berry tiny, the yield is next to nothing -- between 1.5 and 2 tons per acre.

The actual cost of the grapes in "La Brume" is then close to $6,000/ton. These grapes are meant for $60 bottles!

More on "La Brume"
If you spend some time in Russian River, don't miss Occidental, the charming throwback town just a few miles from the all that wet moss on gnarled trees that leads to the Pacific. One thing you won't miss is the fog. When it rolls through, your teeth chatter, even on summer days. After it blows through, the sky lights up suddenly like a quick change of screen settings. The way the fog travels has always been a mystery. It had always been thought that it moved east and west, but it turns out that's wrong. On summer days, a heavy fog comes off the ocean, saturating everything in its path. Then a light mist develops, partially blocking the sun, but still allowing enough sunlight through to assist ripening and keep vineyard workers covered with sunscreen. That pattern explains why almost every highly rated Pinot Noir in this part of the world comes from vineyards that lie on that southwest-northeast axis between this fog-laden area and Healdsburg, at the entrance to the Russian River Valley and the first ridges of the wet moss and the Coastal Range.

Pinot Noir grapes
Pinot Noir grapes
Tasting Notes from the WineAccess Travel Log
"Deep ruby color. Explosive red-fruit aromas with slightly tart black cherry. Rich and weighty on the palate with layers of ripe red fruit and underbrush. Long, persistent finish with fabulous length, magnifying the deep fruit flavors. Day 3: Just a glass left and the oxygen only helped "La Brume." More weight, density and richness. Still fine and firm on the finish. Drink now for all that red-fruit vibrancy or age for up to seven years."