Founded in 1979, Michel-Schlumberger Benchland Wine Estate is an all organic wine estate. Considered by many to be one of Sonoma County’s “first-growth” estate wineries, their award winning tours and mission-styled winery have long been draws for wine country visitors. In their role as a certified “Fish Friendly Farm”, a Wildlife & Bird Sanctuary, and CCOF recognition with the 2010 crop, Michel-Schlumberger has long been at the forefront of sustainable farming and eco-friendly farming practices.
The special growing conditions of Dry Creek Valley give its wines a character of elegance. The relatively cool growing season nourishes a distinctive balance in the Valley’s grapes, ripening them slowly and evenly.
On three sides of the Michel-Schlumberger property, vineyards are stitched across rolling foothills and the mission-style structure is nestled comfortably in its surroundings. Wine Creek flows out of the hills and quietly runs by the front of the winery. To one side is a broad shoulder of a bench, ridged along the top and fanning out down to the road. There are nearly twenty blocks of vineyards (and an olive orchard) on this shoulder with different exposures and elevations. To the other side of the waterway are a series of knolls surrounding a lake above the winery.
The Syrah vines are planted on both the benchlands and on Bradford Mountain, where these vines share a steep slope with five other varieties. Grapes from the mountain have excellent acidities coupled with depth and intensity of flavor; grapes from the benchlands have broader flavors, more generous and less etched in profile.
Terroir, a simple concept of place, is not some marketing idea to which Michel-Schlumberger pays lip service. It is a defining idea for them. They have gone to great lengths to match plant material, spacing, and trellising to specific sites in order to best take advantage of each site’s characteristics. They farm these parcels conscientiously and ecologically in order to nourish the ground and their vines. The nuance of a great wine, its heart and soul and individuality, comes from the soil and its vines. One can nudge a wine here-and-there in the cellar, but the quality and personality come from the vineyard.