In honor of Earth Day, Benziger Family Winery explains the differences in the sustainability certifications their wines carry.

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Benziger Family Winery Overview
At Benziger, we're about three things: family, great wine and healthy vineyards. For more than thirty years, we've farmed our ranch on Sonoma Mountain and searched Sonoma County for the most distinctive and expressive vineyards. Once found, we tend these sites using certified Biodynamic, organic and sustainable farming methods. The result is a portfolio of authentic and memorable wines.

“Green” “Sustainable” and “Organic” are words that we hear often without much explanation as to how they relate to a business or product. Here, we explain the differences in the sustainability certifications our wines carry: certified sustainable, certified organic, and certified biodynamic.

Certified Sustainable

Created with the help of environmental experts and Stellar Certification Services, Benziger Family Winery's third-party certified-sustainable vineyard program is one of the most comprehensive in the country. The program, which emphasizes environmentally sound growing methods, such as biodiversity, soil revitalization and Integrated Pest Management (IPM), shows growers how to cultivate grapes with more character, flavors and aromas with the goal of making better, genuinely distinctive wines.

Every year, our growers are required to participate in sustainable farming and are given monetary incentives to improve their point total. Our program is predicated on the notion that there is always room to improve, incorporate new learning and stretch for even higher quality fruit.  Our Certified Sustainable program is the strongest, most thorough, quality control program we know about. 

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Certified Organic

Organic grape growing avoids the use of synthetic chemicals and uses natural methods like crop rotation, tillage and natural composts to maintain soil health as well as natural methods to control weeds, insects and other pests. Many of our growers move from certified sustainable to certified organic as they see the affects in their vineyard site and the caliber of grapes they grow. Increasingly, growers are moving on from certified organic to transition to certified Biodynamic. Benziger's winemaking facility is certified organic by Stellar Certification Services and our organic growers either carry a Stellar certification or one from CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers).

Certified Biodynamic

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All four of Benzier Family Winery's estate vineyards are Demeter-certified Biodynamic. Biodynamics is the highest level of organic farming. Developed in the 1920’s, Biodynamics views the vineyard as a single organism. With this approach, eliminating synthetic chemicals is just the beginning. Biodynamics goes further, encouraging biodiversity, a closed nutrient system, the use of homeopathic teas and a close personal connection to the land.

We began transitioning our home ranch on Sonoma Mountain in the mid-nineties. Since then, we have used our experiences and insight to mentor our own network of growers and anyone else interested in farming this way. Instead of bagged fertilizer, weed killer and pesticides we rely on composting, natural predator-prey relationships, cover crops, and the animals that live on our estate, to keep our vineyard healthy and balanced. There is no silver bullet in Biodynamic winegrowing. When you eliminate all the artificial crutches, you learn to trust your instincts and to trust nature’s ability and capacity to make a great wine.
 
Today, Benziger Family Winery is one of a handful of Demeter-certified Biodynamic vineyards in North America. Our property is located in a pretty distinct area – an extinct volcano caldera resembling a 360-degree bowl that sits in a valley 800 feet above sea level. Formed from volcanic explosions that occurred million of years ago, our land is ideal for winegrowing and boasts a variety of different sun exposures, elevations, soil profiles and drainage. Through Biodynamic farming, the best of what the land possesses is reflected in the characteristics of every bottle. 

Take a virtual tour of the Benziger Winery 

 

More fun from the farm for Earth Day 2017!

Animals and Gardens
Animals & beneficial gardens play an important part in our Biodynamic farming techniques.
 

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SHEEP

Our sheep are not only cute, but they play a vital role in the removal of overgrown cover crop. They replace the need for mowing, disking, and spraying herbicides; they aerate the soil while continuously depositing nutrient-rich fertilizer throughout the vineyard.

CATTLE
Our small herd of Scottish Highlander cattle provides more than just organic manure; they bring a certain sense of peace and serenity to the vineyard.

BIRDS
Birds are important to the vineyard because they naturally prey on smaller animals that can be detrimental to the vines. They also help carry seeds and pollinate our garden. See this video on why happy birds live at Benziger Family Winery.



INSECTORY
If you’ve ever taken our Biodynamic Tram Tour, then you have probably experienced our insectory. This is a vital part of our ranch, as it is home to numerous plants and bugs that are critical to the health of our vines. In the insectory, we grow fruits and vegetables for local restaurants, mainly The Glen Ellen Star.
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We also grow plants that attract beneficial organisms (bugs) that kill other organisms that are harmful to our vineyards. We also grow Valerian, Camomile and other herbs and teas that can be used in our Biodynamic preparations.

Cover Crops
One of the many crops, (other than wine grapes) that we grow here at Benziger Family Estate is olive trees. Olives often grow well in the same climates and soils as wine grapes, and our home ranch is no exception. We’ve been producing an Estate Biodynamic Olive Oil for the past four years. Our olive oil is made in limited quantities, based on the size of the year’s harvest and can be purchased in our tasting room.

Additional resources:
https://www.benziger.com/green-certification/
http://vommag.com/mike-benziger-water-wizard/
https://www.benziger.com/animals-and-gardens/

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