Bennett Lane Winery Reviews

Sandy & Monty Make Wine

Move over Lucy and Ethel!  Yesterday, “Everyday Food” co-host Sandy Gluck and I took a shot at blending our own wine at Calistoga’s Bennett Lane Winery.


Under the guidance ofStefanie Longton, retail sales and wine club manager, we were able to create, bottle and cork our own special blends of wine.  Check out the album below to see our adventures in wine blending and Bennett Lane’s beautiful vineyard.

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Wine Spectator

Bennett Lane Winery

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Napa Valley Reserve

92 Points

Tight, focussed and well-structured, with a firm band of cedar-and-mineral-laced currant, graphite, herbs and cherry.  Gains complexity and depth before ending with ripe, chewy tannins.  Best from 2010 - 2017. - JL


Wine Spectator - January 31, 2009

World Wide Search for Values

California - Recommended Values

Bennett Lane - At this remarkable source for high quality and good prices, winemaker Rob Hunter oversees a line up led by Maximus Red and Maximus White. The former blends Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot; the latter is a mix of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscat.


Southern Living - August 2008


California Wine Country: A Trip to Remember

Summer's probably my favorite time to visit Napa and Sonoma -- the nights are cool, everything's lush and green, the roads and wineries are not nearly as crowded as they are in the fall, and, compared to the South, there's almost no perceptible humidity (which I'll take all day long).

Join me as I look back on a recent trip (which was out of this world!)......
Next stop: A "wine blending experience" at Bennett Lane Winery (3340 Highway 128, Calistoga, Napa; 707-942-6684)
Scott's Picks: Maximus, White Maximus, Los Carneros Reserve Chardonnay

The staff-lead Custom Wine Blending Experience is a splurge (at $175 a person for a party of 6 to 8), but it's definitely worth least once...and with a few good friends. (Call to check on pricing for parties of 1 to 4, or more than 8.) The Experience also includes a wine and cheese pairing, and a limo ride to and from your hotel (within the Calistoga or St. Helena areas) -- I reckon when you add it all up it's actually a pretty solid value. If you're interested, be sure to call ahead to schedule a time.

The winery is open to the public daily from 10am to 5:30pm. Guests are also welcome to use the winery's picnic area. Don't miss the dark chocolate and Maximus pairings every Saturday -- call to check on times. For more information, call 707-942-6684.

Bennett Lane owner Randy Lynch is a man on a mission to introduce wine to beer-loving NASCAR fans. Like his long-time pal, Richard Childress (who produces outstanding wines at his winery in North Carolina), Randy is heavily involved in racing as well as his growing winery. In fact, Randy and his wife, Lisa, are the first California winery to own a NASCAR team. The couple's also partnering with Infineon Raceway in Sonoma to serve Maximus -- their rich, full-bodied red -- by the glass in the track's new entertainment zone.

Sunset Magazine - February 2008

What to do in Northern California

Blend Your Own Wine

Many experts will tell you that much of taste and preference is simply subjective when it comes to wine. Which is why Bennett Lane Winery's custom blending experience (for groups of six or more) is such a great idea. They set you up with beakers, pipettes, and glasses of Merlot, Cabernet, and Syrah - the three varietals in their signature Maximus blend - and let you experiment with combining them. A little more pepper? More Syrah. Liking those tannins? Up the cab. Once you get your blend just right, you bottle it, cork it, label it, and take it home. $175 per person; reservations required; 3340 State 128; or 707/942/6684


New York Times - April 13, 2007

New York Times - April 13, 2007
The Goodlife at the Top of Napa VAlley
by Amy Gunderson

CALL it the ultimate wine-country fantasy: Buy a weekend retreat in Napa Valley and swaddle the house in cabernet vines, then start bottling the yield into vintages good enough to attract the praise of the finicky wine news media. Well, Randy and Lisa Lynch did just that that five years ago. The Lynches, who own an advertising agency in San Ramon, Calif., bought a three-bedroom vacation home in Calistoga, in Napa's far north, and planted 12 acres of cabernet, merlot and petit verdot grapes.

"We were searching for agricultural property, but what drew us to this area was its beauty," said Mr. Lynch, who said the place cost a few million dollars but declined to be more specific. He then took weekend wine recreation to a new level when he bought an existing winery, Bennett Lane, and started producing cabernet sauvignon and red and white blends.

Life in Napa Valley is about relishing, well, the good life. Enjoying the outdoors, eating well and, of course, savoring a glass or two of wine are all part of the lure for the tourists who flock to this Northern California enclave as well as the second-home owners who put down weekend roots.

The valley, even with its agricultural economy, still carries an air of elitism. This is, after all, where so-called cult wineries have waiting lists of people clamoring to shell out $300 for a single bottle of cabernet, Thomas Keller serves nine-course $240 tasting menus at the French Laundry, and an acre of good vineyard land can bring more than $275,000.

But Napa Valley isn't just a stomping ground for rich wine buffs. Calistoga has long had a reputation as a spa town, attracting visitors who want to soak in its natural hot springs or sink into a vat of heated mud at one of the spas that line Lincoln Avenue downtown. While other Napa Valley towns, like Yountville and St. Helena, have atmospheres that lean toward wine-country quaint, Calistoga is less polished.

"It's less chi-chi than other towns," said Mike Silvas, an owner of Morgan Lane Real Estate, which has five offices in Napa Valley. "For a long time, it was the cowboy town. It has moved away a bit from that. Now there are paved sidewalks. There used to be wooden walkways not so long ago."

The Scene

Calistoga has its roots in water. Literally. The town's natural hot springs have attracted visitors to its spas since the 19th century. But this is Napa, after all, so weekend life is also about the wine. Rental bikes have padded carrying bags for wine, and restaurants that don't have full liquor licenses might serve margaritas made with agave wine.

Lincoln Avenue, the main street downtown, is lined with small hotels, restaurants and clothing stores. There are older Craftsman-style bungalows on the side streets that radiate off Lincoln, convenient for grabbing breakfast in town and walking to the Saturday farmers market.

Because it is at the top of the valley, Calistoga still has a more rugged and rural feel than other valley towns. "When I have buyers looking for a charming, self-contained village feel, we head for Yountville," said Cyd Greer, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley in neighboring St. Helena. "For those craving a connection to the land, a more natural ambiance, we head north to Calistoga."

Elaine Jennings bought a 1,200-square-foot two-bedroom house for $340,000 in 2001, and estimates that it would bring more than $500,000 today. "I've always been fascinated with Calistoga, since I live in San Francisco," she said. "It's the perfect getaway."

Ms. Jennings can often be found on one of the bike trails or on Grant Street and Tubbs Lane in town, although she avoids Highway 29, because the traffic is so heavy.

Biking and hiking trails also run through Robert Louis Stevenson State Park and Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Summers in Calistoga can be toasty, with days over 100 degrees, but the nights are cool, which is how the grapes like it. There are also arts festivals and a host of events to promote the wine industry, even when vines are bare.


Compared with other desirable Napa Valley towns like St. Helena and Yountville, Calistoga offers more for your dollar. "Calistoga affords buyers about 20 percent more bang for their buck relative to St. Helena," Ms. Greer said, noting that average square footage costs for a home in Calistoga run just under $500 contrasted with $625 a square foot in St. Helena.


Since Calistoga is the northernmost town in Napa Valley, getting there on weekends means contending with traffic congestion caused by all the other weekenders. The drive on a Saturday up Highway 29 can be slow in summer and in the fall harvest season, which draws tourists and means more activity at wineries. Calistoga installed a new water system a few years ago, so homeowners pay more for their water than other towns in wine country.

Calistoga real estate falls toward the bottom of Napa Valley prices. But don't expect to find a bargain. Mixed in with the older in-town bungalows there are more secluded, and wallet-stunning wine country spreads like a $15,995,000 nine-bedroom house on 153 acres, and a three-bedroom house complete with a wine cellar and a tasting room of $6.800 million. There are options, though, for buyers seeking a more modest dwelling.

"There are still quite a few fixer-uppers," said Sharon Carone, a co-owner of Calistoga Realty. A bungalow in town, ideal for someone who wants to park the car and walk to lunch or dinner, starts at $600,000. A similar home that needs work might be closer to $500,000, she said.

These smaller homes can fly off the market. Earlier this year, a listing for a two-bedroom Craftsman bungalow, under 1,000 square feet, went into contract within a week of going on the market at $545,000. "Those kinds of properties get picked up very quickly," Mr. Silvas said. Buyers in Calistoga can also find bigger parcels. Some 40 percent of transactions last year were for properties of more than an acre, a larger percentage than in neighboring St. Helena.

Annual real estate sales generally involved around 60 properties, but those numbers could rise with new construction. New permits for hookups to the town's sewer system for all development ceased until capacity could be increased. But in 2004, the town started to grant a limited number of permits each year. Last year, eight new homes hit the market.

On the luxury end, there is another alternative. Calistoga Ranch, a hotel off the Silverado Trail operated by Auberge Resorts, has 10th shares of two-bedroom homes, complete with an outdoor living area centered around a grand fireplace. Susan and Bill Bazinett, from Danville, Calif., bought a share for $425,000 in 2005 after looking at full-ownership homes in other Napa Valley towns at higher prices.

"There was absolutely nothing you would want to stay in," Ms. Bazinett said. "For the type of house comparable to the lodge at Calistoga Ranch, you would really have to be a $2 million-plus buyer."

Their share entitles them to a minimum of three weeks of stays a year at the home, where they ride bikes and hike through the property, attend wine tastings and store their wine in the resort's wine cave, which is carved into the side of a hill.


Wine Spectator - January 31, 2007

January 31, 2007


In the current issue of Wine Spectator, Three of Bennett Lane's wines are listed among the "Top Scores of 2006" in their yearly Ultimate Buying Guide. Bennett Lane's Cabs lead the pack, with both the 2003 Primus Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon both included in the list of top scoring Cabs. The Primus Reserve is in great company among the top 10 scoring Cabs. Our newest creation at Bennett Lane, the Maximus White Feasting Wine, was listed among the top 6 scoring Sauvignon Blancs of the year, with a score of 90 Points. In this issue's 2006 Compendium the winery came out on top again, as being among the top three scoring Napa Valley wineries with four of our wines coming in at 90+ Points!

Time Magazine Online - March 5, 2007


Time Magazine Online
March 5, 2007
Mixing Wine and Beer on the NASCAR Circuit by Stacie Stukin

NASCAR's season kickoff in Daytona, Fla., a couple of weeks ago, a new breed of fan eschewed tents and parked their six-figure luxury RVs adjacent to Daytona International Speedway. At the airport, over 500 private jets touched down to deliver more fans, among them Fortune 500 CEOs and team owners like Richard Childress, who spent their time in suites and luxury trailers. But the most telling sign that NASCAR is outgrowing its good-ole-boy, moonshine-running roots was the spectators in the Nextel Fan Zone, who didn't hesitate to plunk down $50 a bottle for a limited edition commemorative cabernet merlot etched with a Daytona Speedway logo.

If the notion of NASCAR as a luxury destination seems far-fetched, you obviously haven't attended a race recently. A new Nielsen Sports survey shows wine consumption among NASCAR fans is up 22% from last year. Fans can now buy wine in the grandstands, and this year tracks are offering special wine programs — tastings at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, an exclusive lounge at Phoenix International Raceway where anywhere from $1,900 to $4,000 gets you a great view, gourmet foods, and, of course, wine. And at California Speedway in southern California, a new Wolfgang Puck restaurant with an extensive wine list. The NASCAR-tied vintages of Bennett Lane, named after the vineyard owned by Randy Lynch, a former racer with a NASCAR team who was the first to put grapes on a car, have even received 90+ scores from the prestigious magazine Wine Spectator.

The reason for the business class upgrade? It's simple, at least according to Texan racing legend A.J. Foyt, who says it's all the big corporate sponsorship money. "It brought in all those Ivy League boys who like wine. I'm not into that crap. Wine, that's not A.J."

And if it's not A.J., can it really be NASCAR? For the new breed of more marketing savvy NASCAR drivers, it certainly is. Jeff Gordon, NASCAR's clean-cut mascot who is already dismissed by some die-hards as insufficiently macho, is making wine under the Jeff Gordon Collection label. Working with a vineyard and a winemaker in Calistoga, Calif., Gordon is producing small quantities of a Carneros Chardonnay and later this year he'll have two more varieties ready for market — a cabernet sauvignon and a merlot. Gordon considers wine a personal passion separate from his NASCAR persona and he's proud to point out that his chardonnay is on the wine list at the renowned French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley. But even he admits, "I guess I've always leaned toward a fan that is more into wine than beer."

For fans who may not have experienced the pleasures of wine, Richard Childress, owner of three Nextel Cup teams and two Busch series teams, has turned his Lexington, N.C., vineyard into a racing enthusiast destination. He markets to race fans with his Fast Track Wine Club and RCR (Richard Childress Racing) collection bottles, and NASCAR fans stop in for tastings during race season. This year he will release the Childress Classic, a checkered flag-labeled cab merlot blend aimed at the first-time wine drinker. He's also going to put his vineyard logo on a few cars. "Wine can be intimidating," he explains. "But if fans see it on a race car, they'll feel more of a connection to it."

But it's also possible that NASCAR'S gourmet makeover could be turning off once-loyal fans. NASCAR observers like Mark Yost, author of The 200 MPH Billboard: The Inside Story of How Big Money Changed NASCAR, due out in August from Motorbooks International, says the presence of wine is just another sign that the already marginalized core beer drinking NASCAR fan has now been completely priced out of the sport. "NASCAR has 75 million fans and that's a lot, but those fans aren't what's driving the corporate army into the sport," he explains. "There's so much business-to-business networking going on that NASCAR events have become a fertile business environment. NASCAR is the new golf course. It's where people go to relax and make deals."

That's precisely why Aussie Vineyards chose NASCAR as a way to break into the highly competitive U.S. wine market. With an Aussie Vineyards car and Australian driver Marcos Ambrose, the company wanted to leverage a fan base known for being fiercely brand loyal. NASCAR gave them access to large volume retailers and distributors that they were able to network with in corporate entertaining suites at tracks all over the country. The strategy paid off late last year when Aussie wines secured valuable shelf space in Kroger Company stores and a few other chains. "By exposing ourselves to the distributors and retailers who are also NASCAR fans, we were able to get into major markets and take part in the marketing power of the NASCAR road show," says Aussie Vineyards president Duncan Shaw.

As wine drinking grows more mainstream and the NASCAR demographic gets more upscale, the two will inevitably intersect. Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma is banking on it so much that this year they will be the primary sponsor for the No. 27 Ford in three races, which means the car will be painted to look like sloshing wine going 200 miles per hour. The slogan: No Wimpy Wines. To core racing fans who are more partial to beer, that may be hard to believe — and too much to swallow.