Bennett Lane Winery Reviews
The Daily Meal
12/23/2015 13 Red Wines Great for Holiday Sharing
Bennett Lane Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($49)
While we love celebrating the winter holidays with lots of sparkling wines, when it comes down to the wines we drink with festive dinners that we host or to which we are invited, we reach for our reliable, sturdy reds.
Here are 13 wines that you can give as a gift this holiday season, or enjoy on your own.
Bennett Lane Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($49)
Rounded, big-fruit flavors of blackberries and dark cherries with hints of anise and chocolate. Good structure and integrated tannins.
The tasting Panel
January/February 2016 Bennett Lane 2014 Reserve Chardonnay Sangiacomo vineyard, Carneros, Napa Valley($45)
Caramel, lemon-lime and baked apple make for Chardonnay typicity on the nose, but on the palate, a hedonistic tribe of flavors is unleashed. The spice and liveliness, along with honey-butter and chamomile, integrates well with acids. A superb pairing with chicken sausage, Dijon sauces and savory foods. 92 -Meridith May
The Press Democrat
11/03/2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
5 Great North Coast Wines for Your Cellar. Link to Article
Bennett Lane, 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvingon, 14.9%, $62. Bright red fruit gives way for caramel, vanilla and edgy black pepper spice. The aromas on this cab are particularly fetching. The pomegranate and cherry fruit is expected to hold tight over time and continue to upstage the ever-evolving toasty oak and spice.-Peg Melink
Wine Spectator Insider
Maximus Red Napa Valley 2007
92 Points - $35 - 1543 cases made
Enticingly complex, rich and layered, with firm, fresh, vibrant clackberry, wild berry, cedar and spice notes, with a texture that's both supple and firm. Full-bodied, with a long, lingering finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Drink now through 2020. - J.L.
Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 2007
91 Points - $95 - 230 cases made
Intense and full-bodied, with loamy earth, dried berry, sage and roasted herb flavors, this is marked by firm, mouthcoating tannins that cloak the cherry and berry flavors. A rich, extracted style. Best from 2012 through 2022. - J.L.
Wine Enthusiast - June Buying Guide
94 Points - Bennett Lane 2008 Lynch Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Calistoga); $125 - A very rich, dry Cabernet, marked by dusty tannins, and with flavors of blackberries, dark chocolate, sweet herbs and green olives. Very fine in the mouth, clearly a wine with pedigree, but it needs time. Hold until 2014. Cellar Selection - SH
2007 Bennett Lane Los Carneros Reserve Chardonnay
91 Points - "A beautiful Chardonnay, creamy, dry and elegant. There's a tangy minerality underlying the rich tropical fruit, apple, pear and buttered toast flavors. This is an elegant wine from the Carneros region." - S.H
Wine Enthusiast - May Buying Guide
94 Points - Bennett Lane 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $55. Very ripe, dense and concentrated. Although it's totally dry, the wine shows massive, sweet flavors of blackberry and cherry fruit. Impresses for sheer power, as well as the length of finish. Cellar this youthful beauty for 6-7 years and see what it does. Cellar Selection. - S.H.
94 Points - Bennett Lane 2007 Maximus Red Feasting Wine (Napa Valley); $35. Tastes dramatic and youthfully vital, with fat, fleshy flavors of blackberries, cassis, mocha and sweet cedar, as well as a mineral tang that grounds them. Very upscale and refined, a pure product of superior terroir and winemaking. - S.H.
San Francisco Chronicle
California Cab for $20 and under: The Chronicle Recommends
By: Lynne Char Bennett
California produces its fair share of inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon. You can almost throw a rock and hit drinkable California-labeled bottlings priced at $12 or less, though it takes some looking to find ones with more definitive Cabernet character.
We upped our price point several bucks and handily found ones to recommend among 36 we tasted, including one from Napa Valley.
2008 Turn 4 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($20): Produced by Bennett Lane Winery, this acknowledges the four Napa Valley subappellations that sourced its fruit. Turn 4 also refers to the last - and important - turn on NASCAR tracks. Sweet black cherry, cassis, dark chocolate and vanilla- demerara sugar aromas; moderately rich, structured and a style that many people will enjoy.
San Jose Mercury News
On Wine: Napa Cabernets
By: Laurie Daniel
The 2007 vintage for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was considered by many to be among the best ever. It garnered a 99 on the Wine Spectator's 100 point scale. When a vintage gets that kind of glowing press, the vintages on either side of it tend to fall a bit by the wayside: 2006 and 2008 are considered good, but mixed bags.
The recent Premiere Napa Valley trade tasting and auction provided opportunities to taste all three vintages. In addition to a blind tasting of the three vintages from a dozen wineries, held by the Napa Valley Vintners, smaller Napa appellations held numerous open houses and tastings during the two days before the auction.
After scores of wines, I'm not climbing on the 2007 vintage bandwagon. If you love bog, ripe, bold Napa Valley cab, its probably the vintage for you. I prefer wines that are a little lighter on their feet.
Which brings me to the 2008 vintage. Spring frost greatly reduced the size of the crop, but the weather was very good during harvest, and that small cop got quite ripe. I was surprised to find that several tasty 2008s at the Napa Valley Vintners' tasting weighed in at 15 percent alcohol or more. But the wines have good acidity, and you can get away with alot of ripeness if there's sufficient acidity to give the wine liveliness and keep it from tasting heavy.........
.......The 2008 Bennett Lane Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) is plenty ripe, but also displays an intriguing aroma of violets. (Bennett Lane also produces the 2008 Turn 4 Cabernet Sauvignon, $20, a well-priced cab with bright black cherry, a hint of dill and firm tannins.).....
2011 Napa Valley Premiere Auction - Highest proceeds ever, $2,366,000!
.....The day before the auction, Napa Valley Vintners and the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the CIA, typically host a wine-tasting event, allowing auction guests to sample Napa VAlley wines from recent vintages. This gives participants a way to benchmark different vintages - and learn how the wines are aging.
...How surprised was I to learn that the 2006 wine, which I rated 95 Points, the 2007 wine, which I rated 96 Points, and the phenomenal 2008 wine, which I rated 97 Points, were all Bennett Lane Cabernets, crafted by winemaker Grant Hermann.
Way to go, Grant! These were my favorite wines of the weekend, and the good news for readers is that they don't cost like top-tier wines; you don't have to have deep pockets like Mr. Nakagawa to enjoy them.
2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
Bennett Lane Winery Scores from 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - $95 - GOLD MEDAL
2007 Maximus Red Feasting Wine - $35 - yet to be released - GOLD MEDAL
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon - $55 - SILVER MEDAL
2008 Turn 4 Cabernet Sauvignon - $19.99 - SOLD OUT - SILVER MEDAL
Timeless - $28 - BRONZE MEDAL
The Wine Advocate - Robert Parker
2007 Bennett Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - 92 Points Robert Parker
The estate's top wine, the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, offers pure black currant and fruit intermixed with cedar, licorice and earth notes. Full bodied and juicy with a succulent texture, ripe tannin and a long finish, this impressively endowed beauty should drink well for 10-15 years.
2008 Bennett Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Turn 4 - 89 Points Robert Parker
Wow! Look what I found! Bennett Lane's 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Turn 4 is a sensational bargain in Napa Valley Cabernet, the type of wine that consumers should be buying by the case. It possesses a dense dark ruby/purple color along with fleshy black currant flavors, surprising complexity and richness, no hard edges and a lush mouthfeel. This beauty should offer delicious drinking for 4-5 years, possibly longer.
2007 Bennett Lane Maximus Red Feasting Wine - 90 Points Robert Parker
The 2007 Maximus Red Feasting Wine exhibits a dark ruby/purple color along with notions of cedar, licorice, black currants, chocolate and coffee. This medium to full-bodied 2007 should drink nicely for a decade or more.
Freedom To Blend - Winemakers Aim for a Sense of Place in Nonvarietal Wines
by Bill Daley
There is a kindred spirit to these wines that goes beyond their Napa Valley address. Cabernet Sauvignon is dominant in most, with varying percentages of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. All evolve markedly in the glass with time, offering a changing roster of flavors and aromas. Where they differed was on price, ranging from $25 to $140.
2006 Bennett Lane Maximus
This "red feasting wine" is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Syrah and 5% Malbec. Colored a dark brick red, with a spicy nose of cinnamon and black pepper, this wine is plush with rich blackberry flavors. Three Stars. $35
Sandy & Monty Make Wine
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.
The Public Eye
90.5 WICN New England - Al Vuona interviews Bennett Lane Winery owner Randy Lynch, discussing the beginnings of the winery.
Randy and Lisa Lynch came to wine through their travels in Italy, where the fruit of the vine is typically a complement to a meal-not the centerpiece. When their growing passion for fine food and wine led them to plant acreage in Napa Valley, Randy and Lisa decided to create a red wine that would easily find a place at the dinner table. Maximus, named after the wine-loving, 2nd century Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus, became their initial bottling. That was the beginning of Bennett Lane Winery.
The Vine Guy: Wines to warm up with
By: Scott Greenberg
Baby, it's cold outside. Winter has come to Washington with a vengeance. Even the snowmen my kids made last week want to come inside and warm up. I usually look forward to the cold weather each year so I can break out big red wines, but this winter, I think I'll have to dig just a little deeper and find some really big red wines -- the thermal underwear equivalent -- to keep me company through this frigid frosting.
What is it about cold nights that beg for the company of big red wines? They just seem to go together. Like Simon and Garfunkel (am I dating myself?), they tend to make each other a little better for pairing. Personally, cold nights give me an excuse to hunker down and enjoy leisurely dinners with friends featuring hearty fare (my wife's cassoulet is my favorite), warm crusty bread and long, stimulating conversations energized by bottles of red wine. I am convinced most of the world's problems could be solved if people took time to sit down and share a glass -- or two -- of red wine and a plate of beef bourguignon.
However, finding the right big red takes a little bit of thought. After all -- and no offense to the beauty and grace of pinot noir -- most warm-your-toes reds need to have a little "chewiness" to them. Some of the essential qualities that I look for in winter reds include depth, structure and power. Big, full-bodied black fruit -- such as blackberry, dark plum and cassis -- usually supplies the power. Tannins provide structure while acidity keeps the wine balanced. Most "winter reds" will benefit from an hour or two in a decanter in order to soften the tannins and bring out the fruit.
One other trick, if you don't have the time or patience to wait for the wine to soften, is to pair it with soft cheeses -- such as brie or camembert -- and bread. The milk fat in the cheese will soften the tannins and give provide a rounder mouthfeel to the wine.
Here are several big red wines that will warm your palate without melting your wallet. Retail prices are approximate.
2006 Bennett Lane "Maximus" Napa Valley, CA ($35)
Each year, the winemaker at Bennett Lane creates a special blend from red varietals selected from vineyards located throughout Napa Valley. This full-bodied blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah is an electric blanket for the palate. Aromas of dark plum, black cherry and hints of vanilla lead to weighty flavors of blackberry, cherry and cocoa on the palate. Warm waves of earthy cedar and pumpkin spices filter in on lengthy finish.
The Tasting Panel
Blue Reviews - by Anthony Dias Blue
In each issue, Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dias Blue selects a wide range of the best wines and spirits from among the more than 500 he samples over the course of a month. The reviews are subjective editorial evaluations, made without regard to advertising, and products are scored on a 100-point scale.
90 Points - Bennett Lane 2007 Turn 4 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($20)
Smooth and lush with plum and sweet oak; rich texture, density, depth and spice with a long finish.
It's time for a little vino indulgence
Given the sour economy, one could be forgiven for buying only bargain wine, boxed wines even, for holiday meals and celebrations. But let's say there's a last-minute miracle: Your Scrooge of a boss turns wildly generous; Auntie Mame turns up in the guise of your free-spending Uncle Joe; you win the lottery. Look, it can happen.
So with a pocket full of cash ready to burn, head to your nearest wine store and treat yourself to a splurge. The downturn in the economy and a sagging market for superpricey wines may mean you'll get a bargain as well.
Consider these six premium California reds recommended by our tasting panel.
Whether the bottle is meant for Christmas present or Christmas future, these Napa Valley wines combine a fruit-forward friendliness with the tannic structure needed for aging. All are cabernet sauvignon or Bordeaux-style blends.
Go big and bold!
2006 Bennett Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve: This cab has a bright, perfumy nose, a velvety texture and a big, deep flavor of berries with notes of chocolate, black pepper and spice. Serve with beef Burgundy, flank steak roulade, roast goose. ✭✭✭ $95
Bennett Lane, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($55):
The Bennett Lane Cabs have always impressed, and that success has pushed the prices upward in recent vintages. That said, the basic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $55 is anything but wishful thinking. This powerful Cab delivers intense aromas of cassis and blackberry, is richly layered, and supported by fine tannins. The oak is well judged, and this wine finishes with great persistence. It's the complete package, well worth the price if you are up for an indulgence.
94 Points Robert Whitley
19 Exceptional California Syrahs
A sampling of wines that displays the grpaes versatility in the Golden State
James Laube Posted Spetmeber 14, 2009
Move over Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Syrah is making a case for itself as the most versatile grape in California.
It can star just about anywhere it's grown. Witness this week's sampling, a selection of notworthy wines from 2006 and 2007 vintages, extending north from Rockpile in Sonoma and south to Sta. Rita Hills.
No surprise that Lewis, Bennett Lane, Laiger Meredith and Failla Syrahs, from Napa Valley, are exceptional. But within that sampling from Napa are wines from Mount Veeder (Laiger Meredith), Carernos (Lewis Hudson Vineyard) and Yountville (Rocca)..........
BENNETT LANE Syrah Napa Valley 2006 Score 92 - $45
A rich, powerful, tight and focused expression of Syrah, with full-bodied berry, dried currant, pepper, spice, herb and sage, all woven together in a tight thread, ending with a complex aftertaste. Best from 2010 through 2016. 250 cases made. - J.L.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah come together ....in Bennett Lane's Napa Valley Maximus '05. A smoothly powerful wine with gorgeous color and flavor and a long finish. - Gerald Asher
Bennett Lane Winery
Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Napa Valley Reserve
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
Guys: Have you tried a great wine
by Ron Krueger
I remember the commercial. It was aired during the 2007 Super Bowl. Couples are at a wine and cheese party when all the guys sneak into the kitchen. There, they gather around a giant fake cheese wheel. One of them lifts the top to reveal longnecks on ice.
High fives all around.
I didn't give it much thought at the time. But it came back to me recently when I was invited to have lunch at the home of a friend. Eventually there were eight of us, all guys. I had brought a bottle of dry rose (say rose-EH). I opened it, poured myself a glass and joined the initial cluster of three.
As the other fellows arrived, the host pointed them to the kitchen table with my bottle of wine plus a liter of red he had set out. "And there's beer in the fridge. Help yourself."
One by one, each guy grabbed an MGD. I never before had felt self-conscious about the contents of my glass.
A 2008 Gallup Poll reported that, among women who drink, 43 percent said their favorite adult beverage is wine while 28 percent said they prefer beer. Among men, 58 percent said they go first for beer. Only 17 percent said wine is their first choice.
That leaves 25 percent preferring another libation. I'm guessing this segment goes for spirits - scotch, whisky, vodka, gin and the like.
I had never thought drinking wine was less than manly. If you already don't have hair on your chest, it will take root if you regularly drink a California cabernet sauvignon with 15.5 percent alcohol by volume and enough tannin to blister the paint on your Harley.
A recent Associated Press article pointed out that some wine marketers feel the need to pitch their products to men.
One is Bennett Lake Winery in Calistoga, Calif. Owner Randy Lynch sponsors a car on NASCAR's western circuit and is a former race driver himself. Gentlemen, get your corkscrews.
Randall Grahm, founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz, Calif., has spent his whole life over the top. One small example was his Big House Red and White, with the name referring to Soledad prison near the winery. The label bears a caricature of the prison, barbed wire and all.
The wine sold so well that Grahm launched a separate Big House line with such names as The Slammer, The Lineup and The Birdman.
Modesto, Calif., winemaker Cal Dennison tries to finesse us guys. The outdoorsman and horseman stamps the corks of his Redwood Creek wines with GPS coordinates for various hiking spots.
Sure, I want to see more men drinking wine. If seeing the name of a winery on a car that goes 200 miles an hour helps, great.
But the self-assured man won't be swayed one way or another by labels and aggressive branding. He will do some research and look for a wine that represents its category, even if the label bears flowers.
Excuse me while I go pour myself a goblet of Marilyn Merlot.
Now and Zin
Tasting Room Notes: Bennett Lane Winery
Posted by Randy Fuller
On the way from Napa Valley to Geyserville via Highway 128, there's a driveway I'm glad I drove. That was the one which led to Calistoga's Bennett Lane Winery. A pretty arbor in front of a smallish building provides a fitting entry into the tasting room. Small inside, too, there isn't a lot of room available at the tasting bar. Find a way to elbow in, though. Some very good wine awaits you.
White Maximus 2007 - A floral nose - honeysuckle - is enhanced with citrus aromas. The palate is clean and crisp. Good minerals, good acidity.
Reserve Chardonnay 2007 - This was billed as a new release, but I think the tasting sheet was printed late last year. The blurb promises Fuji apple, baked pear and toasted hazelnut, but it was all tropical to my nose. A little unexpected, but quite pleasant. This is a full-figure Chardonnay, heavily oaked with the buttery, creamy notes you would expect.
Maximus 2005 - Plenty of oak in this big red. I get lots of cedar, vanilla and spices both in the nose and on the tongue. 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 11% Syrah, the fruit is lush and lasts a good long while. It was my favorite.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - This 100% Cabernet is a blend of Bennett Lane's estate Cab and that sourced from other Napa Valley growers. A big cherry nose greets you and the taste is driven by flavors of dark plums and leather.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - The Cab is augmented by 4% Petit Verdot. It's a very rich wine that, to me, is chocolatey enough to be dessert. But no, they have that covered even better.
Dessert Wine - This beauty is a non-vintage port-style wine of which less than a hundred cases were produced. I don't know the percentages, but it's made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Carignane. Beautiful, rich flavors abound. Figs, cherries and some spicy notes put me in mind of Christmas, even though I had been off the hot, dusty trail for only a few minutes.
Wine Advice: Red blends are perfect for summer grilling
Winemakers are creating unique reds that are easy-drinking but bold enough for grilled meats.
By GARRY SCHOLZ
The 4th of July is right around the corner, and that means backyard grilling will be in full swing. The perfect red wine this summer for grilled meat is a non-traditional red blend.
American winemakers, in particular, have been free-thinking in their approach to crafting unusual reds. Syrah and Zinfandel seem to be two of the grapes used more effectively to create unique reds, although many other varieties also are used.
Syrah adds color, body, and fruity richness when combined with other red grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
For its part, Zinfandel adds character by giving the finished wine more balance; a richer, softer taste; and a little pepperiness.
And that's just what you want during summer: a red wine that's easy to drink but big enough to handle grilled foods and tangy, spicy sauces.
Bennett Lane 2005 Maximus Red Feasting Wine, Napa Valley ($32) is another Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah blend. It has real weight and structure, with lots of fruit and hints of baking spices. It's made to stand up to the heartiest of grilled steaks. Serve it when you have ribeye or New York strip.
North Bay Bohemian
Bennett Lane Winery
by James Knight
The old trope "beer-drinking NASCAR fans vs. Chardonnay-sipping highbrows" may have lost the lead it once enjoyed, but hasn't entirely run out of gas. Ours is a nation that reads politics into the provenance of condiments, and supposedly holds sacrosanct the union of cheap beer and high-performance motor sports. Yet a 2007 Nielson survey found that although NASCAR fans ranked last in household wine purchases, their spending was up 22 percent. Increasingly, the question may not be blue or red, but red or white.
When NASCAR comes to wine country, wine clearly has the home advantage. My preference in racing is for both cold beer and kiosks conveniently at hand where I can place a wager on a horse with a funny name. So when I set out to investigate the state of the grape at the Bennett Lane 200 (at the invitation of the winery's media relations partners), I brought along my father. While he does not closely follow NASCAR--and is a wine convert who has actually owned three French-built automobiles throughout the years--Dad is a longtime car-racing enthusiast who used to bring me to Sears Point (as the track was called when places were named for history and geography) decades ago when little but wind-swept, scrubby hills surrounded the track.
Things have changed--there's even a Pinot Noir vineyard growing amid all the buildings, tents and permanent bleachers set into terraces on the popular turns. From a vantage point on Turn 2 we leaned into the fence as Bennett Lane's own car, emblazoned with grapes, spun around the rubber-slicked curve. Founded in 2003 by ad exec Randy Lynch, the winery sponsors a race annually and hosts the wine garden where its wines are available by the glass.
An infamous Roman emperor who appreciated his vino as much as a good chariot race inspired the 2007 White Maximus ($28). Mostly Sauvignon Blanc with Chardonnay and Muscat, the wet honeysuckle aromas and tropical, papaya flavors were fine with a cool day or a hot day in the sun--both of which this Carneros location offered. A plume of heavy toast roared out of the 2005 Maximus ($35) "red feasting wine," and sweet black cherry and brambleberry zipped past moderate tannin, leaving me ready for the grill: this is your ribs, burger, roast head of boar wine. Dad certainly enjoyed it. After the first 20 laps, he had drained the glass; the next time I looked, he grasped an already half empty second.
Meanwhile, I also fell under the spell of the caterwauling stock cars as they passed time and again. Bennett Lane's #2 put in a good effort, but finished toward the rear of the pack with a crumpled hood, its grapes slightly crushed. As we trekked back to the car, I saw crumpled cans of beer littered about, and in the parking lot was a minor obstacle course, none of them wine bottles. Could be that those Chardonnay sippers were just more predictably concerned about the environment . . . or, in the transformation of "beer drinkers to wine drinkers one race at a time," as Lynch aspires to, there are a few laps to go.
Santa Barbara New Press
BENNETT LANE: IN THE WINNER'S CIRCLE
By Dennis Schaefer
There are hundreds of wineries to visit in Napa Valley but only one has a NASCAR race car in the corner of the barrel aging room.
Bennett Lane Winery, just north of Calistoga, was the first winery to sponsor and own a NASCAR racing team, one that won the 2007 NASCAR Grand National Division West Series Championship. And, by the way, Bennett Lane also makes wine that belongs in the winner's circle. Also, Bennett Lane has kept their wine prices reasonable for such expensive grape-growing real estate. In the recent "Savvy Shopper" issue of Wine Spectator, Bennett Lane was called "a reliable source for high quality and good prices."
The 2007 white Maximus ($28), subtitled "white feasting wine," is a proprietary blend, primarily of sauvignon blanc, with a bit of chardonnay and muscat in the mix. The aromasare enticing, with orange blossom, honeysuckle and grapefruit, smelling like the best breakfast juice you could conjure up. The flavors are ripe with fruits of white peach, nectarine, orange citrus, pear and red grapefruit, backed up by prickly acidity that just gives it more oomph on the mid palate and a lengthy finish.
The 2005 Maximus red wine ($35) is about two-thirds cabernet, one-quarter merlot with the balance syrah. Again, the aromatics are a strong point, with dark plum, black cherry,blackberry, cocoa powder and vanilla. The well-extracted flavors spread out on the palate like a buffet, including sweet and ripe black cherry, licorice, blackberry and plum with subtle layers of mint, cinnamon, nutmeg and cedar. As jam-packed as that sounds, the wine is nevertheless supple and refined with an incredible balance of fruit, spice and acidity. A tasty best-buy and worth twice the price.
This being Napa Valley, Bennett Lane most certainly makes a cabernet. The 2005 [Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon]version ($55) has darker, deeper and reserved aromatics (thanMaximus) with cherry, candied violets and aged barrel notes of clove and cedar. On the palate, the flavors are more sustained with dark plum, cassis, black cherry and cedar. It's savory in the same way the juicy pink center of a medium-rare steak is. A myriad of deeper flavor components, not all of which are evident on first pass, reveal themselves with time in the glass. Great length and persistence is obvious in this cab and you candrink it now or age it for a few years.
The winery also wants to go toe-to-toe with other high-end Napa cabs with their 2005 cabernet reserve ($95). It has the darkest of all cassis, licorice, cherry and plum aromatics you can imagine; the flavors are focused with plenty of dark fruits, including a rich layering of raspberry, cocoa and chocolate and hints of licorice, green herb and vanilla. It's the absolute finest cabernet they can make at any price and it was my best of show of all the wines. Put this one in the cellar for up to 10 years.
The 2006 Los Carneros reserve chardonnay ($45) just jumps right out of the glass with billowing clouds of pineapple, honey, coconut, cinnamon and clove. The real focus of flavors are on fresh pineapple that's vibrant in nature, along with baked apples and toasted hazelnuts in an important but supporting role. The mouthfeel is juicy as well as rich and the finish is crisp and lengthy.
The Star Ledger
Supplies & Demand
Get the right stuff at the right price
By TJ Foderaro
Taste tip: A delicious example of a Meritage blend with a twist is the 2005 Bennett Lane Maximus “Red Feasting Wine” ($35). It’s a cabernet-merlot blend with a touch of syrah thrown in for extra oomph. The bouquet is a thing of beauty, with concentrated aromas of jamlike fruit and hints of coffee and earth.
Wine Spectator Insider
Bennett Lane 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Perfumed floral and currant scents have a touch of cedar and nutmeg. Well-proportioned, elegant and concentrated, this finishes with a long, tapered aftertaste that firms up nicely. Best from 2010 through 2016.-J.L.
The New York Times
A Gift for a Sweetheart: Chocolate, Wine and Thou ...
Pour on the chocolate for Valentine's Day. This sauce from Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga, Calif., is made with Maximus, a cabernet sauvignon-merlot-syrah blend. It works over cake, profiteroles, berries or ice cream, and it can go into a chocolate soufflé. The sweetening in the sauce, which offers winy flavors, is restrained. It is $18 for 375 milliliters from bennettlane.com. Packaged with a bottle of the bold, fruity 2005 Maximus, it's $50.
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 linedup 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.
Bennett Lane Winery in the race to win over NASCAR fans
By LOUISA HUFSTADER
Inside Napa Valley
The Napa Valley’s northernmost winery, Bennett Lane, is the picture of tranquility in its quiet vineyard setting off Highway 128 north of Tubbs Lane.
But glance around the tasting room, and you might hear in your head the sound of a powerful engine: Randy Lynch, who co-owns Bennett Lane with his wife Lisa, is a former racing driver who, in 2004, became the first vintner to sponsor a Nextel Cup car in the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR).
Among the wine awards and accoutrements in the small but welcoming room, a photo of the car looms large on the wall — “Bennett Lane Winery” emblazoned across its hood.
“Wine is something I came into later in life, but racing is something I’ve been involved with since I was a teenager,” said Lynch, who wants to convert more beer-swilling race fans into educated wine consumers.
Already, according to a Nielsen Sports survey reported in Time magazine last year, wine consumption among NASCAR fans rose 22 percent in 2006 compared with the previous year.
Most recently, race team owner-turned-vintner Richard Childress is reversing Lynch’s approach with the checkered-flag-themed Childress Classic, a cab-merlot blend aimed at first-time wine drinkers.
But at Bennett Lane, it’s the wine that comes first. A typical $10 tasting includes four very different examples of winemaker Rob Hunter’s craft, beginning with the fragrant white Maximus Feasting Wine ($28) —“Our breakfast of champions,” as hospitality manager Stefanie Longton said with a smile one recent afternoon.
Made with 86 percent sauvignon blanc, 12 percent chardonnay and 2 percent Muscat and cold-fermented in stainless steel tanks, the 2007 white Maximus would indeed make an excellent brunch or picnic wine. Its alcohol-by-volume percentage is given as 14.5; Bennett Lane produced 7,000 cases.
Hunter, formerly Sterling Vineyards’ director of winemaking, also makes a Carneros reserve chardonnay for Bennett Lane ($45, ABV 14.9 percent). The 100 percent varietal is aged in French oak, and just 175 cases were produced in 2005.
Bennett Lane’s reds include a 2005 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($55, ABV 14.5 percent) made with 5 percent merlot. The grapes came from Bennett Lane’s estate Lynch Family Vineyard, the Barlow Vineyard in Calistoga, the Oakview Vineyard in Oakville and the Lewelling and Taplin vineyards in St. Helena; the wine was aged in 20 percent new French oak barrels.
Hunter and his team made 2000 cases of the Napa Valley cab, but just 800 of the Bennett Lane Reserve cab ($95, ABV 15.5 percent), with fruit sourced from the Lynch, Taplin and Lewelling vineyards. Aged in 30 percent new French oak, the blend is 93 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6.5 percent merlot and .5 percent petit verdot.
The 2005 red Maximus ($35, ABV 14.5 percent) is an appealing blend of 64 percent cabernet, 25 percent merlot and 11 percent syrah, aged in both new and previously-filled French and American oak.
The cab grapes for the 2005 Maximus came from the Deming Vineyard in Calistoga, the Kletter Vineyard in St. Helena and the Trio-B Vineyard in Yountville; the merlot is from Paoletti in Calistoga and O’Shaughnessy in Oakville and the syrah is from Oak Knoll Ranch in Yountville.
But the next year’s blend could be completely different; unlike the white Maximus, the red changes with the vintage. Hunter isn’t joking when he says that to build his blends, he begins with an Excel spreadsheet listing the 40 or so lots he can use.
“The permutations and combinations are endless,” he said.
Visiting groups of six or more people can create their own versions of red Maximus in what the winery is calling its Custom Blend Experience.
For $175 per person — Upvalley limo transportation included — the group will sample wines in the tasting room with Hunter or another staff member, then move to the barrel room for a hands-on blending session.
After a sensory-evaluation tour of flavor components including oak dust, fresh raspberries and dried cherries, each guest receives a glass each of cabernet, merlot and syrah, with an empty glass for blending.
Magnums stand ready should the glasses run low, while the table setting also includes a pipette, a measured flask and a pencil for noting the proportions of each person’s favored blend.
Like a little bacon-rind aroma? Add more syrah. Too much tannin from the cab? Back it off with a little merlot.
Once each participant has arrived at a favored formula and noted it down, Hunter, Longton or another Bennett Lane staffer will blend a 750-ml bottle to those exact specifications. Every guest then gets to cork, foil and label her own bottle — and for good measure, a gold sticker announces the name of the custom blender.
After that, it’s back to the table for a cheese tasting and — why not?— a little more wine before the Bennett Lane limo whisks guests back to their lodgings.
The Bennett Lane Winery Custom Blend Experience is available by reservation only; the tasting room and picnic area are open daily from 10:30 to 5:30.
Wine Spectator - October 20, 2008
Bennett Lane 2006 Los Carneros Reserve Chardonnay
Tasting Highlights: California Chardonnay
BENNETT LANE Chardonnay Los Carneros Reserve 2006 Score: 93 | $45
Intense, concentrated and full-bodied flowers of floral honeysuckle, pear and fig are shaded by cedary oak, returning to the primary flavors on the long, bubblegum-scented finish. Drink now through 2011. 600 cases made. -J.L.
Press Democrat - Santa Rosa, CA
Wine of the Week: Sauvignon Blanc - October 29, 2008
Bennett Lane 2007 White Maximus
Four Stars - An appealing wine, crisp, vibrant and complex. Aromas and flavors of grapefruit, lemon, lime and white peach. Citrusy finish
Biggerthanyourhead.net - September 30, 2008
Bennett Lane 2007 White Maximus
by Fredric Koeppel
Eight White Wines to Ease You into Autumn
Last week, I wrote about the Bennett Lane Maximus Red Feasting Wine 2005, Napa Valley. Now it's the turn of the Bennett Lane Maximus White Feasting Wine 2007, Napa Valley. The blend is 86 percent sauvignon blanc, 12 percent chardonnay and 2 percent muscat, the latter smidgeon contributing, no doubt, to an irresistible and slightly astringent aroma of some chaste little white mountainside flower. This is surrounded by crisp apple, lush and lively tangerine, lemon curd and lemon balm. Pretty heady stuff, all right. This is an elegantly proportioned wine, though, nicely layered with limestone and pure citrus, scintillating acid and a soft burr of oak that permeates the structure the way that ink spreads across the lines of an etching plate. Spiced grapefruit gives the bracing finish a tang. Excellent. About $28.
Biggerthanyourhead.net - September 23, 2008
Napa & Sonoma: 12 Cabernets from 2005
Bennett Lane 2005 Maximus
It's a bold move to name your cabernet blend Maximus and then give it the nickname "Feasting Wine;" shades of banquets and revelry! The Bennett Lane Maximus "Red Feasting Wine" 2005, Napa Valley, however, is densely structured enough that I would hesitate to open a bottle for tonight's banquet; feasting in 2010 through 2015 or ‘16 would be more like it. The blend is 64 percent cabernet sauvignon and 25 percent merlot, and you would be forgiven for thinking that we're on our way to something modeled on St. Estephe or St. Julien, except that the other 11 percent is syrah, a grape that the Bordelaise don't even dream about. Maximus ‘05 opens with distinct aromas of cedar, tobacco and walnut shell that unfold around elements of intense and concentrated black currant, black cherry and plum. The flavors are similar, but deep, rich and spicy, quite earthy and minerally. The texture is dense and chewy with slightly gritty tannins that help make this a solid and substantial wine rather than a supple or vibrant one. Very Good+ with a nod toward Excellent potential in three or four years. About $35.
Brentwood Magazine - September 2008
Creating A Satisfying Wine Cellar
by Jenny Peters
Bennett Lane Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Crafted from grapes sourced in both Calistoga, where Bennett Lane Winery makes its home, as well as further south in St. Helena, this Napa Valley Cab is a big wine, with a nose of cherry and cocoa and a textures mouthfeel that highlights tastes of raspberry and chocolate. It's a wine that is already drinking well, especially if paired with steak or game; or put it in the bottom of your cellar for a few years, when it will soften up even more and be a delight when you finally uncork it.
St Helena Star
Up and Down the Wine Roads with George Starke
September 4, 2008
Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga has launched a "Fruit and Flavors" wine-education program which includes a vineyard tour, a sensory evaluation seminar, a hands-on blending session and a gourmet cheese-tasting experience. The cost is $200 per person. Call 942-6684 for info.
An Insider's Look at Napa Valley by Paul Franson
September 1, 2008
Bennett Lane launches educational program Bennett Lane Winery has introduced a new program for visitors interested in learning the craft of blending wines at its tasting room in Calistoga. Winemaker Rob Hunter or a member of the winery‘s staff will lead groups of six or more through the Varietals, Fruit & Flavor program, which features a vineyard tour and a sensory evaluation seminar focused on Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah followed by a custom blending experience and gourmet cheese tasting. The price is $200 and includes transportation for groups from hotels and resorts in Calistoga and St. Helena in the winery‘s stretch limousine. For reservations, call 942-6684.
I Blend My Own Wine in the Napa Valley
August 2008 by Matthew Debord
Unlike seemingly every other wine journalist on planet Earth, I have never had any desire to become a winemaker. I like the people and the stories and the product and I'm happy to leave the men and women who have chosen this demanding trade to the very very very very hard work of tending vines and producing bottled poetry. Still, while on my recent jaunt to Napa, I did get the chance to blend my own wine, from primo Napa juice, and so I went for it.
Who knows if the results are any good. But I thought it tasted OK. We were at Bennett Lane Winery, which produces a great wine called Maximus: it's an interesting blend of mainly Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah. And so for our little experiment, guided by staffer Stefanie Longton and winemaker Rob Hunter (who told a cool story comparing picking grapes at proper ripeness to doing likewise with blackberries, a story that reminded me of Galway Kinnell's famous poem), we were given some Cab, Merlot, Syrah, plus a graduated cylinder and a pipette (Flashback! High school chemistry!). Then we were told to go to town!
I adopted a cowardly strategy: figuring that if I had great Cab and great Merlot, I decided not to mess with the Syrah, thereby controlling for two variables rather than three. Besides, I don't much like Cali Syrahs from outside Paso Robles (that said, Bennett Lane's is pretty much rockin' on its own, and you can see in the final blend of Maximus why it makes sense).
I went from mostly Cab with a splash of Merlot (too crispy and tannic) to a 70-30 blend (structured, but not much fun to drink now) to 60-40, which I decided was the winner because it was the most fun.
Unfortunately, the Bennett Lane stock car was not on premise, so I didn't get my chance to at least sit in it (I was kinda hoping they might let me start it up).
For the record, Bennett Lane's Hunter has developed an interesting attitude toward new oak--he doesn't like to use it 100 percent, preferring instead to mix some used oak barrels from previous vintages. I think he's on to something, definitely fulfilling BL's goal of producing a solid sub-$100 primo red that consumers can enjoy right away and on a more consistent basis. It's plush, generous, and elegant, with plenty of layers of ripe, yummy fruit and the structure to prevent it from seeming flat or flabby.
BL also produced one of the best Cali Ports Dessert Wines (they can't call it Port, so they use the DW designation and tack on "After Feasting Wine") I've ever had. So there, naysayers of Cali! The Valley really can do it all.
And guess what? Longton went to USC--as in Gamecocks! So we got to trade barbs over lunch, as I went to ultra-rival Clemson. Go Tigers!
Five fun things to do in Napa
Five Fun Things to do in Napa
By Liza Zimmerman
Yes, we have all spent time in Napa. A lot of the wineries produce boring, overpriced wines. And the traffic on 29 is a killer during summer weekends. It's best to get away during the week, but if you can't these deals are still good on the weekends:
Robert Whitley - Wine Talk with Robert Whitley
Bennett Lane 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
Bennett Lane is a relatively recent addition to the landscape around the village of Calistoga. Its strongest suit is pure, bold, mouth-filling Napa Valley cabernet, and there is no finer example of that than the 2005 vintage. It delivers a gorgeous nose of ripe cassis, with a hint of cedar and vanillin. The texture is slightly grippy in the most positive sense, and there is tremendous fruit lift through the mid-palate. This is a darkly fruited cabernet of uncommon depth, with exceptional palate length and persistence of flavor. And it's supple enough to enjoy tonight, though this is one Napa cabernet I wouldn't hesitate to lay down for several years.
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 it...at 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.
Forth Worth Star Telegram - July 16, 2008
Wines of the World: Bennett Lane NApa Valley Maxim
By Renie and Sterling Steves
Unforgettable....Bennett Lane Maximus Red Feasting Wine 2005 ($35) wine lasts in the mouth and in the memory. It's juicy and pleasantly viscous. No shy notes here, it's big. Wine carries to the dark, dense side of your palate. It sits there and waits for food. Holds cherry jam, cassis jelly and red raspberry flavors in the mouth along with cocoa and hints of vanilla. Love this wine. It's velvety and gracious.
Oh, by the way, Maximus Red is 64 percent cabernet sauvignon, 25 percent merlot and 11 percent syrah...an interesting mix of Bordeaux and Rhone varietals.
Maximus White Feasting Wine 2007 ($28) is mainly sauvignon blanc with a little chardonnay and a whiff of muscat. Since it was fermented and aged in stainless steel, the wine displays incredible notes of mandarin orange, key lime and white peaches in the aroma. If the wine isn't icy cold, it displays the roundness of ripe pear and ruby red grapefruit in taste.
The label is elegant. In homage to Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus, a notorious wine lover and gourmand, there is an ancient coin on the label issued in 385 AD during his reign.
Located on Highway 128 approximately two miles north of Calistoga, Calif., Bennett Lane Winery is open to the public daily.
The Wine Skinny
2007 Bennett Lane White Maximus
Weekend Wine for July 14, 2008 -- Summer Refreshers
As hot and steamy July unfolds before us, we're reaching for thirst-quenching wines for dunking in a bucket of ice on the back patio. Here are a few whites (and a rosé!) at a range of price points that we've particularly enjoyed lately:Bennett Lane 2007 Maximus White Napa Valley ($28). Mostly Sauvignon Blanc, with Chardonnay and Muscat, this white blend offers lovely honeysuckle and citrus aromas and flavors, with focused mandarin orange and grapefruit notes balanced by richer pear and crisp nectarine. Folds together on a juicy, long finish. Ready to drink now
Watch! CBS Magazine
Wine Guide: By the Stars
Bennett Lane 2005 Maximus
Wine afficionado Shelley Levitt shares her clebrity-inspired take on characterizing your wine rack.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs - NCIS
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah: A blend is the perfect answer for the advernture seeker. Together, these three grapes offer a racy mix of cherry, berry, currant and plums with hints of vanilla, cocoa, clove and cedar.
Pair with: Lamb, grilled steak and veg
June 26, 2008
Battle of the Vines by Reid Spencer
Team owner Richard Childress and four time Cup champion Jeff Gordon have made a significant commintment to the wine business, a situation that lends itself to a lively, good-natured rivalry.
Childress griws his grapes and bottles his wine at Childress Vineyards in Lexington, NC. The wine produced for Jeff Gordon Cellars comes from Napa Valley winemaker Briggs and Sons of Calistoga, CA, not far from Vallejo, Gordon's birthplace.
"Richard makes a nice wine, but Napa Valley is where you should grow your grapes," Gordon said.
If it came down to a contest, however, the winner might well be Bennett Lane Winery, sponsor of Saturday's Camping World West Series race at Infineon. Owned by Lisa and Randy Lynch (who also owns the 2007 Camping World Werst Series championship car driven by Mike David), Bennerr Lane boasts a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon rated 92-of-100 by "Wine Spectator" magazine.
ESPN - June 21, 2008
NASCAR Fans' Palates Turning More Sophisticated, A
By David Newton
SONOMA, Calif. -- At the foot of the scenic mountains surrounding Infineon Raceway, on the black pavement behind the main grandstand between souvenir haulers and barbecue stands, is a lattice-covered wine garden surrounded by large oak barrels.
Less than a hundred yards away, a large group of people gathered for wine, cheese and shrimp cocktails in Victory Lane.
Even though a driver with Budweiser on the hood of his car won the pole for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at this 1.99-mile road course, wine connoisseurs now have a place in NASCAR.
All of a sudden a word such as "palate" is as understood as spring rubbers and wedges.
"I didn't even know what [a palate] was 20 years ago," team owner Richard Childress said with a laugh. "I used to load a bunch of used parts on a pallet."
Childress is a big part of NASCAR's move from beer and hot dogs to a wine-and-cheese crowd. He opened the Childress Vineyard in the fall of 2004 in the Yadkin Valley less than 15 minutes from his Welcome, N.C., race shop.
A year later, four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon got into the wine business by introducing a 2004 Carneros Chardonnay featuring his name and Gordon Collection logo on the bottle.
Soon after that, according to a Nielsen Co. survey, wine consumption among the average NASCAR fan jumped 22 percent -- from spending $66.80 in 2005 to $81.40 in 2006.
While that didn't put NASCAR at the top of the list of wine drinkers in sports -- LPGA fans spent on average $124.90 in 2006 and tennis fans $111.90 -- it did draw the sport closer to the NBA ($86.20), Major League Baseball ($89) and the NFL ($94.30).
And the increase was by far greater than in any other sport, prompting many wine companies to expand their research on the dynamics of purchasing and consumption by motorsports fans.
In 2005, Texas Motor Speedway became the first track to offer wine from vendors. Earlier this year, the Performance Racing Network launched its own wine show, "The Wine Crush."
This wine fad is so out of control that there was a Saturday morning news conference to discuss wine.
So has the sport born of bootleggers turned sophisticated?
"It kind of outgrew the Southern fan base," said NASCAR West series owner Randy Lynch, who started Bennett Lane Winery a year before Childress got into the business. "The clearest demographic information on the San Francisco market that NASCAR puts out says the No. 1 identifying factor is the NASCAR fan in the Bay Area is affluent.
"It's becoming more of an upscale crowd."
It definitely is in Sonoma. There will be more wine-tasting tours in the three days before the checkered flag falls than there have been car tests leading to this race on the winding pavement surrounded by vineyards.
"The sport that grew up on moonshine and beer sponsorship, now all of a sudden we have wineries sponsoring race cars," said Doug Rice, the president of PRN. "It's part of an evolution the sport is going through."
Rice, once an avid beer drinker, never imagined five years ago his radio network would air a wine show.
"Not in the most remote corners of my mind did I think that was a possibility," he said. "Part of it is the whole trend in wine. It's perceived to be better for you and has some health benefits. And NASCAR may be getting a little different crowd."
That certainly has been the case at the Speedway Club at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte.
"Speedway Club in Charlotte used to be all beer," Rice said. "They don't even have beer taps anymore."
Jeff Burton, who is second in points behind Kyle Busch, isn't surprised.
"If you think about it … you walk down any grocery store and there's like whole aisles dedicated to it," he said. "When I was a kid you had some Mad Dog 20-20. You didn't have a whole aisle of wine.
"It used to be stuffy people are wine people. Today, everybody drinks wine."
Well, not everybody.
"I'm a fan of the 26 car, to be honest," Mike Ford, the crew chief for Denny Hamlin, said in reference to the Crown Royal sponsor on Jamie McMurray's car.
Hard liquor aside, Ford acknowledged the palate of race fans has moved toward wine.
"It used to be a pretty hard-core Budweiser crowd," he said. "It's kind of branched out."
Gordon, who grew up in nearby Vallejo, Calif., often envisioned becoming a vintner as his family drove through the Napa Valley and Sonoma County to water-ski at Lake Berryessa and race midgets in Calistoga.
"I remember seeing the vineyards and thinking, 'This is so beautiful,'" he said.
Beauty turned into reality after Gordon tasted a bottle of Batard-Montrachet while traveling in London. Soon he began talking about the oakiness of wines like he would the setup of his No. 24 car.
Childress began drinking wine in the 1970s during trips to California to race. He finally turned 65 acres off Highway 64 into a vineyard and built a winery that looks as though it belongs in Italy with its beautiful stone masonry.
This past year, his tasting room was ranked among the top 25 in America.
But Childress admits Lynch knows more about making good wines than he and Gordon combined.
"We had three of the top cabs [cabernets] in the country," Lynch said. "And we only make three red wines. Without tooting my horn too much, we're very proud of our wine."
Lynch was the first to put grapes on a car three years ago, when road-course specialist P.J. Jones drove one of his cars at Sonoma.
"That was the day Tony Stewart took out five cars, and one of them was ours," Lynch said.
He shouldn't have been surprised. Stewart drinks Schlitz beer.
"As we all know, beer is kind of on the downswing," Lynch said. "Anheuser Busch in the last two years has gone on a cost-cutting mission. Who knows what the future holds for beer?"
The future for wine certainly looks bright in NASCAR. Fans are trading their beer koozies for wine coasters, opening up an area of marketing that is virtually untapped in NASCAR.
For $50 you can have the Gordon Collection Merlot. For $255 you can get the gift set that includes a bottle of his Carneros Chardonnay in an autographed, hinged wooden case with the Gordon Collection logo and two Riedel Extreme Chardonnay stems with the logo.
For $5.99 you can have a Gordon helmet wine bottle stopper. Or for $6.99 you can get Gordon's wine glass charms, featuring the No. 24 car or a checkered flag.
"There are NASCAR fans out there that drink wine," Gordon said. "The thing is, we're not so thinking of promoting our wine with racing. I want it in fine restaurants. I want it to be something completely nonassociated with racing."
But there is the potential for a pretty good rivalry. Gordon fans can tout their driver makes a better wine than Childress, and vice versa.
"Richard makes a nice wine, but Napa Valley is where you should grow your grapes," Gordon said diplomatically.
The business already has a point system like NASCAR. Anything with a 90 or better is consider excellent. Lynch has had 10 90-plus grades over the past three years.
"The thing about asking somebody if somebody's wine is better than the other, everybody's palate is different," Childress said.
Two-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson gives the wine edge to Childress over his car owner.
"Man, I haven't had Gordon's wine. Is that wrong?" he said. "I've had his white but not his red. I've had Childress' red. Richard gave me a nice bottle of red when I won the Daytona 500, so I think he's ahead there."
So much for beer wars.
Pretty soon we'll have the Childress Winery challenging the Gordon Collection the way Miller challenges Budweiser.
But while there are awards and prizes in the wine business, connoisseurs like Gordon and Childress haven't completely lost touch with their primary objective.
"I've taken home a lot of trophies all over the world," said Childress, also an avid hunter. "What's the next championship I want to get? A Cup championship."
Of course, he would fill it with wine.
The Wine Skinny
Bennett Lane 2005 Maximus
Bennett Lane just continues to impress, don't they? Great Cabs and other wines, NASCAR success, even a fun website. The Bennett Lane 2005 Maximus Red Napa Valley ($35) continues the winning streak with an elegant blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (64%), Merlot (25%) and Syrah that offers layers of black cherry, blackberry, blueberry, dusty cocoa, brown spices and cedar that come together on a rich, full-bodied finish. Delicious now and over the next four or five years.
Wine Fuels NASCAR
Coors Light might be the beer of NASCAR, but the good ol' boys of racing are drinking wine.
Sun Sentinal - June 5, 2008
Tasting Notes by Bob Hosman
Bennett Lane 2007 White Maximus
The 2007 Bennett Lane White Maximus is a perfect summer choice. A blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and muscat, this crisp white has the aroma of honeysuckle and orange blossoms and tastes of nectarines and pears. Sold at better wine shops for about $27 a bottle, it's great for sipping or paired with oysters or cold chicken or shrimp salads.
Maxim - May 2008
Bachelor Party 2.0
Drinkin' & Driving in Napa
Sin city is for amateurs. Skip the cookie-cutter Vegas send-off and select from one of our custom bacchanals. Welcome to the future of the last great party of your life.....Bennett Lane Winery's "Put A Cork In It" program brings you via limo to a private tasting that ends with your personal vino blend...
The Tasting Panel - May 2008
Maximus 2004 90 Points "bright and rich with lovely sweet oak and ripe plum and blackberry fruit"
Wine Spectator - April 30, 2008
Bennett Lane Maximus Red Napa Valley 2005
90 Points and Outstanding Value
Firm, rich and intense, with ripe, vivid blackberry and wild berry fruit and a mix of currant and raspberry. Keeps a tight focus on the finish.
Former race car driver Randy Lynch and his wife, Lisa, purchased their Napa home and surrounding vineyards in 2003. They inherited some Syrah grapes and blended them unconventionally, with Bordeaux varietals. The result is Maximus Red, a Cabernet Sauvignon - based blend that includes Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, named after wine loving Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus. Most of the grapes for this wine come from Bennett Lane's own 22 acres of Napa vineyards in Calistoga. The winery also produces an unconventional white blend (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Muscat) called Maximus White.
The Press Democrat - April 23, 2008
Tasting Room - Cabernet Sauvignon & Bordeaux R
Bennett Lane 2005 Maximus Napa Valley
Three and a half stars - A ripe, showy wine with bright acidity. Youthful, with notes of cherry, berry, toasty oak and spice. Medium Complexity.
California Winery Hits the Fast Lane
by Brian Goodell
A few sounds that are music to Rob Hunter's ears: The pop of a cork on one of his Reserve Cabernet Sauvignons, the roar of the engines at a NASCAR track and the chatter in his headphones between driver and pit crew during the race.
Mr. Hunter is the winemaker at Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga, the first California winery to own a NASCAR team. Although he's certifiably hooked on it now, it wasn't always that way.
"When this (the NASCAR team) started, I didn't want anything to do with it," he says. "Then I got invited to a race down in Florida where I got to wear the headphones and listen to the driver and the crew chief.
"I never knew there was so much strategy. All of a sudden I was cheering and feeling like, 'that's my car!' Now I can't get enough of it."
Bennett Lane Winery and the glistening yellow cars that run in the Grand National West (formerly Winston West) Series are the brainchild and labor of love of owner Randy Lynch. The wines have already achieved several ratings of 90 and above and driver Mike David won the 2007 championship, despite 2005 being their inaugural vintage.
A few years ago, this might have seemed like a most unusual marriage, but the recent surge in wine consumption among NASCAR fans, in addition to the overall upward trend in popularity of both simply shows that Mr. Lynch was right on the leading edge.
"I want to turn beer guzzlers into wine drinkers," he says, "one race at a time."
Mr. Lynch has a penchant for being in the right place at the right time and for knowing when to take action. After earning his fortune in advertising, he decided to buy a second home in the Napa Valley, right during a downturn in the wine business.
The house had acreage and vineyards, but no one was buying the grapes.
When Mr. Lynch was told that there was a custom crush facility nearby, he visited.
After learning the custom crush location was for sale, he bought it and turned it into Bennett Lane Winery. Soon after, Mr. Hunter, former winemaker at Lyeth, Markham, and Sterling Vineyards, was brought on to oversee production.
Now, Bennett Lane makes 6 wines: a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55), a Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($95), a Los Carneros Reserve Chardonnay ($45), a limited production Port style dessert wine ($60), and their two popular Maximus blends. Dubbed "feasting wines," these are nontraditional blends of Cab, Merlot and Syrah in the red ($35) and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat in the white ($28).
Visitors to the tasting room will enjoy the friendly atmosphere and free picnic area. There is also a "petting vineyard" where tourists can see the differences in grapes up close.
If you want to go all out with the custom blending experience, the Bennett Lane Limo will pick you up and take you to the winery to blend, label and bottle your own Maximus blend. To make an advance appointment, call the winery at (877) MAX-NAPA.
Although the wines are limited production bottlings, they are distributed in many states. They can also be purchased online at www.bennettlane.com
Avenue Vine - April 2008
NASCAR and Wine Buddy Up Further
You may consider NASCAR to be the domain of tank tops, bad hairdos and beer drinking. Oh, come on NASCAR has been mixing wine, beer and whisky on the circuit for years! The inclusion is mutually beneficial to all parties...
Never the less one Napa Valley wine producer (not to mention Richard Childress and Mike Skinner–see below) is trying to change the beer-drinking part of the equation. Bennett Lane Winery owner Randy Lynch has recently announced a two-year partnership with Sonoma, Calif.'s Infineon Raceway, in which his winery will be the title sponsor of the upcoming NASCAR Camping World Series West Event.
The raceway will also begin serving Bennett Lane Maximus and Cabernet Sauvignon by the glass. Lynch, himself a former amateur racecar driver, is no stranger to the racetrack. He currently owns a NASCAR West division team, whose No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery car won the 2007 West Series championship.
This year Lynch's wife, Lisa Lynch, will be heading up a second Bennett Lane team, represented by the No. 24 Maximus, which will compete against the No. 2 Bennett Lane car. Unfiltered is still working out the kinks on its own racecar, which will feature a wine fridge in the trunk, a cork dashboard and an engine that runs on grape pomace
When Richard Childress was 17 years old, he began racing a 1937 Plymouth he bought for $20. He eventually made his way onto the racing circuit as a driver, but after only a few years, he turned to running a team and brought on the now legendary, late Dale Earnhardt. Since then Richard Childress Racing has racked up 125 victories over the past 36 years, and today has top-ranked drivers Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Dave Blaney behind the wheel of three teams in NASCAR's NEXTEL Cup Series. And just like a rookie driver trying to overcome the critics' doubts, Childress is trying to defy the skeptics who wouldn't dream of growing grapes or making wine in North Carolina. With Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon planted and a winery that opened just last year, Childress wants to make wine that everyone will like--even NASCAR fans.
More On Bennett Lane:
Who: Randy and Lisa Lynch, who purchased a second home with a dozen or so acres of vineyards in Calistoga at the northern end of Napa Valley. A former race-car driver, Lynch also owns a NASCAR West division team and an ad agency. Rob Hunter, formerly of Sterling and Markham, signed on as consulting winemaker in 2005.
When: After purchasing their new home and the accompanying vineyards, the Lynches considered selling off their fruit, but a glut of grapes in the area was pushing down prices. Instead, they decided to make their own wine. They found a custom-crush facility, Bennett Lane, that happened to be for sale, and they bought it just in time for the 2003 harvest.
Where: Lynch is using as much of his property as possible for grapegrowing. He owns a total of 22 acres in Calistoga--10 acres at the winery and 12 around his home, where, he says, "all that isn't a driveway or house" is planted to vines, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with small amounts of Petit Verdot and Merlot. The couple sources the rest of their fruit from another 40 acres in Napa Valley, buying additional Chardonnay grapes from
Sources: Unfiltered: "Plus, the relationship between wine and NASCAR gets cozier"; "Wine Talk: Richard Childress," Eric Arnold; "Wine Talk: Mike Skinner," Laurie Woolever; "New Wines, New Faces: Bennett Lane," Robert Taylor and MaryAnn Bovio, Wine Spectator, April 17, 2008
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 belnding 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 lottle 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. The package also includes limo service to and from your lodging, and a wine-and-cheese pairing. $175 per person; reservations required; 3340 State 128; bennettlane.com or 707/942/6684
San Francisco Chronicle
January 25, 2008
The Tasting Room: Wine meets NASCAR at Bennett Lane's pit stop
- Amanda Gold
At Bennett Lane Winery, it's easy to forget that certain spots in the Napa Valley have become commercialized and riddled with tourists. At this tiny, hidden tasting room a couple of miles past the main street in Calistoga, you'll find the type of laid-back, accessible service that reminds you of how relaxing and informal a day of tasting in Wine Country can be.
Owners Lisa and Randy Lynch are relative newcomers to the wine world, having purchased Bennett Lane just five years ago - previously, it was Vigil Vineyards, a custom crush facility - but the winery is already producing vintages worthy of a trek to the northern tip of the valley.
Following Randy's love of racing cars, Bennett Lane is the only winery to fully own and sponsor a NASCAR team, which races in the Western U.S. circuit.
The vibe: It's casual and quiet in the pint-size tasting room, which sits at the front end of a Mediterranean-style building. With just a scattering of the knickknacks you'll find in larger spots, the room is less about decor and ambience, focusing more on the wines.
The team: Lisa and Randy Lynch don't have a long and storied wine background - Randy spent his earlier years racing cars and then building up a marketing company in San Ramon before opening Bennett Lane. He now divides his time between the grapes and his NASCAR team.
Winemaker Rob Hunter has been with Bennett Lane since April 2005, after serving as the VP and director of winemaking for Sterling Vineyards. His resume also includes Markham Vineyards and Robert Keenan Winery.
The wines: Hunter and Lynch both lean toward a style of dark, fruity and jammy reds. For $10, tasters can sample a flight of four of the winery's six bottles. These include the full-bodied Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a Reserve Chardonnay, the Maximus red blend - referred to as a "feasting wine" because of its wide range of pairing capabilities, and White Maximus, a crisp blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Muscat.
If you're lucky, you might get a sample of the new release Bennett Lane dessert wine. On Saturdays, tasting room staff cuts up a variety of dark chocolate that pairs beautifully with this sweet, Port-style wine, in addition to the Maximus red.
The experience: You'll get plenty of personal, one-on-one attention here, as the small counter fits only about four tasters comfortably. The staff is quick to give detailed information, including pairing and recipe suggestions for the flight of wines. Tours and a custom blending experience for groups are available with advance reservations.
The extras: It's hard to find good places to picnic in the Napa Valley, especially those where you can bring your own spread. Here, a smattering of tables just outside the tasting room is surrounded by vineyards, and the staff is happy to let tasters linger over lunch.
Also, don't miss the "petting vineyard" on the property, with marked rows of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Syrah and Chardonnay.
Nearby: Atalon Winery (3299 Bennett Lane, Calistoga; 800-224-4090), Envy Wines (1170 Tubbs Lane, Calistoga; 707-942-4670) and Chateau Montelena (1429 Tubbs Lane, Calistoga; 707-942-5105).
Chronicle critics make every attempt to remain anonymous. All expenses are paid for by The Chronicle. Star ratings are based on a single visit.
Bennett Lane Winery
3340 Highway 128, Calistoga
877) 629-6272, bennettlane.com
Open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily
winereviewonline.com - December 18, 2007
Before the Prime Rib, a Great Starter
By Sarah Belk King
The proprietors of Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga entertain up to 22 family members on Christmas day.
'This is the time of year to open up that special bottle,' says Randy Lynch, owner of Bennett Lane Winery. Their choice for Christmas Day? 'Our Reserve Cabernet, and plenty of it!' Randy's wife, Lisa, chimes in: 'We're not big meat eaters, so when we serve prime rib on December 25, it's a big deal. Plus, it's a day to celebrate family and friends . . . and we usually have between 17 and 22 at our holiday table.'
Now that's a party!
Along with the prime rib ('…easier than stuffing a turkey,' says Lisa) this wine country host prepares a make-ahead first course, several salads, and plenty of sweets for the kids.
'I've been serving prime rib on Christmas for 24 years,' says Lisa. "It's so easy . . . and it marries beautifully with our Reserve Cab.'
Before the guests arrive, Randy arranges the flowers, and Lisa sets the table with casual china, explaining "we're not into the formal look much anymore.'
Guests arrive to the strains of Celine Dion, Josh Gobran and Andy Williams, who "takes me right back to my childhood; I just have to include Andy Williams,' says Lisa. When the guests have settled in, Randy disappears, and Santa miraculously arrives! Santa and a bottle (or two or ten) of great wine always makes the Lynch's holiday memorable.
LYNCH FAMILY CHRISTMAS MENU
Shrimp with Basil Ponzu Dipping Sauce
2005 Bennett Lane Los Carneros Reserve Chardonnay or 2006 Bennett Lane White Maximus
Prime Rib with Pan-Roasted Carrots au Jus
Baked Potatoes with Butter, Sour Cream, Chopped Chives
Bennett Lane Primus Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
or Bennett Lane Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Vanilla Ice Cream with Bennett Lane Chocolate Sauce
Bennett Lane Maximus Truffles
Bennett Lane Maximus (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah)
CHILLED SHRIMP WITH BASIL-PONZU SAUCE
Ponzu is a traditional Japanese dipping sauce often served with sashimi and tempura. There's no definitive recipe for ponzu; depending on the cook, the sauce might contain ingredients such as lemon juice, sake, rice wine vinegar and bonito flakes. Lisa makes an East-meets-West version, with plenty of fresh basil and the zing of orange juice and lime juice. The dish pairs up beautifully with the juicy Bennett Lane Reserve Chardonnay, which can stand up to the soy sauce, citrus, and chile sauce.
Serves 4 to 6 as a first course
1 pound fresh large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails intact
2 tablespoons good quality soy sauce (I use tamari, but Lisa uses low-sodium soy sauce; either is fine)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or more to taste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, or more to taste
2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil or safflower oil
½ teaspoon Asian chile sauce, or more to taste
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh gingerroot
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
Fresh basil, for garnish, optional
For the Shrimp: Bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Meanwhile, have ready a large bowl of ice water in or near the sink.
Add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook 1 to 2 minutes (exact timing will depend on the size of the shrimp.) Do not overcook or the shrimp will be tough and chewy. To test for doneness, cut one shrimp in half; it should be opaque in the center. Drain in a colander then transfer the cooked shrimp immediately to the bowl of ice water.
When shrimp are cold, drain again in a colander, then transfer shrimp to a large, non-aluminum bowl.
For the Basil-Ponzu Sauce: In a medium-sized non-aluminum bowl, combine the soy sauce, lime juice, orange juice, brown sugar, canola oil, chile sauce, ginger root, and garlic. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the basil and taste for seasoning, adding more soy sauce, lime juice or chile sauce to taste. Note: the basil will darken slightly as the sauce stands, so if you prefer, add the basil just before serving.
Add the ponzu sauce to the shrimp and toss gently to mix. Let stand at least 2 hours -- and up to 8 hours -- for flavors to blend.
To serve family style, arrange the shrimp decoratively on a large serving platter and garnish with fresh basil. Or, divide the shrimp equally and arrange on individual plates. Garnish with basil, and serve immediately.
Bennett Lane wines, Chocolate Sauce, and Truffles are available online at BennettLane.com and at your local wine retail shop.
To try Bennett Lane wines on site, visit the winery and tasting room and enjoy lunch in the California sunshine in the (free) picnic area. Wannabe winemakers can sign up for 'Put a Cork in It," a custom blending experience for groups of six or more. The $175 per person fee includes limousine service to and from the winery from either Calistoga or St. Helena, the blending session, a bottle of your own blend to take home, plus a wine and cheese pairing. For reservations, call 707-942-6684 or toll free at 877-MAX-NAPA.
The Palm Beach Post - December 6, 2007
Wine of the Week - by Peg San Fellippo
Get Maximus fruit flavor from 2004 Bennett Lane
The Wine: Bennett Lane 2004 Maximus Red Feasting Wine, Napa Valley
Drinking It: If you like big reds with a lot of concentrated fruit, Maximus is a good choice. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, it has aromas of blueberries, raspberry jam, carmelized sugar, and tobacco with flavors of chocolate and dark ripe cherries witha long soft finish. This wine is drinking well now and can be aged through 2010.
Pairing It: Blue cheese - either Maytag or Roaring 40's, grilled eggplant, paella, lamb shanks, or grilled flank steak.
Wine Spectator - November 15, 2007
Wine Spectator November 15, 2007 Issue
Bennett Lane 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
Floral, crushed berry, currant and black cherry aromas are tight, concentrated and focused, and the flavors come through in the same way on the palate. Best from 2008-2013. - J.L.
Y'all Magazine - October/November 2007
Tailgating - Dixie's Great Outdoor Feasr
Food, Wine and Joy are College Football and NASCAR Essentials
by: Doc Lawrence
...Bennett Lane Winery owner Ransy Lynch says "I want to turn beer guzzlers into wine drinkers - one race at a time." While that is a pretty lofty goal for a six thousand case California winery, Lynch has his own trump card: he owns a NASCAR West racing team emblazoned with the Bennett Lane logo. The Bennett Lane Winery team competes in the NASCAR West regional series and is currently ranked in first place by more than 100 points. Before each NASCAR West race, Lynch hosts a parking lot tailgate for fans where his award winning wines flow, enjoyed with food prepared by Randy's wife Lisa...
A Guy, a Girl and a Bottle Wine Podcast
A weekly wine podcast from California. Join hosts Joe and Pam as they visit Bennett Lane Winery for our "Put a Cork In It" blending seminar and interview our owners, Randy and Lisa Lynch.
USA Today - October 2007
Calistoga revels in its ruggedness
These established wineries offer an extra dimension to the tasting-room experience:
Bennett Lane Winery. Owner and NASCAR team owner Randy Lynch often has one of his racing cars on display. Tasting fee: $10. 877-629-6272
Wine Spectator - October 15, 2007
Wine Spectator 91 Points - 2004 Primus Reserve Cabernet
Dark, rich and chewy, witha rustic edge to the currant, herb, anise and blackberry fruit, which is pure, ripe and supple. Ends with gripping tannins and a rich push of fruit. Decant. Best from 2008-2013. 700 cases made - J.L.
Bennett Lane 2006 Maximus White Feasting Wine
In search of a Label Art feature for this issue, we took a quick look at the many wines we've got stacked up around here, and this one practically jumped off the rack!
Bennett Lane Winery produces this tasty proprietary white that is quite like a white Meritage in character and heft, but with their own mix of grapes.
Specifically, in this 2006 vintage of their Maximus White Feasting Wine Napa Valley ($28), they've used Sauvignon Blanc (87%), Chardonnay (11%) and Muscat, with the result being a juicy, food-friendly, bright wine that has some added richness and weight mid-palate. Aromatic peach, honeysuckle, ripe tropicals, fig and intense citrus mingle through the full finish. Slightly off dry, but fresh tasting. Ready to drink now.
The label is an homage to the Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus that the label describes as a "notorious winelover and gourmand." And although that description doesn't really figure in most accounts of the fellow, he did seem to be responsible for destroying and pillaging Gaul, where surely much wine was consumed, before hanging out in Wales for an extended period. Judging by the couple of Welshmen we've known, they drink in Wales, too.
Anyway, point is, we're going with it.
The wine is really lovely -- elegant enough for any holiday feast. (Come to think of it, this would make a great Thanksgiving white choice!)
Hemispheres - United In-Flight Magaine - October 2007
By Bill Marsano
..Napa's Randy and Lisa Lynch also lead motorheads to the grape: Their Bennett Lane Winery sponsers a NASCAR racing team. NASCAR is an institutional celebrity whose fans are no longer a strictly suds-and-bourbon crowd. AC Nielsen says wine sales are up 22 percent at NASCAR races...
North Shore Magazine - October 2007
The Grape Escape
In a two-part series exploring the best of the California wine country, our intrepid oenophile plots a course through his favorite vineyards near Napa Valley - by Terry Sullivan
.....Finish with a run up the road to Bennett Lane Winery, where Randy and Lisa Lynch run what may be the only winery/NASCAR compbo operation in captivity...the bargains here are in the Maximus series. The White Feasting Wine ($28) is Sauvignon Blanc with 11 percent Chardonnay and a splash of Muscat - think lime rind and grapefruit with a few flowers. The Maximus Red version ($35) is a dry, bright blend of Cab, Merlot and 20 percent Syrah. Call in the guns of Naparhone. Spend $175 a head and they'll pick you up in a limo, let you blend and bottle your own cuvee and feed you wine paired with cheese and other goodies.....
Contra Costa Times - September 15, 2007
Lynch close to wrapping up West Series championship
Randy Lynch has achieved just about every goal he's set for himself, from founding a successful advertising agency to owning a winery that has produced several award-winning cabernet sauvignons.
Now the Danville-area resident is on the cusp of realizing another dream -- winning a NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series championship.
Lynch owns the No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery Ford driven by Modesto's Mike David, who leads the West Series standings by 95 points over Mike Duncan going into today's season-ending Dan Gamel RV Centers 200 at Altamont Motorsports Park.
"It's been a lifelong goal of mine," said Lynch, who started the San Ramon-based R.W. Lynch advertising agency in 1984 and purchased Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga in 2003.
"We finished in second place last year and would have won it if we would have had one less bad race. But things have gone well this year."
Lynch became involved in motor sports in the 1960s as a crew chief for a Lafayette-based dragster but had a nearly three-decade hiatus from auto racing before becoming involved again in 1997.
Instead of jumping into Grand National Division right away, Lynch started a Spec Truck Series team and met David. It was the start of a prosperous relationship, as David won the Central Series championship in 2000.
David raced for Lynch in the West Series five times in 2001 and was named the circuit's rookie of the year in 2002.
"We got along pretty good right from the start and I've always enjoyed racing for him," David said of Lynch. "He wants to succeed in everything he does and as a driver, those are the kind of guys you want to work for."
David finished sixth in the championship standings in 2004 and fifth in 2005. Last year, David won two races and trailed Eric Holmes by 47 points going into the season's last race at Altamont. But the veteran driver suffered a flat tire on the half-mile oval and finished 13th, and Holmes took the title.
"We've got a pretty motivated team anyway, but yeah, coming so close last year added some fuel to the fire," David said. "We felt good about (our chances) last year and fell a little short. But about 80 percent of the team stuck with us this year, so we knew we'd have a good shot at it."
"Whether it's business or sport, you need to have great people around you to be successful," Lynch said. "We have great people at our winery, and I'll put our (racing) team up against anybody's at any level."
David has top-three finishes in seven of 12 races this season, including a win at Altamont in April. He needs to finish 22nd or better today to clinch the championship.
David has no plans to be conservative or race any differently than he has all season. Still, if he avoids mechanical problems and or an accident with the 27 other drivers in the race, then the title will be his.
And Lynch's lifelong goal will become a reality.
"We're confident, but not overly so," Lynch said. "We're in an enviable position with a 95-point lead, but by no means is this thing over."
The Imbiber - August 2007
Racing and the Age of Love by Dan Dunn
....Randy Lynch, owner of the Bennett Lane winery in Calistoga, is hoping to change the perception of NASCAR fans as nothing but a bunch of beer-swilling hillbillies by sponsoring his very own race team. The Imbiber dropped by Lynch's Napa estate last weekend to get a first-hand look at one of the cars, and I must say it had everything I suspect you'd need to win a NASCAR race - wheels, an engine with lots of pipe-thingies … and, of course, loud sponsorship logos. You can't compete without ‘em. It's also a good idea to make sure the chassis is always lubed, if you know what I'm saying (wink, wink!) Lynch wouldn't let me test-drive the car, so I took some of his wines for a spin instead. The results:
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($55): Has a kickin' body like that 48-year-old on "Age of Love,"..........
2004 Maximus ($35): A great buy. A blend of Cab (51%), Merlot (29%) and Syrah (you do the math) that revs like a 600-horsepower engine. Wait, is six hundred too many horses? As you may have guessed, I'm leasing a Cabriolet.
2004 Primus Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($95): Tastes like a vanilla sundae topped with chocolate sauce and cherries. They only produced 700 cases, so act now! Cellar it for a decade or so.
Colorado Spings Gazette
Family-owned vineyards produce some notable wines
By Rich Mauro - August 14, 2007
Living the wine-country lifestyle is a dream for many people, but relatively few actually make the dream come true.
Recently, I had an opportunity to join other journalists on a press trip to the wine country of Napa and Sonoma. The three Napa wineries and one Sonoma winery we visited all are family owned.
Each also was founded by individuals who came to the wine country after a successful career elsewhere.
For instance, Bennett Lane Winery's Randy Lynch owns a successful marketing company, as well as a NASCAR West team, which currently is the points leader on the western U.S. circuit...
Lynch and his wife, Lisa, developed an interest in wine while traveling in Italy. They began looking for a weekend house and vineyard, and eventually settled in the Napa Valley near Calistoga, Calif. They intended to sell the grapes, but when the former Vigil winery nearby became available four years ago, they decided to get into winemaking. ....
But wineries these days, as with any other business, don't survive without being innovative, contributing some sort of "value added." Although the quality of the wine is foremost, each of these wineries offers other attractions for visitors.
As soon as we walked into the Bennett Lane cellar, we noticed the bright yellow 2007 race car. Lynch explains he's convinced that NASCAR fans are ready for wine.
In addition to the typical tasting, the winery also offers a fun and educational opportunity for visitors, called the "Custom Blend Experience." For $175 per person, the package includes limousine service to and from the winery, a session that includes blending your wine, and filling, corking and labeling your bottle to take home, and finishes with a wine-andcheese pairing. ....
Still, it wouldn't matter much if the wines weren't any good. .. Bennett Lane winemaker Rob Hunter, who brings more than 20 years of experience to the job, said he seeks to achieve elegant wines that are also rich in flavor. ...
Recommended wines are listed below. Space limitations keep me from describing them in detail. Note that both wineries produce relatively small quantities, but Colorado is one of the few lucky states where they are shipped. They also are available online.
- 2006 Maximus White Feasting Wine (87 percent Sauvignon Blanc, 11 percent Chardonnay, 2 percent Muscat, $28)
- 2004 Maximus Red (51 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 29 percent Merlot, 20 percent Syrah, $35)
- 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon ($55)
- 2004 Primus Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($95)
- 2005 Primus Chardonnay
Health-conscious wine lovers can rejoice thanks to the new Detoxicate package from Calistoga Ranch. The package, starting at $3250 for double occupancy, includes two nights accomodations; a choice of the Calistoga Curem Cabernet Classic, or Restful Sleep Bath treatments at the Bathhouse; a collection of healthy recipes and wine pairing suggestions from the Napa region; in-room fitness equipment and DVDs; a 15 mile bike ride to and from Bennett Lane Winery, and more. And, if that's not enough, for each package purchased, Calistoga Ranch will donate a portion of the fee to the American Heart Asscoiation. Now that's reason enough to raise a glass. - H.M.
Bennett Lane racing team driver is tops
By Jack Heeger
Mike David, driver for Bennett Lane Winery's NASCAR West racing team, is currently in first place with 824 points and two wins in five starts, and has placed in the top five four times. He's more than 100 points ahead of his nearest rival.
The next race will be June 2 at Colorado National Speedway, but the team comes closer to home June 23 with a race at Infineon raceway in Sonoma.
Another car is expected to join the team. Lisa Lynch, wife of Bennett Lane owner Randy Lynch, will sponsor her own car, the Maximus (which just happens to be the name of a wine produced by Bennett Lane). It will be driven by P.J. Jones, son of famed Indy driver Parnelli Jones.
Both are scheduled to compete at Infineon.
San Diego International Wine Competition
Bennett Lane Winery struck gold at this year's 24th Annual San Diego International Wine Competition with the 2004 Maximus taking home a gold medal and a sweepstakes award! Our 2005 Primus Reserve Chardonnay also was awarded a silver medal in the competition.
Wine Touring by David Gaier
A Top Winery at the Top of the Valley
The end of the line for me in Napa is typically Bennett Lane in Calistoga, north of, actually.
Owners Randy and Lisa Lynch purchased the property in 2003, choosing Napa because of their love of Cabernet. Randy is a NASCAR guy and the winery sponsors a team, so if you're into that you can get your fill - what with a car in the barrel room, racing photos everywhere and merchandise for sale. I'm an open-wheel SCCA man myself and I think the NASCAR stuff is a bit overdone in any event. But having said that, I really like this place, the people, and the wines, and you will, too.
I came for the Maximus my first time - a scrumptious blend of Cab, Merlot, and yes, Syrah (20%), which is a rather unusual mix in this part of the country. As I walked into the small tasting room I was greeted by Keith Hargrove, the national sales manager, who's really the Ambassador of Bennett Lane to the wine-drinking world. Keith, who often mans the tasting room when he's in town, spent the better part of two hours walking me through their selections, topped off by a barrel tasting of some unreleased wines. Together we tasted and compared the 2002 and 2004 vintages of Maximus, which were noticeably different although they have mostly the same proportions of varieties. And while their Chardonnays do little for me (I am a real hard sell on California Chards), the Bennett Lane White Feasting Wines are outstanding, made primarily from Sauvignon Blanc but with a few percent Chard and couple percent Muscat as grace notes.
For my money, Randy Lynch really scored when he brought Rob Hunter in as winemaker. Rob is a former Vice President and Director of Winemaking for Sterling Vineyards and before that was winemaker at Markham Vineyards, and Lyeth Winery. The wines really show not just care - every winemaker in Napa "cares", after all - but a philosophy put to the taste.
I walked out with a smile on my face and I've stayed in touch with Keith for the last couple years. I've also bought a 3 liter Maximus in an etched bottle, which lends a noble Roman character to my wine table. Ironically, though, Maximus was a Spaniard from a small town in Galicia...so shouldn't this wine be made from Mencia or Garnacha?
Life Among the Vines
Put a Cork In It
"Gone are the days of ceramics and paint - it's time to create your own wine! Calistog'a Bennett Lane Winery has invited oenophiles near and far to play winemaker for a day.........It's a chance to test your palate, familiarize yourself with an up and coming vineyard, and ultimately, walk out with a bottle of wine that you will really, really like."
Top 10 Wines for Father's Day 2005 Bennet Lane Primus Reserve Chardonnay
Maximus Lamb Burgers with Feta Cheese and Mint
Today, Jim May from Bennett Lane Winery (Calistoga, CA) provides us with his recipe for "Maximus Lamb Burgers with Feta Cheese and Mint". As Jim says "this summertime recipe combines ground lamb with Mediterranean flavors and a surprising touch of timeless flavors. The rich flavor of the lamb is complemented by the tang of the feta cheese, the sweetness of the mint jelly and the woodsy, perfumy, exotic smell of oregano. This meal is easy to prepare ahead of time, quick to cook, and delicious served on crispy buns with fresh tomatoes, grilled rosemary steak fries and a bottle of Bennett Lane Maximus". Sounds great Jim - an easy and delicious summer meal for a wonderful dinner and an evening of relaxation… What could be better?
Maximus Lamb Burgers with Feta Cheese and Mint
Courtesy of Bennett Lane's Jim May
1 ¼ lbs. ground lamb
4 T. Bennett Lane Maximus
2 T. mint jelly
2 T. shallot, minced
1 t. dried oregano
2 t. salt
2 t. black pepper
¼ lb. Feta cheese, crumbled
Hamburger buns or Ciabatta bread cut into 4 inch pieces
Put the ground lamb in a large bowl. In another small bowl, mix together the wine, jelly, shallot, oregano, salt and pepper. Pour wine mixture in bowl with the lamb. Fold in the cheese and gently mix together. Form by hand into 4 patties.
Grill meat over hot coals for about 4-5 minutes per side for medium rare to medium. Serve on toasted burger buns of choice. Pair with Bennett Lane Maximus Red Feasting Wine.
About Bennett Lane's 2004 Maximus
However you like your lamb; either a roasted leg, grilled rack of lamb, chops, loin or in this recipes' case, an all in one lamb burger, the classic and best beverages to accompany it are a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah. So rather than having to choose one, why not have a wine that weaves all 3 varietals into one incredible food wine with rich fruit flavors, a complex mouth feel and a finish that complements the lamb and invites bite after bite. Such is the Bennett Lane Maximus Red Feasting Wine. It is Cabernet blended with Merlot and Syrah that pairs beautifully with most foods but shines with lamb, beef and game.
About Bennett Lane Winery
Follow Napa Valley's Route 29 north to Calistoga, and then keep going just 2 1/2 more miles. You'll arrive at the pinnacle of the Napa Valley - the northernmost wedge where the Vaca mountain range meets the Mayacamas range. Here you will also find Bennett Lane Winery, sitting snugly at the edge of its own well-maintained Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard. Owners Randy and Lisa Lynch purchased the property only four years ago, but Bennett Lane is already making a splash in wine country with its lush textured Cabernet Sauvignon and a no-nonsense red wine varietal blend called Maximus, composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. All three of Bennett Lane's 2003 Napa Valley red wine releases have scored 90+ points from Wine Spectator and are listed as some of the Great California Cabernets in the magazine's annual Cabernet Issue. The 2003 Primus Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon leads the pack with a score of 93 Points, one of the top rated Napa Cabernets of the year in the publication.
Bennett Lane Winery
3340 Highway 128
Calistoga, CA 94515
Wine Spectator - June 11, 2007
James Laube Unfined
Notes From Friday's Barrel Tasting - June 11, 2007
The most pleasant surprise at Friday's barrel tasting: how well the 2005 Cabernets showed.
The last time I tried a group of these wines they struck me as elegant, balanced and understated, the kind of vintage that slowly unfolds and reveals itself over time rather than being up front, showy and opulent. I think the same can be said of 2006. Both years came from cool, milder growing conditions.
I tasted some 40 wines at Auction Napa Valley's barrel tasting and the 2005s (along with a few 2006s) impressed me with their elegance, balance, depth and complexity.
A couple of readers I ran into asked me what I'm looking for in wines this young. For the sake of being succinct, the answer is purity of fruit flavor.
I entered the barrel tasting as it started and before it got crowded and loud – two detriments to concentration. I focused on wines that were either new to me or wines I was less familiar with. As a side note to Friday's blog about barrel tasting, I would add that using benchmark wines – wines that you are familiar with and typically like -- as reference points is another. For example, a couple that I relied on were Shafer Hillside Select and Pride Mountain.
My favorite 2005s included: Atlas Peak Claret (rich and structured), Blackbird Bordeaux Blend (elegant and stylish), Bennett Lane (plush and dark), Brookdale (smooth, rich and loamy), Frank Family Vineyards (dark, rich and complex) Ilsley Stags Leap District (super rich), Kuleto (a complex, structured blend of Cabernet and Cabernet Franc), Keenan Spring Mountain (tight and structured) Louis M. Martini Lot 1 (very elegant and refined, destined for a reserve bottling), O'Brien Estate Seduction (sharply focused), O'Shaughnessy Mount Veeder (tight and structured), Parallel (plush and extracted), Pride Spring Mountain (opulent), Ramian Estate Mount Veeder Chapter 5 (another tight one from Mount Veeder), Shafer Hillside Select (plush yet elegant), Silverado (elegant and complex) and Sonador Spring Mountain (rich and oaky). Ahnfeldt had the lone 2005 Merlot (complex and deep).
2006 White Maximus
June 9, 2007
If you are looking for a light summer white wine the recently released 2006 Bennett Lane Maximus Feasting White wine is a nice choice. It is a blend of 87% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Chardonnay, and 2% Muscat. It's a bit fruity but with a nice mineral snap to keep it crisp and refreshing.
Bloomberg News - June 7, 2007
By Elin McCoy
Nascar Turns Beer Guzzlers to Wine Sippers One by One
At Bennett Lane Winery in the Napa Valley, a bright yellow 2007 Ford Fusion race car emblazoned with purple grapes and the winery's name is parked next to shiny stainless-steel wine tanks.
``It competes in all the Nascar West Series races,'' winery owner and Lynch Racing Team sponsor Randy Lynch says.
Four-year-old Bennett Lane was the first winery to back a Nascar team. To give me some racetrack feel, Lynch, a former Nascar driver, climbs into this speed machine and revs up its 620-horsepower engine. The vroom echoes off the tanks as the car slowly rolls 20 feet (6 meters).
On the sidelines, I sample Bennett Lane's latest release -- the crisp 2006 Maximus White -- and wonder whether this honeysuckle-scented wine can play in a world known for country music, turning left at 150 miles per hour and the lingering smell of burning rubber. Maybe Bennett Lane's turbocharged Primus Reserve cabernet sauvignon would be a better match.
In the past few years, star drivers and team owners have been putting the pedal to the metal in making wine and slapping their names on the labels.
``The old Nascar image is changing,'' Lynch says. ``The audience is more upscale, and nearly half the fans are women.''
He and his wife, Lisa, first bought a weekend house and vineyard, intending to sell the grapes, but when the nearby winery became available, they decided it would be fun to get into the winemaking business, too. They already owned a Nascar team and saw marketing potential for their fledgling winery in the all-American sport's 75 million fans and new upmarket demographics. (Lynch Racing was in first place by 100 points in the West Series after the Napa 150 in Colorado on June 2. Lisa Lynch is starting a second team, named Maximus, that's set to run its first race on June 23.)
``Nascar is about moving billboards,'' Lynch adds. ``And we like to think we're changing the beer guzzlers into wine sippers one race at a time.''
That seems to be happening. Wine spending among Nascar fans rose 22 percent last year, according to an ACNielsen survey released in February.
This season, the 12 tracks staging Nascar Nextel Cup Series events are selling wine at concession stands for the first time, says Lenny Santiago, a spokesman for Daytona Beach, Florida-based racetrack operator International Speedway Corp. Santiago also reports that VIP-suite orders for expensive brands are way up. After all, the sport now attracts chief executives who fly in on private jets as well as good ol' boys driving up in pickups. It's no wonder that 106 of the companies in the Fortune 500 are marketing themselves through the sport, according to Andrew Giangola, director of business communications for Nascar.
North Carolina Vineyard
Racing mogul Richard Childress owns five teams and won six Nextel Cup championships with the late Nascar legend Dale Earnhardt. Childress learned to love wine while racing in Riverside, California, in the 1970s and dreamed of having his own vineyard someday. In 2004, he built his eponymous winery in North Carolina, a state in Nascar's home territory that now has 61 wineries. He says his mission is to cater to everyone from wine neophytes to collectors.
Lexington-based Childress Vineyards has become a mecca for racing fans from nearby Lowe's Motor Speedway outside Charlotte. The winery's name isn't on cars -- yet -- but its new sparkling wine made it to the winner's circle at the beginning of the 2007 season.
``We sprayed and toasted Kevin Harvick with our Victory Cuvee when he won the Daytona 500, and then Jeff Burton at the Samsung 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway,'' Childress says.
Even wineries with no racing links want in. Sonoma, California-based Ravenswood Winery, whose high-powered zinfandels have gained a cult following, discovered that its fans liked to pop its zins' corks at racetrack tailgate parties. Ravenswood, which uses the motto ``No wimpy wines,'' sponsored three races in 2006. This year, the winery is backing teams in all 26 main Nascar events and provides the official wine for Sonoma's own Infineon Raceway, formerly Sears Point, north of San Francisco.
The first driver to put his name on a label was Formula One world champion Mario Andretti in the mid-'90s. The latest is four-time Nextel Cup champion Jeff Gordon, who notched a record 78th career cup win on May 13. Last fall, he launched a high-end $45 chardonnay made by August Briggs Winery in Calistoga, California; a cabernet will debut this year. (Gordon also has his name and car number on a new energy drink from PepsiCo Inc.)
Abruzzo to Australia
The ties between auto racing and wine aren't limited to the U.S. Italian Formula One driver Jarno Trulli, with his rock star looks and custom shirts, is behind the Podere Castorani wine estate in Abruzzo. And Aussie Alan Heath, who turned winemaker after retiring in 2001, now makes four different lines at his Heath Wines in South Australia, from bargain to expensive collectible.
As we all know, celebrity sells. But my bottom line is always, Are these wines any good? Some are and some aren't, though even the undistinguished ones would be fine served ice cold on a hot day at the racetrack.
In addition to Bennett Lane, my top scores go to superstar Napa Valley winery Lewis Cellars, owned by retired pro driver Randy Lewis and his wife, Debbie. Lewis's 23-year career included time on the Formula Three circuit in Europe, where he learned to love wine. After a crash in 1992, Lewis left his high-speed life behind and launched his winery's full-throttle wines with the 1994 vintage. The labels don't trade on his racing connection, but the winery's Web site emits an unmistakable race-car whine when you first open the home page. The wines, from chardonnay to cult cab, are high enough octane to accompany any race.
Tank up now. Nascar season ends in November.
Here are 12 racing-star wines to try:
2004 Bennett Lane Maximus ($35): A cab-merlot-syrah blend that's exceptionally tasty for the price.
2006 Bennett Lane Maximus White ($28): An elegant and citrusy sauvignon blanc-chardonnay-muscat mix.
2004 Bennett Lane Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55): Soft, plump and intense.........
2006 White Maximus
May 28, 2007
Touted by the producer as "a perfect picnic wine," I confess that with cucumber sandwiches and watercress sandwiches (crusts cut off, please), with cold roasted chicken and caper sauce, with chilled pea soup, Bennett Lane's Maximus 2006 would be a brilliant match. We had it one night recently with shrimp tacos while watching Pan's Labyrinth. The wine is a model...of chalky elegance; its aromas of roasted lemon and lemon curd, orange zest and honeysuckle and almond blossom segue into a wine loaded with crisp citrus flavors etched with lime and grapefruit and hints of peach.
Mail Tribune - Oregon - May 16, 2007
by Clive Twitchell
Bennett Lane 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
This is a high-end Napa Valley wine retailing for $55, and it tastes like it, with rich, deep, complex flavors.
Wine Spectator Online - April 17, 2007
Wine Spectator Online - April 17, 2007
You may consider NASCAR to be the domain of tank tops, bad hairdos and beer drinking, but one Napa Valley wine producer (not to mention Richard Childress and Mike Skinner) is trying to change the beer-drinking part of the equation. Bennett Lane Winery owner Randy Lynch has recently announced a two-year partnership with Sonoma, Calif.'s Infineon Raceway, in which his winery will be the title sponsor of the upcoming NASCAR Camping World Series West Event. The raceway will also begin serving Bennett Lane Maximus and Cabernet Sauvignon by the glass. Lynch, himself a former amateur racecar driver, is no stranger to the racetrack. He currently owns a NASCAR West division team, whose No. 2 Bennett Lane Winery car won the 2007 West Series championship. This year Lynch's wife, Lisa Lynch, will be heading up a second Bennett Lane team, represented by the No. 24 Maximus, which will compete against the No. 2 Bennett Lane car. Unfiltered is still working out the kinks on its own racecar, which will feature a wine fridge in the trunk, a cork dashboard and an engine that runs on grape pomace.
San Francisco Chronicle - April 13, 2007
2003 Bennett Lane Napa Valley Cabernet
Chronicle's Wine Selections, Napa Valley Cabernets $36-$50
".......This wine finished in the money with our panel because of its bright red fruit flavors and fine tannins in the end...."
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."
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
TOP SCORES 2006
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!
Maximus Red and White Feasting Wines
Drink of the Week
Beer may have the pole position when it comes to NASCAR fans' favorite drinks, but wine is coming on strong. According to a study conducted by ACNielsen and Nielsen Sports, race car enthusiasts are drinking 22 percent more wine than a year ago. It's true, the average fan spent only $14.60 more in 2006 than they did in 2005, and the grand total was only $81.40 per year. Then again, there are 75 million NASCAR freaks in the U.S. alone. That means a lot of extra cabernet and pinot is getting poured during Daytona.
A number of race car drivers run wineries, as well, including Mario Andretti, Richard Childress and Randy Lewis. Former racer Randy Lynch is the first vintner to own a NASCAR team. Lynch and his wife Lisa bought Bennett Lane Winery in Napa Valley a few years ago and launched the Bennett Lane NASCAR team to much fanfare. Their wines are about as subtle as the sponsor stickers on a stock car. The choicest offerings are the red and white Maximus Feasting Wines. A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah, the red has been a critical darling since its inception. The 2003 vintage jumps out of the starting gate with a deep, rich earthiness that gives way to racy hints of red currant, cherry, tobacco, cedar and mocha. (It may be hard to find but the 2004 is being released any day.)
The white has telltale signs of muscat (orange blossom) mixed with chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. It's crisp and sweet with peach and passion fruit notes, balanced by a layer of minerality. The 2005 sold out. The 2006 will be available in April, and you better get it while you can. These NASCAR folks act fast.
-- James Oliver Cury
Time Magazine Online - March 5, 2007
The Latest Speedway Necessity: A Corkscrew by Stacie Stukin
NASCAR's ratings may have fallen, but at least one Nielsen metric has gone up: wine consumption among NASCAR fans jumped 22% in 2006 compared with the previous year, according to a Nielsen Sports survey. Former racer Randy Lynch helped drive the increase as the first team owner to slap a wine logo on a stock car--in 2003--for his Bennett Lane brand,which has received 90+ scores from Wine Spectator. This year Richard Childress, owner of three Nextel Cup teams and two Busch series teams, will target first-time wine drinkers with his Childress Classic, a checkered-flag-labeled Cab Merlot. But some old-school fans like Texas racing legend A.J. Foyt aren't savoring the trend. A die-hard beer drinker, Foyt says he'll keep steering clear of wine, adding, "I've never been into crap like that.
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.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, March 1 2007
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, March 1 2007
Bennetts rev up reds and NASCAR
by Bob Hosman
According to a recent AC Nielsen report, wine consumption among NASCAR fans is up 22 percent over last year. That's good news for Randy and Lisa Lynch, owners of Bennett Lane Winery in Napa. They are the first California vintners to sponsor a NASCAR team.
When the Lynches bought Bennett Lane Winery in 2003, they quickly turned it into one of California's best wineries as well as best-kept secrets.
If you're among those who haven't tasted what Bennett has to offer, you're in for a treat. Concentrating on cabernet sauvignon, Bennett brought Rob Hunter on board as winemaker, signed contracts for some of the best fruit in the Napa Valley and planted vines on property they purchased.
The result: three extraordinary reds. The 2004 Bennett Lane Maximus is an introductory wine, a blend of cabernet, merlot and syrah. It's a user-friendly red, ready to drink now, and, considering its quality, a definite "best buy." The 2004 Bennett Lane Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is another favorite. "We're not going for the `big bang,'" explains winemaker Hunter. This Napa Valley cab shows lush tannins that deliver a luxurious taste.
When it comes to the 2003 Bennett Lane Primus Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, I'd match it against wines selling for twice the price. Produced from cabernet grapes harvested from two of Napa's most prestigious vineyards, the Primus is a "super-premium" red.
SERVE WITH: Enjoy any of the Bennett Lane cabs with steaks, prime rib, lamb and pasta dishes made with rich cheese or meat sauce.
Wine Lines - December 27, 2006
By Bob Johnson, December 27, 2006
"Didn't get everything you wanted for Christmas?.....Here are some tasty wines worth seeking out, along with their original suggested retail prices.
Bennett Lane 2004 Maximus Napa Valley
Bordeaux meets Provence in this uniquely Californian blend of Cabernet Sauvignon(51 percent), Merlot(29 percent) and Syrah(20 percent).
Bennett Lane bottles a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a Reserve Cabernet, both of which garner rave reviews. So, why blend such wonderful Cabernet with two other varieties? The answer is simple: The cuvee is delicious, beautifully melding the individual high points of the individual varieties.
Maximus offers aromas and flavors of red currant, raspberry, boysenberry, blueberry and caramel, along with notes of ceadr and baking chocolate. You won't find that many descriptors in the typical bottle of Cabernet, or even a Reserve Cab.
And here's a bonus: Maximus matches beautifully with a wide array of entrees, from various cuts of beef to game, as well as hearty pasta dishes."