Benovia Winery is a small producer of high-end wines — especially pinot noir. How small? Total production on their excellent 2014 Fort Ross Seaview Chardonnay was just 12 barrels: for some big wineries, that would constitute spillage.
These are not, however, wines that deserve to have even a drop go to waste, as we learned at a wine dinner this weekend at the Hotel Viking. About 30 guests gathered in a hotel ballroom for what turned out to be an intimate education about a brand that’s not even sold (yet) in Rhode Island: big circular tables, along with some generous pours, facilitated friendly conversation among dinner guests as well as with Benovia owner Joe Anderson and his sales and marketing manager, Bob Cooley, both on hand to guide guests through a half-dozen paired wine courses . Tasting portions prepared by Hotel Viking Executive Chef Barry Correia included small plates of seared scallops, lamb chops, and venison.
Benovia, located in the Russian River Valley, for more than a decade has been the passionate occupation of Anderson, a former healthcare executive), his wife and partner Mary Dewane, and winemaker Mike Sullivan. The wines, primarily chardonnay, pinot noir and zinfandel but also some grenache, are uniformly excellent, but what really stands out is the 2014 Tilton Hill Pinot Noir — well rounded with notes of currant and black cherry. As for the pairings, we loved the match of the 2014 Zinfandel Sonoma with the chocolate mocha cherry pots de creme for dessert.
Price points for the wines ranged from $36 for the 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay that opened the event to $60 for the Tilton Hill — all pretty good values in our estimation. One catch, however: you can’t presently buy Benovia wines in Rhode Island wine shops. So how do you get a taste of their excellent harvest? If you live in Massachusetts or Connecticut, you can order by mail and have wine shipped to your home. If you’re a Rhode Islander … order some and have it shipped to friends you can trust in a neighboring state, since it’s illegal to ship wine by mail in the Ocean State.
Or, better yet, wait ’til summer, when Anderson docks his yacht, Bella Una, in Newport Harbor (at 41 North) and hosts his annual wine tastings — part of a tour that also takes him to Nantucket, Boston, and down the East Coast. Check the Benovia website for details.
Also, it’s not too late to sign up for Hotel Viking’s final event of its 2017 Wine Festival: Jardin Stellenboch wines from South Africa will be featured on Sat., March 26; tickets are $119 per person, and these events do sell out, so book now if you want to get in on some great wine pairings in a fun, informative setting!
(Cover photo: Hotel Viking Executive Chef Barry Correia and Benovia Winery owner Joe Anderson; all photos @ Bob Curley)