Benessere is located on Big Tree Road which you will find to the right as you leave St. Helena toward Calistoga. It is past Berringer and St. Clement wineries. With a large sign for Big Tree Road, it is difficult to miss the turn. Turn right and continue down that road and you will find this hidden gem of a winery that offers a delightful Italian twist.
The tasting is only $15 and includes six different wines. Tastings may be shared, and if you buy a bottle or two they will waive the tasting fee. After tasting their wines you will certainly want to purchase some. There are outdoor tables at which to sit or you may have the honor of tasting inside at the table once owned by Charles Shaw. We opted to taste inside since it had been raining out.
Our tasting began with the Benessere 2010 Pinot Grigio at $22. This had a floral and spice nose with some lively crisp citrus on entry balanced with some softer fruit and a hint of sweetness in mid palate. A perfect summer wine. This followed with the Benessere 2010 Rosato at $16, a rose type wine made from Sangiovese and Zinfandel. It was a drier, refreshing style of blush or rose type wine.
I really loved the Benessere 2008 Sangiovese at $28. They describe this as the most food friendly wine in the world and it may very well be, but I loved drinking it alone. This is the best California Sangiovese I can remember tasting. Although it is extremely smooth and easy to drink it has layers of fruit and complexity. The aroma is simply delightful and the balance is perfect. An absolute gem of a wine.
This was followed by two Zinfandels, the Benessere 2008 Holy Stone Collins Old Vine Zinfandel at $32 and the Benessere Black Glass Zinfandel at $28. The former was softer with good fruit, being very easy to drink without food. The later was brighter with more blackberry and tannins. It would be best paired with food and might age well, although one never knows for sure with a Zin.
As much as I loved the Sangiovese I was even more taken with the last wine, the Benessere 2006 Phenomenon ($50). This is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Merlot Syrah blend that the winery says is “made in the tradition of the grand Super Tuscan wines of Italy.” It is 56% Cab and 37% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot and 2% Syrah. It is a rather intense wine, complex, interesting and bold but very drinkable now. With a blackberry aroma and cherry with blackberry on the palate, good tannins, firm grip and a luscious, layered mid palate, it was great alone but would pair well with food. Both of us simply loved it and found it to be one of the best wines we have encountered in Napa. I doubt if you will find any other wine in Napa Valley that tastes at all like this wine. They had a special sale on so if you bought three bottles it was 20% off, making this wine only $33 a bottle. It is well worth the $50 but at $33 it is a fantastic deal.
Benessere is so taster/visitor friendly that almost every Yelp review mentions this and that was certainly our experience. It is also very unique in the type of Italian varietal wines it offers. The decisive factor, though, is that their wines are so good and include what is probably the best Sangiovese in Napa Valley at only $28 plus a most unusual and wonderful Cab and Sangiovese blend which they call the Phenomenon. Frankly, I think Benessere Vineyards is in itself a phenomenon. If you want to try some really good Italian style wines in Napa Valley, this is the place to visit. We hope to return soon.
1010 Big Tree RdSaint Helena, CA 94574
Date of visit: February 8, 2012