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Benton-Lane Winery
by
Kathy and Terry Sullivan

Benton-Lane WinerySummary: Benton-Lane Winery, a family-owned winery and vineyard is located in Monroe, Oregon. The vineyards are sustainably farmed. The focus of the winery is on producing estate-grown Pinot Noir wines.

Benton-Lane WineryWe visited Benton-Lane Winery in November 2019 where we quickly met Michael Hammond (pictured left), one of the winemakers on the winemaking team. The emphasis at Benton-Lane Winery is on the care of the vineyards and producing quality wines with a team. The winery name was formed from its location close to two counties, Benton County and Lane County.

History

Steve and Carol Girard were high school sweethearts from the Bay Area of California. Their parents liked wine and this ardor for wines was passed down to Steve and Carol. The couple learned to work in vineyards and a winery. They founded their first winery, Girard in Napa. During their wine journey, they discovered Pinot Noir and a passion for making Pinot Noir. Steve and Carol looked for a wine region where Pinot Noir would excel. They trekked through California, France, Tasmania and Oregon.

The Benton-Lane property was purchased by Steve and Carol Girard. Originally the property was a sheep ranch named Sunnymount. The rolling hillsides are considered ideal for growing Pinot Noir, a favorite of Steve and Carol. The first grapevines were planted in 1988. Today the majority of grapes are Pinot Noir using seven different clones.

While touring the vineyards and winery with Michael Hammond we learned about his early wine journey. In the beginning of Michael's career, he attended school for engineering. He realized that he was spending too much time in front of a computer and decide engineering was not for him. Michael and his father were making beer and his father encouraged him to make beer. Michael went to the wine advisor at Oregon State University in Corvallis. The advisor asked Michael if he would like to make wine. Michael signed up for the Enology and Viticulture program. His winemaking journey started.

Vineyards

Benton-Lane WineryMichael provided us with a drive through the rolling vineyards to his favorite picturesque spot that overlooks the vineyards. Unfortunately the distant hills were shrouded by a light fog but it was delightful seeing the vineyards rolling towards the tree covered hills and mountains.

The property is 318 acres and vineyards are planted on 145 acres. Michael noted that the first vineyard was planted on it own rootstock in 1989 and was recently replanted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines.

In the distance a mountain, Prairie Peak, sometimes splits the incoming weather. The vineyards are maintained using sustainable farming methods. Cover crops are used in the vineyards. Benton-Lane uses their own proprietary compost in the vineyard. They incorporate biodynamic and organic techniques into their vineyard practices. In addition, the Benton-Lane property offers habitats fo native plants, insects and wild life.

Winery

Benton-Lane WineryIn the winery, the typical punch down or pump over are not used. At Benton-Lane, the Pulsair’s “pneumatage” air mixing process is used. A bubble is released near the bottom of a tank to mix the fermenting wine and wet the cap. Michael believes that the pneumatage process is gentler on the wine, creates more even temperatures in the tanks and therefore produces a higher quality wine. The winemaking process tries to avoid at all costs the addition of sugar during the wine production. All grapes are hand harvested. The barrel room has barrels stacked five high to the ceiling.

Logo

Benton-Lane WineryThe logo resembles a postage stamp. The artist that created the logo was a stamp collector. The center of the image shows rolling hills of vineyards with evergreen trees and mountains in the background. The bottom left and right corner displays the vintage date.

The Tasting Room

Benton-Lane WineryThe bright tasting room with its honey-toned wood tasting counter enhances the comfort of visitors. Tables and chairs are available in the tasting room; an outdoor area also offers tables and chairs and would be a picturesque spot to enjoy a glass of Benton-Lane wine.

The Wines

The Pinot Gris 2017 Willamette Valley AVA had 13.5% alcohol. The wine was a light yellow color. The wine had an aroma of apple and citrus. The taste was of apple, citrus and mineral. The finish was crisp and fruity. This is a 3P wine - good for the porch, patio or pool. The grapes for this wine were sourced from a neighbor.

Pinot Blanc 2016 Willamette Valley AVA had 14% alcohol. This estate grown wine was a yellow color. The aroma was of tropical fruits. The taste included pineapple, papaya and lemon. The finish was crisp and fruity.

Chardonnay 2017 was 13.5% alcohol. The wine was a yellow color with a gold hue. The aroma was of apple and lemon. The taste included apple and lemon with a subtle oak influence. The mouthfeel was very velvety. The finish was crisp and fruity with a faint touch of caramel.

Benton-Lane WineryEstate Pinot Noir 2016 Willamette Valley AVA with 14.1% alcohol was a translucent ruby color. The aroma was of raspberries. The wine had a smooth mouthfeel, with some leather notes. The wine was full bodied with bold tannins. The finish was crisp and fruity with a light hint of leather.

Reserve Pinot Noir 2016 Willamette Valley AVA had 14.5% alcohol. The wine was a translucent dark ruby color. The wine had a raspberry aroma. The taste was of raspberries with a hint of licorice. The mouthfeel was silky. This full-bodied wine offered bold tannins. The finish was very fruity with just a hint of oak. Pair this wine with steak or while relaxing next to a fireplace.

Events

Benton-Lane offers various public events. With a large pizza oven onsite, pizza events would be fun to participate in. The winery offers hikes through the vineyards. Trivia events also take place at the winery.

Stop by the Benton-Lane Winery for a wine tasting. Sign up for a hike in the vineyard to enjoy the fresh air, prolific vineyards and photo opportunities.

Benton Lane Winery
23924 Territorial Rd,
Monroe, Oregon 97456

GPS: N44º 17.2567’ W123º 17.8383’

 

Article written December 2019.



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