Benessere Vineyards is located at the end of the quiet peaceful Big Tree Road, just north of Lodi Lane and the town of St. Helena. Their vineyards sit next to the Napa River. This winery was purchased out of bankruptcy in 1994, the existing vines had been neglected for too long and were completely replaced with new plantings. Because the current vineyard location used to be a thoroughbred horse ranch, vineyard workers sometimes run across old horseshoes. Obsidian is found in their vineyards – this rock was used by local Indian tribes to make arrowheads and other tools – they appropriately named their Zinfandel Vineyard “Black Glass.”
Their first vintage was merely 135 cases of a Sangiovese in 1995. Owners John and Ellen Benish are from Chicago and ran a successful school bus company before falling in love with wine during a trip to Italy. Benessere means “well being” or “prosperity” in Italian which can easily apply to those living and working in the wine industry in the gorgeous Napa Valley. There is even a rumor that drinking Benessere Wines will bring you good luck, prosperity and fortune.
Benessere’s core is specializing in Italian style wine and grape varieties. As of the time of this review they produce Pinot Grigio, Moscato di Canelli, Sagrantino, and Aglianico. They also make two red blends, Sorridente (“smiling”), and Phenomenon.
As a result tasting here is a bit different from the almost obligatory Cabernet Sauvignon you will find in most area tasting rooms. This is uniquely refreshing as you will be tasting mostly Italian varietals and various unique blends. Their wines are mostly produced in fairly limited quantities and some of the wines typically available for tasting are their Rosato di Sangiovese which is a wonderful Sangiovese Rose, a “Black Glass” Zinfandel and their “Phenomenon” which represents the pinnacle of their winemaking and is a blend of Cab Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot and Syrah.
A “fun” wine that you won’t find at any other Napa wineries is the Muscat di Canelli Frizzante – a semi sparkling Muscat wine. This wine is not overly sweet. Their winemaker often makes “fun wines” typically in quantities of 100 case or less and sometimes they are available for tasting in the tasting room – usually during the winter holidays.
In addition to their Napa based winemaker, they also work with several Italian consulting winemakers. In Napa but can’t make it to their winery for some reason – not to worry, Benessere is extremely well distributed at local Napa area restaurants. Oh we haven’t yet mentioned their prices – for a small winery – their wines are among the more reasonably priced wines in Napa.
Benessere is one of up to sixteen vintners featured in The Studio by Feast it Forward (opened in June 2018). This showroom is located directly across from the Oxbow Public Market and packs in numerous experiences in a small space. This two story building houses an “experiential showroom” as founder Katie Hamilton Shaffer calls it with a focus on wine, food and music.
Each vintner represented offers several wines – several of the showroom’s sponsors have prominent placement including the Gibson Guitar Lounge. A Chocolate tasting is also offered and there is a vinyl station for playing a variety of old records. Upstairs features a demo kitchen – when shows are being filmed here, televisions downstairs will broadcast the live feed. This kitchen can also be used for guest chefs to offer culinary classes.
And visitor’s will want to stop by their bathroom – a television embedded in a mirrow plays Feast if Forward culinary shows. The site can be used for a number of events – they have plenty of space in the back of the building. The Ultimate Airstream Film Lounge trailer is often be parked in the back – they use this trailer when they are on the road hosting unique lifestyle events. One such event at the showroom might be the “Terrible Tuesdays” in which bad films with cult like followings will be shown.
The second floor has a sizable surround building deck – and features swinging ‘beds’. This is an ideal perch to watch passerbys going to Oxbow Public Market or those enjoying the park next to the Napa River. These are also some of the best seats in the area to watch live performances at the nearby green.
For more information and or to join their wine club, visit: www.benesserevineyards.com
NOTE: This review has been identified as needing a major update.