BENTON LANE HISTORY
Steve and Carol Girard founded Benton-Lane in 1988. They shared a passionate desire to produce great Pinot Noir but, after careful consideration, decided their home state California was probably not the best place in which to grow it. Instead they looked north towards Oregon where the cooler climate offered the possibility of producing Pinot Noir with better balance, structure, and more interesting flavors.
After considerable research and countless months of looking at possible properties throughout Oregon’s Willamette Valley, they discovered an old sheep ranch called “Sunnymount” in the southern Willamette Valley, near the village of Monroe. It was immediately apparent “Sunnymount” held great potential as a vineyard site. The property is in the foothills of the costal mountain range on the west side of the valley with hillsides sloping east by southeast, a perfect orientation for planting Pinot Noir. The soils are deep, well drained, Bellpine and Jory clay-loam soils, again ideal for grape cultivation. And just as exciting was the reason the property was named Sunnymount in the first place.
Sunnymount Ranch got its name from the fact that the property sits due east from some of the highest peak in the costal range in what climatologists call the “rain shadow”. These high peaks tend to part the marine cloud layer that flows in from the Pacific Ocean, leaving Sunnymount sunnier than most of the surrounding area, hence the name Sunnymount. These sunny slopes offered the potential of earlier ripening of grapes increasing the chances of being able to complete the harvest before the fall rains make their traditional visits.
Sunnymount straddled the border between Benton and Lane counties with some of the land being in each, and so the name Benton-Lane was born. They purchased the property in 1988 and planting of Pinot Noir commenced in 1989. Over the years the vineyard has grown to 138 acres predominantly planted to Pinot Noir with 7 distinct clones on a wide variety of rootstocks carefully matched to the planting location.
Benton-Lane’s first vintage was 1992 which was custom produced at another local winery. This custom production process continued until 1997 when the Benton-Lane winery was constructed. Designed by award winning architect Rob Thallon, Benton-Lane Winery offered an exceptional, functional winemaking environment while fitting harmoniously in to the agricultural character of the surrounding area.
Benton-Lane produced Pinot Noir exclusively until 2003, when small quantities of Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc were produced from small 1 and 2 acre experimental plantings of each in the Benton-Lane vineyard. These wines were sold exclusively in the tasting room. In 2004, the winery began full-scale commercial production of Pinot Gris from grapes purchased from carefully selected Willamette Valley growers.
From time to time the winery has produced a Rosé made from 100% estate grown Pinot Noir. In 2009 the winery produced its first Chardonnay that is also only available at the winery.
Benton-Lane wines are now distributed in all 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico and several international markets.
Blair, Steve & Carol Girard