WINEMAKING AT BENTON-LANE
All great winemaking begins in the vineyard. Benton-Lane's winemaker, and vineyard manager, work closely together to ensure the grapes that arrive at the winery during harvest are at the optimal level of maturity to produce wines of the highest possible quality. The interaction between the vineyard and the winery extends throughout the entire year because virtually every decision made in the vineyard has potential to impact the ultimate quality of the wine.
In the case of Benton-Lane Pinot Noir, our Estate Vineyard sits directly up-hill from the winery. During the harvest, picking is coordinated carefully to keep pace with the winemaking activities so the grapes are at the optimal level of ripeness and freshness to make the finest possible Pinot Noir.
Our Pinot Gris is produced from grapes purchased from carefully selected Willamette Valley growers. Our winemaker and vineyard manager work closely with our Pinot Gris growers to make sure the highest quality standards are met. Growers are encouraged to pursue the same environmentally friendly, sustainable farming methods we employ here in our Estate Vineyard at Benton-Lane.
Easy Does It!
Great Pinot Noir is made with a gentle touch here at Benton-Lane. The grapes, fresh from our vineyard, are first sorted by hand to remove any immature clusters, leaves, or other undesirable material. Then the grape clusters are de-stemmed leaving mostly whole grapes to be fermented. We utilize two different fermentation techniques in the winery.
On many lots of grapes we use the traditional, very small lot, hands-on technique that has been used for centuries to make the world's finest Pinot Noir. We utilize 1¼ ton open top fermenters and the cap of skins, pulp and seeds that float to the surface of the fermenting wine is "punched down" by hand to get optimum extraction of flavor and color from the skins. Benton-Lane's "First Class" Pinot Noir is produced utilizing this method because of the richness and concentration it produces.
The silky, velvety character that is the hallmark of Benton-Lane's Estate Pinot Noir can be, in part, attributed to our use of the innovative fermentation technique, "pneumatage". Benton-Lane has partnered with Pulse-Air Systems, Inc. in the development of this method for gently extracting the flavor and color from the grape skins during fermentation while minimizing the amount of potentially harsh, bitter tannins from the grape seeds that enter the wine. This revolutionary technique involves forming very large air bubbles in the bottom of a tank of fermenting Pinot Noir. These bubbles rise through the wine and gurgle through the cap of grapes gently extracting the flavor and color. The process is so gentle that most of the grape seeds remain within the skins minimizing the extraction of their bitter tannins into the wine. The health of the yeast in the fermenting wine benefits from the oxygen in the air bubbles that pass through wine during pneumatage. Healthy yeast produces higher quality wine with less likelihood of flavor robbing anomalies.
Benton-Lane Pinot Noir ages between 10 and 15 months in barrels. We use a combination of new and used French oak barrels that are carefully maintained to ensure fresh clean flavors in the wine. Barrels made from oak from different French forests impart different flavors and textures to the wine, and we carefully select a variety of different ones to enhance our Pinot Noir's complexity and flavor. Also, the techniques different coopers (barrel makers) utilize in making the barrels actually has an effect on how the barrels age wine. Consequently, we purchase barrels from several different coopers in the proportion our winemaker chooses to best compliment our wine style and flavor profile.
Our winemaker works carefully with Pinot Gris growers to ensure the vineyards are carefully maintained and the grapes are harvested at the peak of maturity. The whole grape clusters are loaded directly into the press so the resulting juice has minimal contact with the skins because the skins contain bitter phenolic compounds that could be detrimental to the wine quality. The majority of the Pinot Gris juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks at a very cool temperature to maintain the fresh flavors and aromas of the fruit. A small portion of the juice is barrel fermented to add greater depth and complexity to the wine without overpowering the delightful fresh fruit flavors.