The Tram Tour at Benziger Family Winery
Guests explore Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma's Wine Country

Wine grape vineyards. Oak barrels. Stainless Steel Tanks. Scottish Highlands Cattle.

Which one of these doesn't belong?

If you guessed that this is a trick question, you're right. And if you answered that they all belong, then you've probably been to Sonoma Valley's Benziger Winery.

Benziger Winery, located in the Glen Ellen neighborhood of Sonoma Valley, has a great winery tour. You can take my word for that, or you can check with the Sonoma Index Tribune, which proclaimed it the People's Choice for The Best Winery Tour 2018. Or, which lists it in the first spot among The 7 Best Sonoma County Winery Tours.

What makes it great? Well, first of all you have options. Benziger offers four distinct winery tours appealing to four different interests and budgets. They offer the Tribute Estate Tour & Exclusive Wine Tasting, the Biodynamic Vineyard Tram Tour, the Pinot Noir "Taste of Terroir" Tour, and a Private Tour, Tasting & Lunch with a Benziger Family Member.

The Tram Tour is the most popular, and gives a broad overview of the property, the winery's history, and the winery's Biodynamic farming practices.

Founder Mike Benziger was troubled by traditional farming practices, which relied on machinery and insecticides, and which resulted in silent vineyards devoid of insects, birds, and wildlife. In the mid 1990's, Benziger began a transformation, and in 2000 Benziger Family Winery became the first in Napa or Sonoma County to be certified as a Biodynamic winemaker.

The narrated tour winds its way through hillside vineyards, and rumbles past examples of Biodynamic practices.

One example is an insectary - a garden of plants that attract beneficial insects. Another is a wine cave, which maintains aging wine at proper cool temperatures without the need for energy-gobbling air conditioning. And my favorite examples are the herds of 6 Scottish Highlander cattle and 75 sheep whose job it is to abate weeds with their appetite, till the soil with their hooves, and fertilize the vines with their... "fertilizer."

Even without the fascinating insights into earth-friendly farming, I'd recommend their winery tour because the Benziger property is just plain beautiful. The winery is situated within an inactive volcanic caldera, which is a little scary, but the last eruption was a few million years ago so it's probably safe. It features a postcard-perfect pond at the vale's low point and at its crest is a forested rim highlighted by mighty redwoods. The winery buildings, including the Victorian house that was home to several of the Benziger clan, are connected by winding pathways and surrounded by gardens and natural flora.

The place feels like Fantasyland. Not the Fantasyland that features kiddie rides and novelty frozen treats. Rather, it's a Fantasyland of natural beauty and exceptional adult beverages.

Next time you're in Sonoma, come out on a Grapeline wine tour. I say that because it'll make you happy. Then, schedule a few hours the following day to check out the Benziger Family Winery Tram Tour... because it will make you happy again.


~ Kay Syrah

Wine Country Guru Gal

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