Benziger Family Winery
Benziger Family Winery is the current project of famed winemaker, Mike Benziger. The winery blends unique art with interesting varietals. The Benzigers have been trendsetters ever since they entered the wine industry.
Mike attended college at Holy Cross and majored in political sociology. In 1980, Mike and his father Bruno purchased a 14 acre vineyard in Sonoma County and founded Glen Ellen Winery. They produced their first Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc vintage of 6,500 cases in 1981.
Bruno Benziger was an astute marketer and realized there was a niche to fill between the generic jug wines and premium wines that cost more than $10 a bottle. Glen Ellen began producing $5 bottles that became known as “fighting varietals.” After the 1981 vintage, demand exceeded supply in 1982. Benziger purchased Cabernet Sauvignon from Martini and Prati as well as several white varietals from Seghesio.
He bottled them under the Glen Ellen Proprietor’s Reserve label. The wines sold extremely quickly and the “fighting varietals” business model was born. In a few years, production was over 4 million cases a year. This is one of the most dramatic success stories in the history of California Wine Country. The M. G. Vallejo brand followed Glen Ellen’s initial success.
As more competition entered the previously unrealized niche, the Benziger Family sold Glen Ellen to Hublein for $80 million. The then established Benziger Family Winery on Sonoma Mountain. Their wines currently compete in the high end market. Their vineyard on Sonoma Mountain has been biodynamically certified.
Mike Benziger is an avid proponent of the philosophy that great wines are made in the vineyard. He believes in using natural pest control, abhors pesticides and uses compost to invigorate his soil.
His winery is located a mile west of the town of Glen Ellen, near Jack London’s one-time home. He was one of the first California vintners to truly understand terroir as a concept that does not only include location, but also the people that take care of a particular location.