In 1973, newlyweds Mike and Mary Benziger drove west and permanently settled in Northern California. Seven years later, Mike and and his brother Bruno Benziger purchased the historic Wegener Ranch on Sonoma Mountain in Glen Ellen, California. Hearing the Sirens’ call of the Golden State, over the next six years the four remaining siblings — Bob, Joe, Jerry, and Patsy, with their spouses — made their way to California.
In 1986, winemaker Joe Benziger first partnered with artist Bob Nugent to launch the Imagery Series of wines. This pairing of wine and art continues to this day, and permeates every aspect of Imagery Winery, including unique artwork replicated on every label. (Except for the wines shown here. More on that below.) The dedicated on-site art gallery features label artwork commissioned from some of the world’s most notable contemporary artists, and includes over 500 works by over 300 artists. Currently, around 60 pieces are on view in the gallery.
At any given time, as many as 35 artists are working on pieces that will appear on future Imagery wine labels. The artists are not limited by size, medium, or content – the only exception is that the work must include a likeness of the Parthenon replica on the Benziger Estate, which serves as the winery’s signature image.
Joe Benziger has dedicated his career to crafting rare wines from uncommon varietals such as Malbec, Tempranillo, and Lagrein. These limited-production wines are available to wine club members only.
However, that doesn’t mean Imagery is inaccessable. Following in her father Joe’s footsteps, middle-daughter Jamie Benziger is the winemaker in charge of Imagery’s relatively new and more popularly-priced collection of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. The label is characterized with a “drip” motif, suggestive of both wine and paint.
Imagery Chardonnay 2016
This offering presents initial subtle aromas of ripe apple, pear, and lime. It is pale-straw colored in the glass. It greets the palate with flavors of further apple and lemon, plus a touch of steeliness from the cold fermentation and minimal oak. The wine is enlivened with the addition of 5% Chenin Blanc, and the finish is bright and fresh.
This wine would work well with Vietnamese turkey and glass noodle salad, sea bass with golden mash, or kedgeree risotto.
Imagery Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
This Cab starts out with a nose of dark fruit, vanilla, and toasted oak. Then come the flavors of blackberries, plum, and cherries. The blend is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petite Syrah, the latter lending unusual spice and pepper notes. The wine is fruit forward and velvety soft, with moderate tannins and medium acidity. The winery is targeting this wine at the hotel trade, so it might take a bit of effort to locate.
Serve this easy-going red with pancetta-wrapped sausages, finger-lickin’ ribs, or saffron roast lamb with sticky garlic potatoes.
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