Story and photos by Dwight Casimere
I normally don't recommend wines to my readers that are above the $35 price point, but Benziger Coelo Pinot Noir Terra Nuema is such an excellent example of how fine a wine can be made from this elusive and finicky grape, that I've made a rare exception. The aroma, first of all, is an enticing mix of crushed red flowers and hints of luscious, dripping ripe blackberries. The fruit flavors continue to caress the palate and blend with cranberry, pomegranate and black pepper, followed by hints of handfuls of black earth just after the rain. A sophisticated edge of English Breakfast tea and a whiff of newly oiled leather completes the overwhelmingly satisfying flavor experience. This is a sterling example of the type of true-to-the-terroir wines that are being produced on the Sonoma Coast. With its rich, dark volcanic soil and climate of bright, sunny, hot afternoons, bookended by Pacific Ocean breezes and dampening fog, the Sonoma Coast is an ideal environment for growing this delicate grape variety. The region doesn't nearly get the glowing press that its cousins to the north in Washington State and Oregon get. Perhaps the arrival of this wholly balanced and appealing offering will turn some heads in Sonoma's direction. Perfect as a sipping wine for solace and contemplation or a magnificent companion with your favorite food indulgence (please, no burgers or pizza, splurge on the lobster, duck or fois gras, prime aged steak grilled on an open wood fire, or a simple homemade pasta dish drizzled in butter and shaved white truffles.