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Wine, Food and Sustainability at Riverbench Vineyard & Winery

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Nestled on the southeastern edge of the Santa Maria Valley along the long and winding Foxen Canyon Road you will find Riverbench Vineyard & Winery. Established in 1973, the property provided Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes to local Santa Barbara County Wineries. Over the years Riverbench became a prominent name in the area due to the quality of the grapes that were produced. In 2004, a group of local wine enthusiasts purchased the property and decided to start producing their own wine label, thus creating Riverbench Winery. In the beginning, the vintages included estate and reserve chardonnay and pinot noir, but since 2004 the portfolio has increased.

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Riverbench has one of the most inviting properties you will find along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. The tasting room is located in a completely renovated farm house on the edge of the Vineyards. When we visited Riverbench, the cost for a tasting was $10 and below is a partial list of the wines we tasted:

Estate Pinot Noir (2008)
“The vivid burgundy color is slightly darker than 2006, thanks to an almost textbook perfect harvest in 2007. The wine is commanding and ripe but not over extracted. Sumptuous favors of strawberries and cherries coat the tongue, but the finish still holds our signature smoke and clove; it perfectly complements grilled cornmeal crusted quail or a wild mushroom pizza.”

Estate Chardonney (2007)
“There’s something enviable about a Chardonnay that is able to show balance between rich fruit flavors and a delicate buttery note; an oaked Chardonnay isn’t hard to find, and there certainly exists a fine line between luscious and overdone. When you find a wine this well-adjusted, you won’t want to let it go. Our Chardonnay is truly luscious, showing tropical fruit flavors typical of our vineyard while being luxurious and substantial enough to boast a lasting finish with lingering hints of honey and apple. Perhaps you’ll enjoy this one evening with grilled halibut, or as the perfect accompaniment to she-crab soup. Either way, keep a bottle in the closet for those important dinners- you’re sure to win over the boss’s wife.”

We purchased the Chardonney; it had a very nice flavor and reasonable price.

Mesa Pinot Noir (2007)
“There’s a special section, deep in the vineyard, that’s been affectionately termed “The Mesa” for many years now. The fruit from these vines is remarkably different Pinot Noir; there is a liveliness that refreshes the palate and stirs the senses. One taste of these grapes and it was obvious that we needed to try this section on its own.”

In the summer of 2008, the barrel samples revealed we had something special on our hands, and now that it’s had some time to age in the bottle, we’ve decided to introduce it to you.

This wine is surprisingly soft and feminine on the palate, yet its elegance and brightness are balanced by a lift on the palate and a more assertive finish. In other words, this is no wimpy wine. Earth tones match the red fruit flavors, and the oak plays subtly in the background. Try this one of a kind representation of Riverbench with cranberry glazed Cornish game hens or beef Wellington.”

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If you like what you find after a tasting, be sure to join the Riverbench Wine club which offers some really great benefits that include:

Complimentary tasting for up to four people in the tasting room or Members-Only Wine Room.

Select Member discounts on wines and merchandise.

Limited Production wines delivered right to your door three times annually.

A club that fits your preferences with various tiers and options.

Member exclusive events and specials.

Complimentary email newsletter.

Access to Club member VIP Day at the Winery, private events including a tour, private tasting, and winemaker’s lunch for up to 6 people.

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Aside from wine, Riverbench takes it a step further by adding food. On the Riverbench website under their “Food & Wine” section, you will find a wide variety of recipes with wine pairings. From Braised Rabbit and Herbs with 2007 Estate Pinot Noir to Truffle and Crab Mac and Cheese with 2006 Reserve Chardonnay, you are sure to find a recipe that will temp any palate. They also offer events at the vineyard that couple great Riverbench wines with food. The week after we visited, Riverbench hosted a St. Patrick’s Day event that offered green chardonnay and homemade pizza.

But it’s not all about the wine and food, at the end of the day it’s also about sustainability. As the world becomes “greener”, many wineries are looking to become more sustainable in order to preserve the environment that they operate in for years to come. After speaking with Laura Mohensi, General Manager of Riverbench Winery, she explained that “we are really proud of what we’ve put together in only a few short years, especially the “green” aspect.” The tasting room is a Santa Barbara Green Business the only one to be certified and the Vineyards are on track to be SIP certified later this year. You can learn more about it at www.sipthegoodlife.org

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If you find yourself along the Foxen Canyon wine trail be sure to stop by Riverbench Vineyard & Winery. They are located at 6020 Foxen Canyon Road Santa Maria, CA 93454. If you can’t make it there in person, be sure to visit their website at http://www.riverbench.com/index.php

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