The Jewel of Dry Creek Valley

A Visit to Michel-Schlumberger Benchland Wine Estate

There are quite a few reasons I love wine. It tastes good, for one. It makes social situations more interesting (or, in the case of uncomfortable social situations, basically tenable). But the best reason is the people.

Wine people are, at least in general, fun people. Friendly people. And the best way to find this out is to visit wine people in their wine world.

For many people, visiting a winery has a single purpose. To taste wine. Perhaps, to really taste it, but more often than not I’d wager, to simply drink it. But if your trips to wineries and tasting rooms do not involve getting to know (even a bit) the people there, you’re missing out on a lot.

This isn’t true everywhere, of course. We’ve all been to wineries and tasting rooms that are not as friendly as they could be. As they should be. Snobby or pretentious, or simply just distant and seemingly inaccessible.

But Michel-Schlumberger Benchland Wine Estate is not one of those places. It’s warm, inviting, friendly.

This last weekend, Jim Morris of Michel-Schlumberger invited my wife and me up to spend the night at one of the winery’s guest suites in celebration of our recent 4th anniversary. We jumped at the idea, having been to Michel-Schlumberger several times before, and maybe most importantly, having fallen in love with the grounds, and with their spectacular pinot blanc.

So we gladly accepted, and visited over this weekend. The grounds of the winery are more beautiful than I remember. When we arrived in the early afternoon on Saturday, the fountain courtyard was abuzz with activity, as it was “Pick Up Day” for the Michel-Schlumberger wine club members. All smiles and wine.

Sure, the estate is off the beaten path. I’m sure some people can make a day in Dry Creek Valley just driving up and down Dry Creek Road. But there are a lot of great wineries on West Dry Creek Road (Lambert Bridge and Quivira are a pair of personal favorites), and just off West Dry Creek Road is Wine Creek Road. That’s where you’ll find Benchland.

And it’s worth the drive. Not only are the grounds stunning, but the wine is killer. The pinot blanc is probably the best barbeque/picnic/hot summer night wine I have ever had. The cabernets age beautifully, and at the winery I’ve been lucky enough to sample some decade-old cabernets, and they always surprise with their subtlety and complexity.

With great wine, a sublime setting, and friendly, amazing people, Michel-Schlumberger Benchland Wine Estate truly is the jewel of Dry Creek Valley. Stop in and say “hi.” If you’re lucky, Frank might even be talking in a crazy accent that day…

And don’t miss the pinot blanc. Seriously.

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