Bennett Lane Winery

2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon

California: Napa Valley

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Mission Codename: King of Kings

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Now that our Operatives have become huge fans of Bennett Lane Winery, retrive their 91-point King, their 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Bennett Lane Winery

Wine Subject: 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Rob Hunter

Backgrounder:The Napa Valley, best known for producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, also produces some of the finest red blends available. For today’s fantastic wine, Agent Red was dispatched to Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga at Napa Valley’s northern end – where he retrieved their bold and big 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a prized wine from a prized vintage!

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark ruby red with darker heart and concentrated color out to the ruby-hued edge of the wine. On giving the wine a swirl, the surface of the wine shows as tight springiness. The wine settles quickly, leaving behind tightly-spaced legs that start off thick and then go skinny as the make their way slowly down the glass.

Smell – On opening, the wine is coy, and restrained. It took some good swirling to coax the wine out of its shell. After some excited agitation, the wine emerges, revealing subtleties and aromas that were simply missing from the wine minutes earlier. Dark, dried mixed flowers lead the way, yielding to dark mixed berries, with pronounced young blackberry and dusty bramble, with mixed sweetwoods, cedar and oak. These are eventually joined by hints of cigar, leather and eucalyptus.

Feel – Very smooth, light, lush and soft on the attack. The wine begins tender and round, and then medium-grained tannins make a slow appearance that eventually leads to a soft dryness all around the palate.

Taste – Delicious and complex with balanced tart and sweet flavors of blackberry, dark plum, smoked blueberry, dusty dried dark flower petals, leather, tobacco leaf and a hint of dark spice.

Finish – Long and bright, with sultry dark and tart flavors that linger. After a spell, a gentle dryness is introduced, making your mouth water.

Conclusion – Be patient with this big wine and you will be rewarded. Decant the wine for at least 30 minutes, and you will find great reward in your glass. Give the wine a series of hearty swirls and you will witness an evolution in your glass, as softer and more complex aromatics are revealed, and deeper and more authentic flavors emerge. Enjoy the wine on its own, or pair it, easily, with most meals. Enjoy now, or cellar for the next 10 years.

Mission Report:

What follows is a retransmission of our 2009 profile and interview with Bennett Lane winemaker, Rob Hunter:


SUBJECT: Rob Hunter, Bennett Lane Winery

DATE OF BIRTH: January 1960

PLACE OF BIRTH: San Francisco, CA

WINE EDUCATION: UC Davis, BS, Winery & Vineyard Management (Three Majors of Enology, Viticulture & Agricultural Economics)

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Internships at Woodbury Winery, Dom. Chandon & Schramsburg. Asst Winemaker at Groth V & W (83-86). Winemaker at Robert Keenan (86-90), Lyeth (90-92) & Markam (93-97). VP & Dir. Of Winemaking at Sterling Vineyards (97-04). Winemaker at Bennett Lane (2004 – present

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: To highlight varietal fruit flavor by picking at flavor maturity rather than numerical ripeness.

SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Aromatic White and Bordeaux Red Wines

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Helping make the Groth 1985 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, the first US Robert Parker 100 point Wine.

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Being elected to be the President of the Napa Valley Wine Technical Society. I nearly flunked Biochemistry 101B, had a horrible time with Chemistry overall, and never thought or even still think of myself as a “technical” type of Winemaker!!

WINEMAKER QUOTE: “My wines show my passion for perfection! One can never achieve true perfection, but they can strive for it through excellence. But you must always remember to keep your sense of humor!! Humor is infectious. Humor and Passion are the keys to life!"


AGENT RED: Greetings, Rob. We are thrilled to be showing your White Maximus today. Our Operatives loved your Red Max, so thanks for allowing us special access to today’s wine!

ROB: Always a pleasure, Agent Red.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

ROB: Yes, during my First internship working for Russ Woodbury.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

ROB: Probably working for Nils Venge at Groth. I learned about Winemaking at Davis, I learned how to make wine from Nils.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

ROB: To highlight the Varietal’s fruit flavor while taking a minimalistic approach in the cellar. Don’t over oak or over work the wines.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

ROB: The wines of Trimbach

RED: How long have you been making wine?

ROB: Since 1981, so that’s 29 years!!

RED: Who do you make wine for?

ROB: Predominantly Bennett Lane. That’s my “real job”!! I have my my own brand, Hunter III Wines, I also run my family’s Winery, Robert Hunter Winery, in Sonoma Valley, and I consult for Charter Oak Winery and Y3 Winery.

RED: Tell me, what makes the Napa Valley so special?

ROB: Napa Valley has such a vast array of soil types and micro-climates that make it a wonderful patchwork quilt of unique viticultural areas to chose from.

RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?

ROB: Study up, and find a small Winery where you can intern at. Then watch and learn. Make sure not to ask too many questions!! (Winemakers can be moody souls when they get busy!)

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

ROB: Worrying about the rain!!

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today

WINEMAKER: The White Maximus is a delightfully aromatic wine, 88% SB, 10% Chard, 2% Muscat. The Chard is for body and texture. The wine should be served well chilled. Don’t worry, the Muscat’s aromatics come right through and make the wine delightful even when cold!!

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

ROB: Ceviche is fantastic!!

RED: Yum! Please share one thing about yourself that few people know

ROB: I was almost an opera singer.

RED: Cool. Tell me, what is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

ROB: Chardonnay, Bennett Lane Reserve, of Course!!

RED: Right answer! Now, how would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

ROB: With appropriate stemware. Poor stemware drives me crazy. You might as well drink it out of a coffee mug.

RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?

ROB: Sauternes.

RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?

ROB:What is your favorite type of cheese to go with wine? Morbier. It goes great with ANY wine, red, white, sauternes, even port!!

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

ROB: Until next time, Agent Maximus, err, Red

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Bennett Lane Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

91 PointsWine Spectator – Perfumed floral and currant scents have a touch of cedar and nutmeg. Well-proportioned, elegant and concentrated, this finishes with a long, tapered aftertaste that firms up nicely. Best from 2010 through 2016.—J.L.

About This Wine:

This 2005 release begins with aromas of cocoa, cherry and plum. Subtle hints of all spice, cedar and toffee develop in the glass as the wine opens. On the palate there are rich flavors of mocha, chocolate and raspberry that lead to an elegant finish, with layers of rich texture and incredible length. The fruit for this wine is sourced primarily from two of our favorite vineyards. The Taplin 2 block of Lewelling vineyard in St Helena has been a main component of our Reserve Cabernet since its first bottling in 2002. Farmed by our vineyard manager Doug Wight, this vineyard always shows as the best of the best in our cellar. The newest component of this wine is our own Lynch Family Vineyard, from owner Randy and Lisa’s Estate in Calistoga. This vineyard is producing some amazing Cabernet Sauvignon and we are so proud to see our Estate wines as part of our Reserve program.

About The Winery:

Follow Napa Valley’s Route 29 north to Calistoga, and then keep going just 2 1/2 more miles. You’ll arrive at the pinnacle of the Napa Valley – the northernmost wedge where the Vaca mountain range meets the Mayacamas range. Here you will also find Bennett Lane Winery, sitting snugly at the edge of its own well-maintained Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard.

Owners Randy and Lisa Lynch purchased the property only five and a half years ago, but Bennett Lane is already making a splash in wine country with its lush textured Cabernet Sauvignon and a no-nonsense red wine varietal blend called Maximus, composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The winery has garnered an incredible thirteen 90+ Point Scores from Wine Spectator in four short years.

Maximus leads the way in Bennett Lane’s quest to produce high quality Napa Valley red wine. The 2002 Maximus was named the Top Value Napa Valley Cabernet for the 2002 vintage by Wine Spectator’s James Laube and the 2003 Maximus made a splash with a 90 Point rating from the Wine Spectator. Our newest vintage, 2005 Maximus, was also awarded 90 Points by Wine Spectator and was named an “Outstanding Vallue”.

The Cabernet Sauvignon program at Bennett Lane has two stars shining, the Napa Valley Cabernet and the Primus Reserve Cabernet. Our 2003 Vintages were both listed among the Top 50 Cabs in Napa for the year, with the Reserve scoring a stellar 93 Points. The 2004 releases followed suit, with a 91 Point Score for the Reserve and 92 Points for our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Our latest release is the 2006 Reserve Cabernet, scoring 92 Points in Wine Spectator.

About The Winemaker:

With more than 20 years of Napa winemaking under his belt, Rob Hunter joined Bennett Lane Winery as Winemaker in April 2005. Most recently Rob served as Vice President and Director of Winemaking for Sterling Vineyards, where he revolutionized Sterling’s wine style and defined the winery as a pioneer and leader in the Napa Valley. He also previously held posts as winemaker for Markham Vineyards, Vice President and Winemaker for Lyeth Winery and Winemaker and General Manager from Robert Keenan Winery. At Bennett Lane, Hunter will oversee production of the winery’s signature Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and Maximus, a ‘red feasting wine’ a whimsical blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah.

‘Working with Bennett Lane Owner Randy Lynch is an exciting prospect. Randy and I have similar palates; we are both very much attracted to intense black cherry fruit and a big jammy style,’ said Hunter. ‘In addition, working with Bennett Lane offers me the chance to help guide and shape the winemaking direction of a newer winery.’

Randy Lynch commented, ’I’m thrilled to be working with Rob, and I think it’s great to have him on board.’

Rob lives in St. Helena. An avid trail runner, woodworker and gardener, Rob also has a daughter, Haley.

Technical Analysis:

Vintage: 2005

Wine Type: Red Wine

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvingnon

Appellation: Napa Valley

Harvest Date: October 2005

Acid: 0.60

pH: 3.7

Aging: 18 months in French Oak, 30% new

Bottling Date: June 2007

Alcohol: 14.5%

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