Michael Benedict, the botanist who co-founded Sanford & Benedict Winery in 1971 and perpetually modified Santa Barbara County’s wine business, died this week. He was 83 years previous, and the trigger was melanoma.
Benedict and Richard Sanford planted their winery within the early Seventies, ultimately proving that pinot noir might thrive within the valleys between Buellton and Lompoc. Their discovery drew world consideration and energized the area. In 2001, the encircling space grew to become federally designated because the Sta. Rita Hills, which is now thought of probably the greatest locations for pinot noir on the planet. Sanford & Benedict Winery nonetheless exists, and lots of the unique vines proceed to supply extremely coveted grapes each classic.
“The wine business kind of discovered me relatively than the opposite means round,” stated Benedict in 2020. He began his skilled life as an educational, dwelling and finding out the botany of Santa Cruz Island, the place he realized that the island’s fundamental valley was as soon as residence to a considerable winery and vineyard within the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
“I used to be enthusiastic about how this might occur so near the ocean,” he defined. “Everybody knew that wine requires numerous sunshine and plenty of heat.”
He realized that, whereas the general local weather was moderated by the ocean, the island’s small mountain ranges protected the valley from overwhelming maritime affect. He contemplated the place which may apply to the mainland, and realized the east-to-west mendacity Santa Ynez Valley may possess comparable attributes.
He was crusing fairly a bit at the moment with Sanford, and their rich associates agreed to again a winery enterprise in the event that they discovered the precise place. In 1970, they bought vines from the unique DeMattei-Nielson Winery within the Santa Maria Valley and planted a four-acre nursery at Betty Williams’ farm, which grew to become Buttonwood. Then they began looking for a really perfect location, from British Columbia and Oregon to Northern California and Baja California. They stored coming again to the western reaches of the Santa Ynez Valley, which opens immediately onto the chilly Pacific Ocean.
“From that time on, it was sort of luck,” stated Benedict. “Lo and behold, midway between Buellton and Lompoc, there was this massive ranch that hadn’t been farmed since World Battle II.”
That property grew to become often known as the Sanford & Benedict Winery. Inside a couple of years, the winery’s pinot noir, planted in 1973, gained huge vital reward — particularly that first business classic of 1976, which author Robert Balzer popularized in his article “American Grand Cru in a Lompoc Barn.”
When Sanford left to begin his personal vineyard in 1980, Benedict stored managing the winery and promoting grapes for the following decade. After his unique traders handed away, Benedict and the remaining pursuits bought the property in 1990. He retired to Yankee Farm close to Hope Ranch in Santa Barbara, raised his daughter, Morgan, and spent a lot of his time in Mexico.
“I by no means fully left the wine business,” defined Benedict, who would typically provide his recommendation to vintners. In recent times, he’d spent extra time on the previous Sanford & Benedict Winery, advising the present proprietor of Sanford Vineyard, John Terlato, and winemaker Trey Fletcher.
In 2010, he started consulting for Lavender Oak Vineyard on the japanese finish of Santa Rosa Highway, the place the homeowners needed to plant a winery. Once more hitting the local weather and geologic analysis, Benedict found that this hotter, clay-rich pocket of the Santa Ynez Valley was most like Pomerol in Bordeaux, France, residence to the world’s finest merlot, bolstered by simply the correct quantity of cabernet franc. Merlot grew to become the vineyard’s flagship grape.
Benedict’s path into wine was at all times rooted in his Santa Cruz Island experiences, which remained a beloved a part of his recollections all through his life. Based on Marla Day by day of the Santa Cruz Island Basis, Benedict was the primary director of the College of California’s Santa Cruz Island Reserve, from 1964 to 1968, and even rediscovered a small inhabitants of the uncommon Santa Cruz Island endemic bush mallow that had been misplaced since 1930. In 1996, Benedict grew to become member #36 of the All Eight Membership, that means that he’d set foot on all eight California Channel Islands.
“It was Michael’s huge information of botany, geology, and local weather that led him to analyze the probabilities of rising grapes in numerous native geographical areas,” stated Day by day, who knew him for greater than half of a century.
Although they weren’t shut for a few years, Benedict’s former enterprise associate Richard Sanford stated that they made workforce within the early days, with Michael’s botany abilities and his personal geology and geography background. “Sanford & Benedict Winery was an excellent journey,” stated Sanford.
Michael Benedict is survived by his daughter, Morgan Benedict.
This creating story could also be up to date as extra data turns into obtainable.