How often does a winery sponsor a photography class? I don’t recall any winery offering this type of class or experience. Benovia Winery located in the Russian River Valley AVA just might be the only winery ever to venture into this territory. The class was a great treat for the 32 wine and photo buffs who participated in one of two daylong sessions this past Saturday and Sunday. The attendees were instructed by Con Keyes, a long-time and now retired photographer with the L.A. Times. In addition, Bob Mosby, Benovia’s General Manager, and Tucker Catlin, vineyard developer, were present to lead us around the winery and give us insights into winery operations. The winery even went as far as bringing in some vineyard staff to work the vines, drop late-developing fruit and do some shoot thinning. They were instructed to work slowly so we could capture the “moment”with our digital cameras.
At the end of the day, all the photos were collected by our instructor. In the following weeks, Con Keyes will give us each an individual critique on our photos via a phone conversation. We each had to sign a waiver in case the winery wants to use any of our shots, and I think we are all hoping they will. I would love to get one of my photos displayed on one of the walls of the winery’s new hospitality center.
We got to know and love the Benovia wines at lunch, all included in our $80 class fee. A fabulous lunch was catered by Autumn and Nicholas Opitz, who run Aioli’s on Front Street in nearby Forestville. We had five wonderful wines, two different Chardonnay wines and two Pinot Noir wines that paired beautifully with the herb and garlic chicken. For dessert, a delicious Benovia Zinfandel was served with an almond chocolate tort. Wow!
The husband and wife team of Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane are the principle owners of Benovia. The winery’s first vintage was 2005 and things have been moving along nicely. A new hospitality center was just completed a couple of week ago and will be used very soon to greet visitors by appointment. New vineyards have been planted just in front of the hospitality center, and in a couple of years the view will be spectacular. The winemaker at Benovia and a part owner is Mike Sullivan. You might remember him as the chief architect behind the great Pinot Noir wines at the Hartford Family Winery. You are definitely going to want to visit this winery if you have any interest in Chardonnay or Pinot Noir wines. These are very good and the winery is quite beautiful and scenic. Be sure not to miss Benovia. it’s a winner in my book.