This is based on samples provided by the winery or another organization working on their behalf.






Riverbench was a new winery for me.  I have been actively searching out wines and wineries that follow the sustainable practices laid out by the “Sustainability in Practice” (SIP) group.  During a Twitter based WineChat dealing with SIP Certified wines, Riverbench asked if I would sample their wines and give them my opinion.  Since I’m not stupid, though some may disagree with that self assessment, I took them up on their offer.


Winery Information


Riverbench Vineyard was established in 1973, when its first Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes were planted on the property.  For years since then, some of the most renowned wineries in Santa Barbara County have purchased the fruit for their own wines.  Over time Riverbench has become a prominent name for high quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Santa MariaValley.


In 2004, a group of local families purchased the property.  Wine drinkers themselves, the owners quickly became enamored with the wine industry and decided to start producing their own wine label using small quantities of their exceptional fruit.  Riverbench Winery was born.


The first vintage included both Estate and Reserve versions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Since then, their portfolio has increased to include new interpretations of these noble varietals.  All Riverbench wines are made in limited quantities, and many are available exclusively through their tasting room.



Vineyard Information


Riverbench Vineyard is situated on the southeastern edge of the Santa Maria Valley, an appellation known for its diverse microclimates and ideal conditions for growing Burgundian varieties.  This distinct wine region is characterized by the valleys in the Pacific coastline which run east to west instead of the more common north to south.  Such a geographic peculiarity channels the cool ocean breezes inward, resulting in a mild and moderate climate where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive.


The vineyard is situated on the Santa Maria Bench, which is land made up of alluvial soils.  These soils are formed of sediment deposited by flowing water thousands of years ago, and typically contain particles of clay, silt, sand and gravel.  They are extremely fertile because of their medium to fine textures; yet they are shallow in depth which allows for a great growing medium with a boundary that does not encourage the vines to become overly vigorous.  Since the benchland is of a rocky or gravelly nature, it provides excellent drainage and in turn allows vineyard growers to define growth without a large amount of outside input.


Riverbench Vineyard was planted in 1973 as one of the Santa Maria Valley’s first vineyards.  Originally, the vineyard consisted of 220 acres of Chardonnay and 55 acres of Pinot Noir, and in 2007, they added an additional 37 acres of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Viognier.  In the coming years these selections will be available through the tasting room.




Sustainable Winegrowing


Our goal remains to produce the highest quality grapes in our vineyards, resulting in unparalleled wine quality.  Riverbench is committed to sustainable winegrowing practices that are environmentally sound, socially equitable, and economically feasible.  Keeping these sustainable practices in mind, we not only produce a superior product, but we are able to help protect the environment, conserve natural resources, maintain the long-term viability of our vineyard, and support the economic and social well-being of our employees.



In addition to being SIP Certified, Riverbench is also a Santa Barbara Green Business.



The people behind the wine


Pictured below is part of the Riverbench team.  Clarissa Nagy, winemaker, Jim Stollberg, Vineyard Manager, and Laura Mohseni, General Manager.



Much more information on this outstanding winery is available on their website.


From their website, you can sign up for their mailing list, order wine, or join their wine club.  Riverbench wines are distributed in a dozen states, you can also check to see if Riverbench wines may be on your local wine store shelf.




Now, on to the main reason for this post, the wines.

Riverbench Vineyard Lineup




2010 Riverbench Vineyard & Winery Chardonnay Estate – SRP $26


Wine information

This wine is 100% Estate Grown Chardonnay from the winery’s Santa MariaValley vineyard.


The grapes were harvested on October 2, 2010.  The wine was aged for 11 months in French Oak, 55% one year old.


The final alcohol is 14.5% and only 458 cases were produced.  The suggested retail price of the wine is $26.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a bright, shimmering yellow color with a touch of glistening gold.  The rich and inviting nose has apples, lemon curd, baking spices, pineapple, crushed stone, melons, flint, and just a hint of toasty oak.  This has a medium body and tart, citrusy acidity.  The exceptional palate has nice up front sweet, juicy apples and tart lemon zest followed by solid minerality and spice as well as a slowly building pineapple element.  The long, lingering finish has nice balance between sweet fruit, citrusy acidity, minerals, and just a touch of spicy oak.  This is delicious today but should last in the cellar for a few years.  (92 pts)


This would be outstanding with a rich dish, like the winery’s suggestion of Petite Creme cheese or lobster pot pie but my choice would be a skewer of spicy grilled shrimp on the deck on a bright, sunny day.


On the second day, the tart acidity had integrated providing more up front richness and allowing the fruit to shine through on the finish.  This was very nice on the first day, but I liked it even more on day two.

2010 Riverbench Vineyard & Winery Chardonnay Estate




2010 Riverbench Vineyard & Winery Pinot Noir Estate – SRP $28


Wine  information

This wine is 100% Estate Grown Pinot Noir from the winery’s Santa Maria Valley vineyard.


The grapes were harvested on October 2, 2010.  The wine was aged for 9 months in French Oak, 4% new, 96% neutral oak.


The final alcohol is 14.6% and 599 cases were produced.  The suggested retail price of the wine is $28.



My Tasting Note

The wine is a light, transparent, ruby red color.  The enticing nose has strawberries, black raspberries, dusty minerals, warm baking spices, smoke, violets, white pepper, some subtle earthiness, and just a touch of roasted herbs.  This has a medium body, silky tannins, and very nice acidity.  On the palate, the rich fruit is joined by baking spices and white pepper with some earthiness coming in later.  The finish is fairly long and adds some roasted herbs to add a nice savory element to the sweet fruit and spices.  This is drinking nicely today but will hold and possibly add some additional complexity with a year or two in the cellar.  (93 pts)


The winery suggests barbecued ribs or braised beef shanks, but I’d like a glass of this with a piece of juicy, grilled chicken and a salad on a sunny deck or patio.


By day two, the tannins were fully integrated and smooth.  The palate had added a smoky element and the earthiness was a bit more pronounced pushing the fruit slightly into the background where it added very nice sweetness.  On the finish the roasted herb element was not to be found, but the smoky, spicy fruit and a touch of earthiness lingered very nicely.  Once again, I felt the wine had smoothened out and improved on the second day.  This bodes well if you would like to stash a bottle in the cellar for a few extra years.

2010 Riverbench Vineyard & Winery Pinot Noir Estate



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Here is a link to a YouTube video of me getting “coal” from Santa for being named the “Nicest Person in Social Media” in 2012.




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Notes – I use the “official” Cellar Tracker name for the wines.  I use Cellar Tracker to help manage and organize my cellar.  I highly recommend checking it out at  Loading you existing cellar is a lot less intimidating than it would first appear.  There is a good chance 99% of your wine is already in the system, so you generally only need to enter part of the wine’s name and the system will find it for you.



Prices noted are the prices I paid at the time of purchase.  I don’t shop around to find the best prices, but my local store is usually VERY competitive.  I generally get case discounts, and since I work there part time, I get a 5% discount.  Wines purchased direct from a winery do not include any shipping charges.  None of the prices include the sales tax.



All wines that were sent to me free of charge to sample will be noted and I will show suggested prices when available.