by Fred McMillin
for April 21, 1999


Benchlands Ain't Badlands


Benchlands—Most of the Pacific Coast is being lifted up by the thrust of the earth's crust. One result is that the rivers in coastal valleys are constantly carving deeper courses into ancient, flat flood plains. The resulting benchlike landforms on either bank are favored locations for vineyards. They are often referred to as "benches."

...Bob Thompson, Wine Atlas of California

Michel-Schlumberger benchland

Part of the Michel-Schlumberger benchland vineyard.

Michel-Schlumberger wines owe their unique character to the estate's benchlands in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County. The gravelly soils provide excellent drainage and enable roots to grow deep and wide. They produce small berries of concentrated, intense flavor.

...Jacques Schlumberger, Managing Director (with a degree in...physics!)

The Rest of the Story

Jacques' benchlands are doing OK. Last year his Cabernet Sauvignon tied for the second-best wine my panel tasted in 1998. Here's the scoop on the lastest release.

The Wine of the Day

Michel-Schlumberger Benchland Wine Estate
1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, Benchland Wine, Dry Creek Valley
Winemaker—Fred Payne is in his tenth year with the winery. He's very picky. Upon arrival, he rejected half the production, but the barrels that made the cut were knockouts...He says the accountant finally recovered from the shock and has resumed speaking to him.
Rating—HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. My panel liked the fine aroma and the full, long flavors. Although his ancestors were winegrowers in Alsace, Jacques Schlumberger was born in Texas, and this Cab is made for a Texas-size steak.
Contact—Office of Joe Gargiulo, phone (800) 447-3060, FAX (707) 433-0444.
Price—$22 range.


Why is "Michel" in the winery's name? Because it was founded by Swiss banker Jean-Jacques Michel. For more see the January 14,1997 WineDay, which incidentally, was the very first issue in the present, full-page format.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


WineDay Annex

More articles by
Fred McMillin


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