Benchmark Wineries


Acacia winery was founded in 1979 just a few miles from the waters of San Francisco Bay in the Carneros region. Acacis was among the first wineries to produce vineyard designate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Au Bon Climat

Sourcing fruit from several of the most highly regarded vineyards in the Central Coast, Au Bon Climat has cultivated an international reputation for its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Jim Clendenen, the “Mind Behind” Au Bon Climat, is recognized worldwide for his South Coast-aspired Burgundian techniques. 


Aubert has the goal of making California Chardonnay that rivals the greats of Burgundy in a hedonistic style made to age at least a decade or longer. Mark Aubert is a career winemaker and founded Aubert in the late 1990s with his wife Teresa. Aubert wines are crafted from vineyards with long term contracts in Carneros, Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, and Rutherford


Chalone is the oldest producing vineyard in Monterey County, and the sole winery in the Chalone AVA. in 1964, the property was purchased by the Graff family. Wanting to produce Burgundian-stye Chardonnay they were one of the first in California to barrel ferment and age their wines and also allow the wines to go through malolactic fermentation. Chalone Vineyard placed third in the historic Judgement of Paris. In 2005 Chalone was purchased by Diageo and in 2016 sold to Foley Family Wines.


Chanin wines is dedicated to Santa Barbara County and reflecting the vineyard in which the grapes are grown. All vineyards are organic or sustainably grown. Winemaking style avoids additives and excessive alcohol and they do not filter their wines. Gavin Chanin is the winemaker and also an artist and his work graces the labels on the bottle.


Founded by Donn Chappellet in 1967, Chappellet was drawn to Pritchard Hill, due east high above Oakville at the behest of Andre Tchelistcheff, who repeated that "Bacchus loves the hills." Then unknown, this part of Napa Valley would soon become synonymous with world-class wines. Though the winery is based here, Chappellet produces single vineyard chardonnays as part of their "Grower Collection", sourced from Sonoma. 

Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena’s modern history dates to 1968 when Lee and Helen Paschich purchased the property and brought in James Barrett and Earnest Han as partners who replanted the vineyard, created a winery in the historic buildings on property, and hire Mike Grgich as winemaker. A short four years later the 1973 vintage of Chardonnay won first place in the white wine competition in the famous Judgment of Paris tasting– a landmark event in not only California's wine history, but the global wine industry. The outcome of the Judgment of Paris tasting broke the myth that only in France could you make great wine and turned all eyes to California. A bottle of the winning 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay now resides at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Since that time the wines of Chateau Montelena have been among Napa’s best. 

Chateau St Jean

Richard Arrowood went to extremes in his winemaking. At one point had nine different chardonnays from one vintage on the market. The winery was almost like an experimental research lab for Sonoma County vineyards. Two bottlings in particular -from Robert Young vineyard and Belle Terre vineyard - served as reference points for Alexander Valley Chardonnay


The entirety of Greg Brewer's career as winemaker has been focused on the geographic, geologic and climatic uniqueness of the Sta. Rita Hills. An AVA he helped to establish in 1997. 


Jim and Mary Dierberg have decades of experience in wine, beginning in their home state of Missouri, where they were proprietors of the Hermannhof winery. The midwestern climate does not encourage the varietals they wanted to make, so they moved west to Santa Barbara. The winery is located in the Santa Maria Valley, and they also make wine from the Sta Rita Hills, and the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara.


Founded by restauranteur and entrepreneur Kerry Murphy in 1996, the name DuMol comes from the children of the first winemaker’s children, Duncan and Molly. Sadly the winemaker passed on after the second vintage, and Paul Hobbs was brought on as consulting winemaker. Hobbs introduced them to Andy Smith, their new winemaker and eventual partner as well. DuMol focusses on cool climate chardonnay and pinot noir, while also producing viognier, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon. 


Founded by Ehren Jordan and his wife Anne Marie Failla in 1998, their wine was originally called Failla-Jordan, before attention from Alexander Valley’s Jordan family forced a name change. Ehren Jordan, who previously worked at Neyers and Turley, looks for cool climate sites, and now produces wine from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and has a new venture in Oregon.

Fess Parker

Fess Parker was an actor best known for his portrayals of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone on television in the 1950s and 60s. After retiring from show business, Fess purchased 714 acres in Foxen Canyon with the intention of raising cattle and plating a few vines, but wine soon became the focus. They currently produce a large selection of sparkling and still wines.


Fred and Juelle Fisher planted their initial 20-acre vineyard on the mountain top ridge that seperates Napa and Sonoma counties. The Fishers first succedded with Chardonnay from their estate vineyard - particularly an age worthy bottling called Whitney's Vineyard


Foxen winery was founded in 1985 by lifelong friends Dick Doré and Bll Wathen. Foxen winery is named for Dick's great-great-grandfather, English sea-captain William Benjamin Foxen who moved to Santa Barbara in the 1830s. Foxen bought the what would become Foxen Canyon in 1837 as part of the Mexican land grant system, started a cattle ranch, then over a century would pass before wine would be made on the property. 


Ken and Akiko Freeman founded their winery in 2001, however they first met as a result of Hurricane Gloria in 1985. Through their courtship, they learned they both loved cool climate chardonnay and pinot noir, and searched the world for a place to try to recreate the wine they love. They eventually settled in Sonoma, with its oceanic influence and rolling hills. They prefer to make wines that value balance and refinement, without becoming overripe.

Gary Farrell

Gary Farrell’s focus shifted from political science at Sonoma State University to wine after finding mentors such as Joe Rochioli, Robert Stemmler, and Tom Dehlinger. His first head winemaking position was at David Bynum in 1978, before founding his eponymous winery in 1982.

Hanzell Vineyards

After extensive time spent in Burgundy, Ambassador James D. Zellerbach returned to California inspired and educated by the region’s wines and grapes—Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  He founded Hanzell Vineyards in 1953 with a vision to create wines that could compete on the world stage. Among the first to use oak barrels, Hanzell was an early leader in establishing premium wines from California, known for their elegance and extraordinary aging potential. 

Hartford Court

Founded in 1994 Family owned, Russian River, specializes in wine from single vineyard sites. Cool climate Sonoma Coast. Multiple clones matched to the sites reflect the terroir of these sites with high risk, high reward


Established by Tom and Sally Jordan in 1972, Jordan Winery in Sonoma's Alexander Valley has long been a benchmark example of both chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, the only wines they produce. Their first vintage of cabernet was the 1976, made by Andre Tchelistcheff, released in 1978. The first chardonnay was the 1979 released in 1981. 

Kistler Vineyards

Kistler is a single clone chardonnay house– they have been working with and on a singular clone of Chardonnay since the mid 1980’s. Its parent material was imported from Burgundy in the early part of the 20th century.  One heritage Californian selection of Chardonnay planted across fifteen vineyards, from Carneros to Sonoma Valley, to the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. From those sites they produce eleven vineyard designate Chardonnays. They are wholly dedicated to the ideal of wines of site. It’s an unparalleled approach in the new world.


John Konsgaard, a fifth genersation Napan attended UC Davis working at Stony Hill, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, and at Newton from 1983-1996. John was a student of Michel Rolland. Kongsgaard wines are decidedly European focused and made in a low intervention, hands off style. He barrel ferments - some taking up to a year to complete to dryness- and like his work at Newton, his wines are bottled unfiltered. The 150 acre Atlas Peak property is one of the highest in Napa County at 2300 feet. Very steep and rugged with only 5 acres planted.

La Crema

Originally called La Crema Viñera, meaning the best of the vine, the name was soon shortened to La Crema. Founded in 1979, but brought into the Jackson Family of Wines, in 1993, the winery has started to look beyond its Sonoma origins. La Crema's focus is on cool climate chardonnay and pinot noir, and while it got its start in Sonoma, now sources fruit from Monterey to Mendocino, as well as from Oregon. 


After earning an enology degree from the University of Dijon, Ted Lemon went to work for a number of domaines in Burgundy. Among them Dujac and Dme. Guy Roulot. He returned to the states in 1992 and in 1993, Ted and his wife Heidi founded Littorai with a focus on coastal vineyards planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Biodynamic.

Matanzas Creek

Matanzas Creek launched in 1977, located in Bennett Valley. Founding winemaker was Merry Edwards. All of the winery's fruit comes from sustainably-farmed, estate vineyards. In the 1980s, known for their big, buttery, barrel-fermented Chardonnay. It was so distinctve, the winery had a malolactic bacteria strain named after them: MCW. Now owned by Jackson Family Wines, winemaker Marcia Torres Forno no longer uses MCW for a less "buttery" style


Mayacamas winery is a hillside jewel of the Napa Valley and a progenitor of ageworthy Chardonnay (and Cabernet Sauvignon). Now over 125 years old on the same site, the current owners are caretakers of the pioneering style and long-lived interpretation of the variety that has cemented its reputation over time. From early on, Mayacamas age their wines almost exclusively in neutral oak, ensuring the style of the finished wine remains fresh, vibrant, and pure. Some of their foudres date back to the 1920s! Former owner Bob Travers diligently documented all aspects of harvest and winemaking over his 45-vintage career as owner and winemaker of Mayacamas. The estate’s winemaker, Bob Sessions – who would later, to legendary acclaim, become synonymous with Hanzell – remained by Travers’s side until 1971. The Schottenstein family assumed 100% ownership of Mayacamas Vineyards in 2017.


Founded in 1989, Melville originated in the Knights Valley of Sonoma, where Ron Melville was a quality grape grower. However, a desire to grow cool climate chardonnay, pinot noir, and syrah led him in 1996 to what would become the Sta RIta Hills. Melville has 120 acres under vine, and located 10 miles from the ocean, is greatly affected by the cooling wind, fog, and steady winds throughout the day.

Miller Family/Bien Nacido

The land that became Bien Nacido dates back to a land grant given to the Gobernador of Alta California in the mid 19th century. In 1969, the 5th generation farming Miller family purchased a part, planted vines in the 1970s and renamed it Bien Nacido. Influenced by the Pacific ocean, pinot noir, chardonnay and syrah excel in the marine soils and cool climate.

Morlet Family

Wine has always been a way of life for Luc Morlet who grew up in Champagne as a 5th generation winemaking family before moving to Napa in 1996. Working at Newton and later Peter Michael Luc and his wife Jodie founded Morlet Family in 2006 and in 2010 restored a pre-Prohibition winery in St. Helena as their estate

Mount Eden Vineyards

Founded in 1945, it is recognized as one of the original “boutique” California winery properties, focusing on small lots ofChardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Mount Eden’s lineage of estate bottled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is the longest in California.

Patz and Hall

Patz & Hall is the product of 4 friends, started over 30 years ago. Burgundian model with a focus on small lot single vineyards with fruit sourced from some of the most desireable vineyard sites

Paul Hobbs

Working at Robert Mondavi, Opus One, and Simi now Paul Hobbs has winemaking projects around the globe. His chardonnay is hand harvested from ccol climate coastal sites in Russian River Valley and "true" Sonoma Coast

Peter Michael

Peter Michael is the only winery in Knights Valley. 5 unique Chardonnay vineyards are on their hillside estate. Original winemaker was Helen Turley in 1987, followed by Mark Aubert, Vanessa Wong, Luc Morlet, and Nicolas Morlet. Mission of producing single-vineyard, limited production bottlings from small mountain vineyards. One family, Nine mountain vineyards. debut Chardonnay is still in production today, Mon Plasir


David Ramey has an impressive resume. He was assistant winemaker to Zelma Long at Simi before holding head winemaker positions at Matanzas Creek, Chalk Hill, Dominus, and Rudd Winery. While working at Dominus Ramey began as a side project in 1996 with fruit sourced from Hyde vineyards


Rochioli is one of the pioneers in Russian River. Farmers and grape growers since the 1930s, they began to make their own wine in 1985. Today the vineyard is divided into several unique blocks with numerous clones showcasing diverse terroir over their 140 acres. Each block is fermented seperately


"Rombauer Vineyards was founded in 1980 by Koerner and Joan Rombauer. The joy of wine is something that is important as the family is related to the author of ""The Joy of Cooking."" The fruit for their Chardonnay is grown in the Carneros region"


Sandhi is a small production winery founded in 2010 by sommelier Raj Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman with a focus on select vineyards from the Sta. Rita Hills. Sandhi is dedicated to making wines of finesse, minerality, acidity, structure, and balance. They believe that wines exhibiting extreme ripeness, alcohol, and oak cannot truly express a specific vineyards terrioir.


Senses is the dream of three childhood friends, Chris, Max, and Myles who partnered with winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown to create world class wines from renowned vineyards

Stony Hill Vineyard

Founded in the early-1940s on the rugged hillside of Spring Mountain, Stony Hill Vineyard is known for their signature restrained style and minimalist approach in making beautiful Chardonnay wines that can age for decades. By 1954, every bottle was sold via mailing list, with a waiting list growing by the day– to this day, Stony Hill Vineyard has an almost cult-like following. 

Three Sticks

"Three Sticks Wines is a boutique, family-owned winery led by winemakers Bob Cabral and Ryan Prichard, along with investor, vineyard owner Bill Price. Three Sticks’ is characterized by commitment to site specific wines, stewardship of land, people and history, and a down to earth approach to business and life. They craft small-lot, artisanal wines from six Grand cru level Estate vineyards in Sonoma County, including Durell Vineyard, Gap’s Crown Vineyard, and Walala Vineyard. 

Durrell Vineyard is the birthplace of Three Sticks, one of the most diverse and prized vineyards in Sonoma Valley"


Tor Kenwood and Jeff Ames, winemaker believe that the vineyard is the showcase, not a heavy winemaker's hand. Wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined. TOR produces single vineyard Chardonnay and Cabernet in Napa Valley. The wines are highly coveted. Tor Kenwood's first job in Napa Valley was as a tour guide at Beringer had a 27 year career at Beringer before "retiring" and establishing TOR wines in 2001

Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards is the country's longest, continuously operated family-owned winery, founded in 1883. In 1912, 2nd Generation Ernest Wente persuaded his father and founder of Wente Vineyards, C.H. Wente to import Chardonnay cuttings from the vine nursery at University of Montpellier France to the Livermore Valley and hand-picked the best of the best vines. Today, over 80% of all California Chardonnay stems from the Wente Clone.