Benchmark Wineries


After Bart and Daphne Araujo sold their Calistoga property to the Artemis group in 2013, they started Accendo cellars. Producing sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon, their wine is made at the Wheeler Farms facility in St Helena.


Founded by former Christie’s wine auctioneer Fritz Hatton, his wife Maggy, and fames winemaker John Kongsgaard, Arietta joins their love of fine wine and music. Fritz has long been the auctioneer at the Napa Valley Wine Auction, which has raised over $100 million since its inception in 1981. Andy Erickson has been their winemaker since 2005, when John Kongsgaard was bought out. 


Bodkin wines was founded in 2011 by Chris Christensen. Then in 2013, Andrew Chambers, joined the team. It was that year that they purchases 1100 tons of sauvignon blanc and made what is thought to by the first American sparkling SB. The portfolio has since grown, but they remain sauvignon blanc specialists. 


Founded in 1975, Brander specializes in sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon, but produces a wide range of wines. Their estate vineyards are located in the Los Olivos District of the Santa Ynez Valley.

Chalk Hill

Chalk Hill Winery was founded in 1972 by Fred Furst, who saw the land’s potential from a passing plane. There is no actual chalk here, though the soil is white as a result of volcanic ash deposited by Mt St Helena. The larger area became an AVA in 1983, and is located to the northeast of the Russian River Valley AVA. 

Crocker & Starr

Dowdell and Sons winery was built in St Helena in 1870, but closed with Prohibition, though grapes were still grown. In 1971, Charlie Crocker purchases the property and adds vineyard acreage to it as time passes. In the late 1970s, Charlie and Pam Starr create Crocker & Starr, with Pam as winemaker. Their first sauvignon blanc is released in 2001 and very well received by the press and consumers.

Dry Creek

In 1972, David Stare founded the first new winery in Dry Creek Valley since prohibition, and was the first to plant sauvignon blanc in that part of Sonoma. David was also integral in the creation of the AVA, as the person to initiate the appellation application in 1983. He has also long been a champion of zinfandel, and was one of the first to include an “Old Vines” designation, beginning in 1985.

Eisele Vineyard

Eisele was first planted to vine back in 1886, with cabernet only added in 1964, and is located just to the south of the town of Calistoga. The vineyard supplied many well known wineries with grapes (Ridge, Joseph Phelps), before being purchased by the Araujo family in 1990. The Araujos sold the winery to Artemis group (owned by Francois Pinault) in 2013, (who also owns Chateau Latour, among other famous wineries).


Winemaker Jenny Wagner, daughter of Chuck Wagner of Caymus Vineyards, named the winery for her mother, Cheryl Emmolo. The winery sources fruit from their estate vineyards in Rutherford and Oak Knoll. The focus is only on two varieties, sauvignon blanc and merlot.


Personal project of star winemaker (Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Dalla Valle) Andy Erickson and his wife, star viticulturalist Annie (Newton, Corison, Abreu), Favia’s first wine was made in 2001, and their first commercial release was in 2003. They make wine from Napa and Amador county, with the focus one would expect with such experience.

Ferrari Carano

Don and Rhonda Carano founded Ferrari-Carano in 1981, after achieving success with the Eldorado hotel in their native Reno, Nevada. In 1985 they began building their winery in the Dry Creek Valley, and in 1987 released their first wines, a Fume Blanc and  a chardonnay. Today they produce a wide array of wines, all sourced from sustainably farmed vineyards. 


Kathy Joseph founded Fiddlehead Cellars in 1989 with the intention to create sauvignon blanc and pinot noir that are inspired by the old world. She sources from vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley, Sta Rita Hills, and the Willamette Valley.


Part of the Jackson Family’s Spire Collection, Galerie focusses on white and red Bordeaux varieties grown in the Napa Valley. Winemaker Gianna Kelly grew up in Sonoma, and worked at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and St Francis before joining the winemaking team at Cardinale in 2018. 

Gregory Graham

Greg Graham began his personal label while working as winemaker at Rombauer vineyards, where he began as winemaker in 1988. He found his property in the Red Hills of Lake County in the year 2000, though he had been producing wine under his own label since 1992.


Dr Elias Hanna, cardiac surgeon, founded his eponymous winery in 1985, in an attempt to reconnect with his farming upbringing. His daighter Christine took over management of the winery in 1991, and has kept the focus on sauvignon blanc, as well a Burgundy and Bordeaux varieties.


In 1961 Joe and Alice Heitz purchased vineyards just south of St Helena, then moved their operation to the Rossi Ranch at the end of Taplin Road in 1964. Heitz is well known for the cabernet, especially the Martha’s Vineyard bottling, but also produces sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and grignolino, among others. One of the most respected and traditional producers in Napa Valley, the winery was purchased by Gaylon Lawerence in 2018. 


This Rutherford winery was founded in 1964, and sold grapes to others before beginning to produce its own wine in 1980. The focus was on sauvignon blanc in the beginning, with cabernet sauvignon only added in 1989. The winery is sustainably farmed and holds Green certifications. 


Kenzo Tsujimoto was the founder of Capcom, a Japanese publisher and developer of video games. The company purchased 3800 acres of land, which was then sold to Mr Tsujimoto after part of the arrangement fell through. After 15 years of vineyard development and plantings, the first vintage was released in 2005. Heidi Barrett was their first winemaker, with David Abreu as vineyard manager, to attain the goal of making world class wines. 


Robin Lail comes from a line of winemakers. Her father, John Daniel Jr was winemaker at Inglenook and was responsible for many innovations in local winemaking, and his great uncle, Gustave Niebaum founded Inglenook in the 19th century. Robin herself founded Dominus with Christian Moueix, Merryvale with Bill Harlan, and was board member of the first Napa Valley auctions. In 1995 she set out to create her own label, with Philippe Melka as winemaker. 


Doug Margerum has been involved in wine in Santa Barbara for 35 years. He owned Wine Cask restaurant, and has worked with Bob Lindquist and Jim Clendenen with their Vita Nova wine label. His focus is Rhone varieties and sauvignon blanc, with the intention to create wines that are personal and handmade.

Matanzas Creek

Founded in 1977 in Sonoma’s Bennett Valley, the winery’s focus is on sauvignon blanc and merlot, with limited quantities of other wines as well. The vines are sustainably farmed, and also feature a large lavender plantation. The winery is also a part of Jackson Family Wines.

Merry Edwards

Merry Edwards is a pillar of California winemaking, and has many contributions to the industry. Her studies at university showed lead in wine from lead capsules, which led to their discontinuation. She showed the importance of clonal selection in vineyards, which knowledge she used when building the original Matanzas Creek winery. After years of consulting, she was able to open her own winery in 1997, where her work continues.


Dan Morgan Lee began at UC Davis studying Veterinary Medicine, but soon changed to Enology as it balanced his interest in science and agriculture. He began his career in 1978 as winemaker of Jekel winery before founding Morgan in 1982. Morgan focusses on chardonnay and pinot noir, much of which is sourced from their estate, the Double L Vineyard.


Ovid is located on Pritchard Hill, which is in the Vaca mountains to the east of Oakville. Their neighbors here are Colgin, Chappellet, and Continuum, to name a few. Founded around the turn of the century by a husband and wife team who had sold their software company, Ovid released its first wine in 2005. in 2017 a majority stake was sold to the Duncan family of Silver Oak. While the focus is on red wine, each year they release “experiment” bottlings of white and red to explore what is possible.

Peter Michael

in 1983, Peter Michael, a British engineer working in Silicon Valley, purchased his land on the Sonoma side of Mt St Helena, in what would become Knights Valley. Here he would produce Bordeaux blends from lower elevations, and chardonnay from higher up. His white Bordeaux blend, “L’Apres-Midi” was first released in 1991.


Begun in 1999 with Tom Rinaldi, founding winemaker from Duckhorn, Provenance places a great deal of importance on where their grapes are sourced, or their provenance, if you will. Now owned by Treasury Wine Estates, they have many options to choose from.


Located in the eastern part of Oakville, Rudd is a 55 acres estate founded in 1996 when Leslie Rudd purchased the former Girard winery. Leslie grew up in Kansas, where his family started what would become the largest wholesaler of wine and spirits in the state. The vineyards are farmed organically and their sauvignon blanc comes from an estate vineyard on Mt Veeder.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma Ranch is comprised of 4300 acres, of which only 50 are planted to vines. Six Sigma is a concept where performance can be increased, and with defect reduction, can improve profit and morale. The owner Kaj Ahlmann is a mathematical statistician who tries to apply this approach to winemaking. 


The Novak family purchased the historic Spottswoode in St Helena property in 1972. The winery was founded in 1982, producing its first cabernet that year.  Tony Soter was their first winemaker, before being succeeded by Mia Klein. Their sauvignon blanc is sourced from both Napa and Sonoma, and is made in a bright and fresh style. 

St Supery

Founded by the Skalli family in 1982 with the purchase of the Dollarhide Ranch in Pope Valley, and then their Rutherford Estate in 1989, St Supery produces a wide array of wines, with the majority of the Dollarhide Ranch planted to sauvignon blanc. The winery has since been purchased by the Chanel Company, in 2015. 

Volker Eisele

Located in Chiles Valley in southern eastern Napa Valley, and interestingly has an original wooden winery building dating to the 19th century. Volker Eisele studied at Berkeley, before buying the property with his wife Liesel in 1974. The 60 acres of vines are farmed organically, out of the 400 acres of the property. There is no relation to the Eisele vineyard located in Calistoga.