Wine Speak: Imagery Wines — Where Art Meets Fine Wine

One of the things I love about being in the wine industry is that, from time to time, you are invited to a wine tasting dinner event that does exactly what it’s supposed to do — bring people together in the name of sharing a passion and love for what you do. This evening, the day before Valentine’s Day, accomplished just that.

The goal

The objective of the evening was to experience the new “California Tier” of wines of Imagery Estate, an offshoot of the Benziger family’s previously owned and operated winery in Glen Ellen, Sonoma. Benziger was founded in 1986 by Mike Benziger on a biodynamically certified 85-acre estate adjacent to Jack London State Park. Imagery and its tasting room, located 2 miles east, was the brainchild of winemaker Joe Benziger, one of Mike’s brothers, along with Sonoma County artist, Bob Nugent, who created the labels.

Our host for the evening, Jamie, is Joe’s lovely middle daughter who has worked alongside her father with the Imagery wines since 2015. For two years, she was at St. Francis Winery and spent one year at Bogle Vineyards and also in New Zealand before returning to the wines created by her family.

San Francisco’s hip and artsy Dogpatch neighborhood was the evening’s locale in Heather Day’s live/work space referred to as the “Studio Table” which was clearly a nod to the artwork on the line of wines. The drip of paint on each label celebrates the “artistry of fine wine”.

The evening’s pairings

A lovely 5-course meal was prepared by Chef Ben out of Chicago.

The first pairing of the evening was a bright, crisp 2016 Sauvignon Blanc with deliciously prepared scallops in a warm, frothy potato cream sauce—the wine is mostly Sauvignon Blanc blended with Muscat which merged beautifully with the richness of the dish.

The second course, a dish of butter-poached vegetables, buttermilk, pumpkin seeds and Buddha’s Hand was paired with the 2016 Chardonnay. The Chardonnay, blended with Chenin Blanc, was impressive owing to its freshness, beautiful fruit and balance.

The Third course, a pancetta and leek quiche was paired with Imagery’s 2016 Pinot Noir which, unusually, has Petit Verdot blended in.

The main course was a beautifully prepared duck breast with roasted shiitake mushrooms in a dry sherry sauce. The 2016 Cabernet, blended with Petite Sirah was a sumptuous pairing.

And finally, the Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie and goat cheese yogurt with olive oil and sea salt, paired with a delicious Zinfandel, Touriga Nacional, Petite Sirah Port rounded out the evening delightfully.

Embracing the unconventional

What makes the wines unique is that they are blends of traditional varietals with lesser-known ones — grapes like Muscat, Chenin Blanc, Petit Verdot, and Petite Sirah.

The wines were all fresh, well-balanced with nice complexity, food friendly and relative values, all retailing at $19.99.

Jamie commented that the esoteric blends, all with screwcap closures, illustrate both her father’s love of the atypical and their desire to appeal to millennials. Jamie, herself, characterizes the wines as “approachable” and “unpretentious”.

I do believe they accomplished this well.

Just as a painter uses his palette through which he channels his talent and creativity, “Raise a glass and broaden your palate,” the winery’s tag line, celebrates Imagery’s identity as clear, artful and distinctive with beautiful, long, definitive brushstrokes.

As of 2015, Imagery wines were purchased by the Wine Group.