Click on the photos to learn more about the winegrowing team.
Vineyard Foreman Joaquin Corona has led our estate vineyard team through the challenges of Biodynamic® farming for over 20 years. Joaquin's bond with the land is demonstrated by the steely clarity with which he approaches the daily demands and complexities of viticulture. "Some plants grow too much, and some not enough. It's my job to understand why," he explains.
"Joaquin's abiding spirit and reverence for nature are an inspiration to me personally and integral to Biodynamics," says Winemaker Mike Benziger. "We couldn't farm this way without him and the entire vineyard team."
Mark Burningham received a bachelor's degree from SDSU in business management with an emphasis in marketing, and took various viticulture classes at UC Davis. Mark came to know Benziger Family wines while handling them for his wine distributing business in Santa Rosa. When he joined the winery in 1987, he threw himself into the development of the business with such Benziger-like zeal that he eventually became an unofficial member of the family. Today, as a partner and Vice President of Winegrowing, Mark works closely with Benziger's growers and is dedicated to farming for quality and flavor. Mark manages the grape supply for Benziger Family Winery's contracted vineyards, and the Farming for Flavors Certified Sustainable Grape Growing Program.
Pete Hoffman started his journey in the wine industry at Cal Poly where he earned an undergraduate degree in agriculture business, a minor in viticulture, and a concentration in Farm Ranch Management. Since 2007, Pete has played a crucial role in managing Benziger Winery's 30 acre leased property, Upper Ridge Vineyards, in Cloverdale. As Grower Resource Manager, he creates budgets and monitors expenses for Upper Ridge, San Remo, and Dragonsleaf properties. Hand in hand, Pete works with all Benziger Family Winery's and Imagery Estate Winery's growers in monitoring, reviewing, and enforcing all farming specifications.
"It's a life's work to make a wine that is ultimately connected with a place and the people who farm it," asserts Mike, who has worked in the wine business his whole life. Even while growing up in New York, Mike worked for his father, Bruno Benziger, a wine and spirits importer. After college, he moved to California and began working at the fine wine shop Beltramos. His appreciation for wine grew and led him to a winery apprenticeship in 1978.
"I learned the wine business at the foot of the master," Mike reflects. "I was fortunate to have great mentors. When you learn in this way, you learn more than information--you learn respect and reverence for wine and vine."
Alan York is a recognized international expert on Biodynamic® farming, lecturer and author. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Biodynamic Trade Association. His exploration of Biodynamics began in the 1970s when he studied botany and plant physiology. When Alan came to Sonoma Mountain in 1997 to collaborate with Mike Benziger, he found a friend and brother in Biodynamic farming. Together, they approached the cultivation of Benziger’s Sonoma Mountain estate with the belief that a vineyard farmed with a mental, physical and spiritual commitment is the best way to create wine that reveals a profound sense of place. Today, Alan oversees Biodynamic farming on Benziger’s four certified-Biodynamic vineyard estates.
In the early 1980's the Benziger family migrated west from New York and started a winery on Sonoma Mountain. After a few years of helping his family make large production wines for their Glen Ellen brand, Joe decided that there were some vineyard lots that were just too good to get lost in a big blend. He set out to showcase these special vineyard sites in a series of small artisan wines.
As Imagery evolved under Joe’s direction, the emphasis on limited-production wines adapted to focus on lesser-known varietals. As he discovered rare wines, Joe became passionate about unusual grapes and the Barbera within was unleashed.