Sarah Bennett-Cahn grew up at Navarro Vineyards, the wonderful wine estate in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley town of Philo that her parents, Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn established in 1973. Naturally, Sarah helped out with the family business starting when she was just a young girl, working in “all aspects and departments” of the company over the years. Along the way, her folks had purchased a 100-acre parcel of land 9.5 miles inland in Boonville that they never developed until the family decided to make it into a farmstead. Under Sarah’s co-ownership and supervision, Pennyroyal Farm came to be in 2008. Named for the wild mint that grows on the property, Pennyroyal encompasses a 23 acre vineyard, a creamery that produces small batch, seasonal farmstead cheeses from their herds of goats and sheep as well as a kitchen/tasting room that serves meats, cheeses and bountiful produce all grown and produced onsite. As Sarah explains, “it is a zero-waste farm committed to sustainability, regeneration and modern farming practices, all run on solar power.” No doubt she will ensure it thrives for the next generation to enjoy who will keep it going for future generations and the local community.
One example of Sarah’s efforts to create a truly integrative, modern day farmstead “in the mold of a traditional old-time American farm” is to maintain the size of the sheep herd so it can provide enough manure to convert into compost for fertilizing the vineyard. While the soil make up is different in Boonville from that in Philo (with over 70% sand vs 45%) and the daytime summer temperatures are warmer, making for an earlier harvest, this Pinot Noir shares the same grace and balance of those that originally put Navarro Vineyards on the map so many years ago. Sarah supervises the wine production at the Navarro cellar and aged this 2013 in one third new and two thirds neutral French oak barrels for 10 months. Aromas on the nose suggest dark cherry, cranberry and pomegranate with a little sandalwood spice. The light to medium-bodied palate continues with those darker, more savory red fruit flavors and the wine finishes with convincing acidity and nicely integrated tannins. This is a very focused, correct Pinot that lets all that healthy Boonville fruit shine with a vibrant, lively personality which feels fresh and bright.