Best Wineries
Bennett Lane Winery aerial view of vineyard in autumn.

Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga

By Published On: July 15th, 2023

Interview with winemaker Rob Hunter.

Discover Bennett Lane Winery located in the North end of Napa Valley, where the valley floor harmoniously meets the majestic Mayacamas Mountains. Randy and Lisa Lynch founded this winery after being inspired by their adventures in Italy.

From Private blending experiences to vertical tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon, we interview winemaker Rob Hunter to learn more.

Rob Hunter, Bennett Lane Winemaker: Our Cabernet Exploration experience is offered daily by appointment. Guests will meet up their personal wine expert in our winery garden to enjoy the entire Cabernet portfolio. This includes our Maximus Red Feasting Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and Lynch Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

It’s also available in Spanish upon request, Friday-Tuesday.

Wine tasting at Bennett Lane Winery on the patio under beautiful wisteria.
Wine tasting on the patio under beautiful wisteria. Photo Courtesy: Emily Martin.

What type of wine do you specialize in?

Rob Hunter: We’re known for Cabernet, but I also love making our Chardonnay and aromatic whites.

Wine being poured into a glass at Bennett Lane Winery.
Table for two. Photo Courtesy: Bennett Lane Winery.

What makes your wine unique?

Rob Hunter: I always say “Its all about Flavor”, but it’s much more. It’s about Varietal Fruit Flavor. Yes, I love oak, all winemakers do, but I like oak as a highlight or a subtle accent, not as a major feature.

Beautiful Bennett Lane Winery vineyard view.
Vineyard view. Photo Courtesy: Bennett Lane Winery.

What do you wish more people knew about your winery?

Rob Hunter: Three things, how amazing all of our wines are. I won’t bottle a B+ or an A- wine. Second, our wines are consistent vintage to vintage. Finally, our wines age incredibly well. I’ve recently tasted 05, 06, 07 and they’re really enjoyable.

Wine tasting at Bennett Lane Winery
Wine tasting. Photo Courtesy: Bennett Lane Winery.

How did you get started in the wine industry?

Rob Hunter: Let’s go back a little bit – I was born and raised in San Francisco. My family bought property in the Sonoma Valley in 1972 and planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Our family always had amazing wines at home growing up and I was fascinated with opening, decanting and serving. I even built a wine cellar for my folks when I was fifteen.

I spent my weekends and summers working in the vineyard until I went to UC Davis.

I joined the team at Bennett Lane in 2005.

Bennett Lane Winery Winemaker Rob Hunter pouring direct from the tank.
Winemaker Rob Hunter pouring direct from the tank. Photo Courtesy: Bennett Lane Winery.

Who inspires you in the wine industry?

Rob Hunter: I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have worked with some of the greats – Nils Venge, Chuck Ortman, Heidi Peterson, but by far the most influential was Greg Fowler. His insistence on sanitation, his amazing palate, his having worked with Andre Tchelistcheff. Greg was brilliant, strict but kind.

What’s the biggest lesson in the winemaking process?

Rob Hunter: Don’t freak out. I joke about “Chicken Little Winemaking” – “The Sky is Falling”. It’s not, we can usually fix anything.

Bennett Lane Winery seating area inside tasting room.
Seating area inside tasting room. Photo Courtesy: Bennett Lane Winery.

Describe your winemaking approach.

Rob Hunter: We must start with “Flavor mature” fruit, we then cold soak prior to a cool fermentation and early pressing. Rather than relying upon seeds and skins for tannin in a hot fermentation we like barrel tannins which are softer.

Bennett Lane Winery 2009 Maximus wine.
2009 Maximus wine. Photo Courtesy: Bennett Lane Winery.

Do you have a favorite story about working at your winery?

Rob Hunter: Here’s one about why the Winemaker doesn’t always know best… In 2021 our little rotary fermenter was not cooling effectively. We always have dry ice on hand to chill must, so I poured several buckets in over the top, closed the door and let her roll.

Well, as soon as the solid Dry Ice hit the liquid juice, copious amounts of CO2 was generated, thus spraying juice, skins & seeds out past ALL of the gaskets while the tank attempted to roll back to its home position. Must was sprayed in a 25’ fan across the cellar, and all were howling except the Cellarmaster who just shook his head. I made a point of cleaning it all up myself, much to everyone’s relief.

What do you love about winemaking?

Rob Hunter: Two things: I love to work with my hands and it allows me to pursue my passion to create.

Guests enjoying wine tasting on patio at Bennett Lane Winery.
Wine tasting. Photo Courtesy: Bennett Lane Winery.

How does your team help you as a winemaker?

Rob Hunter: Most importantly, my team believes in what we’re doing. They know there’s a concept, a way to achieve it, methods to aid them and open support all along the way. Another thing is that I’ve never tasted or blended alone. I want input.

Related Posts:

The Francis House in Calistoga, Napa Valley

The Francis House in Calistoga, Napa Valley

Hotels
Three Floors, A Thousand Stories.
Read More
The art of Blending Tradition and Innovation at Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, Napa Valley

The art of Blending Tradition and Innovation at Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena, Napa Valley

Winery Interviews
Interview with Winemaker Angelina Mondavi
Read More
Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas, San Diego County

Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas, San Diego County

Hotels
Stay, Spa, Wine and Dine by the Ocean.
Read More
My Fine Dining Experience at Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant in Forestville, Sonoma County

My Fine Dining Experience at Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant in Forestville, Sonoma County

Things To Do
A taste of fifth-generation farming at your table.
Read More
1 2 3 54

Related Posts:

Go to Top