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Wine World

Women in wine: Jamie Benziger of Imagery Estate Winery

Jamie Benziger of Imagery Estate Winery. Photo: Erika Cole, courtesy Benziger Family Winery

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Jamie Benziger hails from the esteemed Benziger Family Winery, notable for its biodynamic, organic, and sustainable farming practices in addition to its award-winning wines. Growing up in the family business, Jaimie Benziger leapfrogged from the tutelage of her winemaker father, Joe Benziger, and became the winemaker of Imagery Estate Winery.

Before taking over the top winemaking job at Imagery, Jamie Benziger and Joe Benziger created 35 different wines, from Malbec to Muscat. Imagery has now received numerous awards praising their unique portfolio of wines. Jamie Benziger was featured recently in Wine Enthusiast as one of the Top 40 under 40 Tastemakers of 2019. The annual list represents some of the best talent in the country working to push the boundaries of what’s possible in winemaking. This is just one of the achievements we can look forward to in her remarkable young career.

GROWING UP

Energy-filled as a youngster, when Jamie Benziger wasn’t playing soccer, she was riding her pony. She always knew she wanted to join the family wine business, and as a kid she worked selling tour tickets at the Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen. She studied marketing at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, but longed to be back in the Wine Country, and completed her wine industry studies at Sonoma State University. After interning at Gundlach Bundschu and learning more about the chemistry of wine at St. Francis and Bogle, she worked harvest in Villa Maria in New Zealand. From there it was back to the family business in Sonoma County and working side by side with her dad.

MAKING HER MARK

As the winemaker at Imagery, Jamie Benziger is clearly not sitting on family laurels. She recently launched Imagery California, a “New Collection for the Next Generation” carrying on the Imagery tradition of going beyond the normal conceptions of what makes a high-quality wine experience. Her vision for crafting these new wines is to “add a little twist” and create something a little different from the expected. Each of the new Imagery California wines takes a traditional varietal and adds something a little out of the ordinary, like Sauvignon Blanc with a hint of Muscat.

Her approach complements the artistic legacy of Imagery: like a painting that seizes the imagination with a quirk that captures the eye. (The original artwork for the Imagery labels by the many international artists who have created them are displayed in the tasting room’s gallery.) The legacy of artistry is not only the creative imagination reflected in the artwork, it’s also reflected in the artistry of the wine in the bottle.

ADVICE FOR OTHERS

Jamie is as interested in helping other young wine professionals as she is in advancing her own career. Once asked how she would counsel women who want to enter the wine world, she offered this advice: “In the wine world, it is important to always work hard and keep driven, especially as a woman. Even though I came from a well-known wine family, it was very important for me … that I deserved any position I held and that I was the best person for that job … I did not want anything handed to me. It was essential that I worked hard and earned it.”

Spoken like a real professional who understands that the core values of work and dedication are the keys to success in any endeavor. What a treat to know that young pros like Jamie go beyond their personal desires to serve as models to those who wish to follow.

Nothing more needs to be said about this remarkable young woman winemaker. Just try her wines.

Imagery Estate Winery: Monday–Friday 11 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Saturday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m., 14335 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen, 877-550-4278

Kenneth Majer is a consultant to the wine industry. Email: [email protected]

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