Remove a couple layers of Napa Valley “glam” and you begin to find hard-working, talented next-generation tiny wineries like Benevolent Neglect. It’s a common story, and one I love to tell. Young man works multiple harvest jobs to learn the art and science of winemaking in its many forms before launching his own label. Early in the journey, help comes in the form of a colleague or spouse. While keeping day jobs, the partners squeeze in the hours needed to make, age, bottle and (gulp) sell their wine. Maybe, maybe one day they employ and mentor the next wave of new winery owners.
It comes as no surprise, I’m sure, that these are the wineries I find the most exciting. While the wineries start with smaller bank accounts and marketing budgets, the talent and resources to make world-class wine are there. I’m excited all over again as I write this, and hope you, as a reader, are too.
Matt Nagy is co-owner and winemaker for Benevolent Neglect. From Long Island to New Zealand to Washington, wineries tiny to large, Matt has seen many faces of the winemaking trade. His resume includes Napa Valley’s White Rock, Outpost, Mending Wall and Matthiasson Wineries. Two modern-day icons of Napa Valley winemaking, Thomas Rivers Brown and Steve Matthiasson, are two important and noteworthy influences on Matt and the Benevolent Neglect Wines.
Ben Brenner joined Matt in ownership of Benevolent Neglect in 2013, the year of their first harvest, a “Las Madres Vineyard” Syrah. Ben’s background is in wine sales and service. From Sommelier and Wine Director on the east coast to consumer-direct wine relations and sales in Napa Valley, his relentless optimism and stewardship of the Benevolent Neglect wines is, in my mind, a perfect complement to Matt’s skills.
When I see folks working hard, doing things the right way, and most importantly making delicious, distinctive wines, then the good-guy factor means something.
The Benevolent Neglect wines focus on Rhone varieties Syrah, Mourvedre and Counoise. They’re not a Rhone-only house, however, as they make delicious Riesling and have Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay coming in the near future. The influences of Brown and Matthiasson are worth noting as I find the Benevolent Neglect wines to have a rich, decadent core of fruit (Brown’s trademark) as well as restraint and a cool sophistication a la the Matthiasson wines. Once again, we’re talking about the types of wines I find particularly intriguing and I want you to get to know. Case production is typically 100-200 cases per wine. They tend to find their “sweet spot” for flavor and balance around 14.0% alcohol. Little new oak used: 0-20%. And they bring outstanding value, meriting Very Good to Great values on my sister site, Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor. Here are all my Benevolent Neglect wine reviews.
For more about their flagship wine (it’s their flagship in my mind, anyway) Syrah “Las Madres Vineyard,” read my store “Success With Syrah – Two Stories.” I hope you give the wines a try. Let me know if you do, and what you think.
3 questions for Benevolent Neglect:
Your favorite home-cooked meal?
Matt: Chicken Paprikash
Ben: Pan-seared, bone-in Pork chops with roasted Brussel Sprouts - paired with a mature Barbaresco.
Mountains or Ocean and why?
Matt: It depends on the day. I used to live and work in Glacier National Park, but Hawaii is currently my favorite place on earth.
Ben: Ocean - as a born and bread New Englander the ocean is both a place to spend time in the summer and the source of some of my favorite foods.
Tell us something interesting about clones, terroir, yeast or cork.
Matt: Half of our Las Madres Syrah is clone 300, on of less than a handful of vineyards in the new world that uses it. It is known for being exceptional in Crozes Hermitage.