Friday, January 2, 2009


I wanted to share an article I wrote for the CA&ES Outlook Magazine (College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences alumni publication)

An earthy undertone
Viticulture and enology graduate helps a family winery go green

For Sarah Cahn Bennett, making good wine is a way of life.

Bennett grew up on her parents’ Navarro Vineyards winery in Anderson Valley, in Mendocino County, California. Her parents started the sustainable vineyard in the 1970s with the perfect Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay their main objectives. As their business grew, so did their selection of fine wines. Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Muscat Blanc joined the lineup, and children Sarah and Aaron became part of the Navarro team. After achieving a bachelor’s degree in business administration from St. Mary’s College, Bennett set her sights on a master’s degree in viticulture and enology at UC Davis.

“Sarah knew exactly where she was going to go, exactly what she was going to do,” said viticulture and enology professor Doug Adams.

Adams’ research into the development of tannins in the skins and seeds of red wine varieties was a good fit for her interests. Bennett and her fellow students collected wines from California, Oregon, and Washington and compared the phenolics of the wine, including tannin which is found in grapes and wine. Bennett then began to look at how that research could be incorporated into winemaking methods.

Bennett now applies this knowledge to Navarro’s selection of Pinot Noirs. Her research helps the winemaking process, and adds a scientific scale to taste and perception.

“We measure many of these wines so that we have real number comparisons between areas,” Bennett says. Other Anderson valley vineyards use the results of Bennett’s assay to articulate what makes wine from their region unique.

Part of what Bennett believes makes Navarro Vineyards special is its commitment to sustainability. Along with avoiding the use of herbicides and pesticides on their land, Bennett has introduced a flock of Babydoll sheep to the vineyard. These miniature sheep have been extremely effective in controlling unwanted plant growth beneath the vines. The sheep, too short to do any damage to the fruit or vines, clean out sucker shoots and weeds that would otherwise be very difficult to reach.

Bennett and her family believe that sustainability stretches further than the field. Navarro Vineyards is committed to employment practices that establish loyalty and a sense of ownership for their workers. All Navarro Vineyards employees are full-time members of the company with full benefits.
Bennett recognizes the advantages that her time at UC Davis gave her. “I feel like I now know a good portion of the people in the industry,” she says. “I always knew I wanted to be in the wine industry. UC Davis was the perfect opportunity to help make that happen.”
- Elisabeth Kauffman

If wishes were horses...

So I haven't written here as much as I would like. Maybe I should turn it into a resolution to write more... but that would ensure that I never did again! Ah well... I'll have to be happy with myself one day.

Something happened this week that has been a long time coming, and something I never thought would actually come true in my life. If you know anything about me, you know I ride horses once a week. I have been riding for the past year. It has been a life-long dream of mine to work with/ride/enjoy horses on a regular basis. Once a week has been great... and I'm doing it even though we really shouldn't afford it... because I need to realize this dream... more than I need to save money.

Anyhow, my riding instructor has been telling me since the beginning that I should ride more than once a week if I want to improve my confidence and skill. Not an option for me, because to ride costs money and we're already outside the budget to do this as much as I do it. I finished explaining that to her for the 1 millionth time last week, and she said she'd get back to me... that money shouldn't be the issue.

When she got back to me, my riding instructor had found a way for me to ride 3 days a week a wonderful Morgan horse named Omega... in exchange for labor. Basically, I'll grain and water 6 horses every day I'm there to ride, and help with other projects or blanketing horses when necessary... an amazing opportunity! So I'm going to ride more... and (*torture of all tortures* said with dripping sarcasm) I'll have to take care of some other horses basic needs 3 days a week.

When I think about how I have always wanted just this kind of opportunity since I was 5 years old... and how it is here now... I can't believe how lucky, how truly blessed I am. How amazing to live a life where wishes really are horses and beggars really can ride...