World traveler Bernardus (Ben) Pon lived life to the fullest, whether racing Porsches, competing as a marksman for his native Holland in the 1972 summer Olympics, or hosting epic truffle dinners. As this unrelenting drive for adventure prevailed, his love of wine eventually translated into acquiring the winery in Carmel Valley that would become Bernardus. With Ben’s passing in 2019, oenophiles lost an iconic personality and trailblazer for Monterey County viticulture, yet the winery continues to press forward, carrying on his legacy. Learn more about their vision and production by reading ahead.
Vineyards and Viticulture
Mr. Pon knew as well as anyone that truly great wine requires the best possible grapes, so he enlisted Matt Shea to manage Bernardus’ three estate vineyards in Monterey County’s Carmel Valley AVA totaling 54 hectares: Marinus, Featherbow, and Ingrid’s. Minimizing the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, Shea embraces sustainable solutions when cultivating vines, drawing from his background “in Oregon growing premium Pinot Noir organically, biodynamically, and conventionally.” In addition to these estate vineyards, Bernardus sources fruit from vineyards in Santa Lucia Highlands and Arroyo Seco AVAs, including Rosella’s, Garys’, Sierra Mar, and Soberanes, by fostering relationships with top growers. Hand-harvesting and -sorting grapes from blocks reserved exclusively for Bernadus ensures higher quality wines.
Winemaker Dean DeKorth spent a decade training in Burgundy and Loire Valley before returning to the U.S., bringing an informed stylistic approach in which balance, complexity, and mouthfeel take precedence. He seeks to express the individual characteristics of each vineyard by fermenting in batches, then tasting and blending for the optimal wine before bottling. DeKorth says, “I’m always experimenting every year, because if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward,” further explaining, “I want them to have great aromas and great flavors – that’s the complete package.”
Griva Vineyard Arroyo Seco Sauvignon Blanc
Griva vineyard in Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco AVA was established by Michael Griva specifically with Bernardus Winery in mind. There, Sauvignon Blanc and a small amount of Sémillon are grown for the Bernardus bottling. Fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks, followed by several months of aging in large, neutral oak barrels. It’s a refreshing, food-friendly white wine with fragrant notes of gooseberry, passion fruit, citrus zest, and honeysuckle – ideal for warmer weather, salads, and seafood.
Monterey County Chardonnay
Grapes from Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands are hand-picked and gently pressed before fermentation in French oak barrels. Malolactic conversion and lees stirring help the oak nuances infuse into the wine and provide dairy and bready hints while imparting viscosity and creaminess to its mouthfeel. Ripe pear, pineapple, toast, and vanilla notes endure through this white’s long, buttery finish. [2018 Magnum available]
Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Bernardus Winery’s SLH Pinot Noir features hand-harvested fruit from a selection of their favorite vineyards within the windswept AVA. After fermenting in small batches, the wine matures in a portion of new French oak barrels for around seven months to not overwhelm the fresh Pinot character. This easy-drinking, versatile red combines aromas and flavors of crushed black cherry, plum, forest floor, baking spices, and lively acidity and ripe tannins. [2016 available]
Carmel Valley Estate Merlot
Hailing from Bernardus Winery’s estate vineyard in the Carmel Valley AVA of Monterey County, this varietal Merlot bottling expresses the grape’s pure fruit, herbal, and chocolaty character. By allowing the wine to develop exclusively in neutral French and Hungarian oak barrels, they preserve the vibrant red berry, mint, and cocoa layers while softening its tannic structure. The result is a ripe, polished red to enjoy at any time!
Keep your eyes peeled for the best deals on Bernardus wines and many other unique producers on Wines’ Til Sold Out!