Napa wine…with a Paradise Valley twist

Randy and Lisa Lynch

Randy and Lisa Lynch

If you’ve visited El Chorro, Don N Charlie’s, The Mission or The House recently, you may have noticed a new menu offering – Bennett Lane Wines.

Turns out, the Napa-based winery has a local connection – founders Randy and Lisa Lynch call Paradise Valley home.

“We love everything about it here, even the heat,” says Mr. Lynch.

The Lynches bought a home in Paradise Valley a few years ago, at first more for relaxation and retreat, but now have their eyes set on bringing Napa Valley to Paradise Valley and beyond.

“With many wine club members already here, and some of Arizona’s top chefs blending Bennett Lane wines with their menus, we want our wines to find a home here just as we did,” says Ms. Lynch, noting she and Randy recently hosted their first two Arizona wine club events at their home to a wild success.

How they got their start

“Back in the 1950s and 60s, Napa was more orchards and dairy farms than wineries and tasting rooms,” laughs Mr. Lynch, who spent many a summer in the area as a child exploring and water skiing with his family. “But it was clear the area was special, even back then.”

That’s why years later, when his own family was seeking out a vacation home in the early 2000s, he piled them in the car to visit Calistoga, today a rustic-yet-charming town at the top of the valley with the most picturesque views in the region.

“By then, we were avid wine lovers, thanks to our travels to Italy,” says Ms. Lynch. “We found a lovely house on the valley floor – which included 12 acres, four of them planted to produce cabernet right on the estate.”

So, the Lynches, who already found great success in the business and marketing worlds in their own right, set out to re-model the home, grow their first harvest and plan the rest of the property.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t alone,” says Mr. Lynch. “The market at that time very soft, and nobody was buying $100 bottles of wine right after the ‘dot com’ bust.”

The only option was to find someone who would be willing to do a custom crush of their grapes, and then bottle it themselves as gifts for friends, family and employees.

“Thankfully, just two miles down the road, we found a charming winery. Well, a formerly working winery,” said Ms. Lynch. “We connected with the winemaker on-site, who gave us a tour and offered to help.”

But then, as the Lynches said their goodbyes and started up the car, the winemaker noted in passing that the winery was for sale.

“We looked at each other, parked the car and all got back out,” says Mr. Lynch, still amazed at their luck to stumble on the picture-perfect vineyard and winery not far from their home. “I said right then to my family that ‘we would own this one day.’ They all said back – in unison – ‘I know,’ and my decision was made.”

About the wines

More than a decade later, their estate and nearby vineyard combine to make up Bennett Lane Winery, home to nearly forty 90-point wines that have been recognized by Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

In addition to award-winning wines, Bennett Lane also gained fame for its ability to buck the stereotype of who actually drinks wine in the United States.

“It is a little known fact, but wine is wildly popular on the racing circuit – yes, car racing,” says Mr. Lynch. “In 2004, we became the first California winery sponsor in NASCAR. Our Bennett Lane team even won the NASCAR West Series Championship in 2007, along with an extremely dedicated fan base.”

Ms. Lynch notes that the brand’s success on the racetrack even inspired their family to launch a new label to join their Bennett Lane varietals – Turn 4 Wines, available at Safeways across the Valley.

“In racing, that fourth and final turn is the most exciting, heading to the green and checkered flags,” says Ms. Lynch. “However, our daughter Jade – who, with her fiancée, Chad Miller, markets the brand and will marry at our Napa home this fall – will tell you the four is because she was the fourth born, and now it’s her turn.”

Ingenuity and creativity didn’t stop at targeting race fans. The Lynches also set their sights on sky, becoming the first winery in northern California to have its own branded hot air balloon in 2012.

Green wine?

“We are also working on attaining our Napa Green certification,” says Ms. Lynch, whose team has instituted recycling and water re-use programs at the winery, among other sustainable initiatives.

So, what could possibly be next for the wildly successful family?

“Arizona,” says Mr. Lynch. “It is all about right here, right now.”

For more information, visit bennettlane.com.

Ms. Bailin is a volunteer correspondent at the North Valley Office of Independent Newsmedia.

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