Tantalizing Wines and Views at Coursey Graves

Fall foliage and bee-friendly plantings supplied the color at a recent tasting at Coursey Graves, where the wines tantalize as much as the views. The winery, which inhabits a west-facing slope overlooking Bennett Valley, gets its name from the winemaker, Cabell Coursey, and owners John and Denise Graves. Coursey is also a consultant at Lombardi Wines and Flanagan Vineyards, the latter of which previously owned this property.

The tasting patio overlooks the estate vineyard.

From the first two wines — a 2021 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay from the Charles Heintz and Durell vineyards enjoyed while basking in the views and a 2019 Estate Syrah sipped during the winery and cave tour — I’d already developed an appreciation for Coursey’s winemaking aesthetic, his focus on purity of fruit, light touch with oak, and tilt toward leanness without sacrificing flavor or mouthfeel.

Tastings include a winery tour and a spin through the wine-aging cave.

The consistency of the approach was evident in the 2019 Napa Valley Cabernet, from mountain and benchland vineyards, and the 2018 and 2019 Bennett Mountain Estate Blend of Cabernet and Merlot. They’re all elegant but not spare, complex but not dense.

The 2018 estate red blend is half Cabernet Sauvignon and half Merlot.

Coursey’s goal is to remain varietally true, but the blends also honor their relatively maritime climate. The estate vineyard’s western exposure above the fog line ensures sufficient ripening, but with the Pacific Ocean less than 20 miles away as the crow flies, this is not an excessively warm growing site. The wines also reflect their respective vintages, with the 2018 more tannic and robust and the 2019 regally graceful.

The estate vineyard sits mostly above the fog line.

The mid-tasting pour, a 2019 Pinot Noir from Coursey’s separate label (Works & Days) and vineyard (Spring Hill), set the mood for the wines that followed.

An added delight of our visit at Coursey Graves was reuniting with estate host Joanne Foley-McDonald — she and I met several years ago at one of her previous Sonoma Valley stops. If you come here for a tasting, Joanne or one of her colleagues will show you an exceptional Bennett Valley time.

The winery’s tastings are strictly by appointment.

Why go:  elegant experience; Bennett Valley views; winemaking aesthetic.


6860 Serenity Way, Santa Rosa 95404

The Bennett Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) is a subappellation of the Sonoma Valley AVA.

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