2009 Benefactor Cellars Red

Way late to the party here but when I saw a lone bottle staring at me from the shelves this weekend I figured it was high time for me to actually get around to this review! The outfit behind this one is DnA Vineyards which opened up shop in 2006. Dennis Patton and his wife Andrea are the proprietors there. Some may recognize Dennis’s name as he has been in the business for 30+ years. He founded Hidden Cellars in 1981 which was sold to Parducci in 1999. He also spearheaded the Coro Mendocino wine consortium along with Paul Dolan.Coro Mendocino

Per the DnA Vineyards site their focus is to make “Custom Crafted Wines” at “Incomparable Price/Quality Ratio”. They do this for numerous clients; Trader Joe’s chief amongst them. This is the third wine of theirs I’ve tried. The first two were both Zinfandels; the 2006 TBD California Zinfandel and the 2007 Rootstock Zinfandel where Dennis himself gave me a lesson in negociant wine-making. Makes sense as this is the grape he is most known for (along with Petite Sirah). You can read more about Dennis in this excellent article.

2009 Benefactor Cellars RedNow per the Coro Mendocino guidelines (or protocol as they say) the wines must have 40-70% Zinfandel; and no second-tier varietal (Barbera, Carignane, Charbono, Grenache, Dolcetto, Primitivo, Petite Sirah and Syrah) can exceed the percentage of the Zinfandel. Lastly a winemaker has “free play” to choose any varietal to comprise up to 10 percent of the final product. The Benefactor Cellars blend is 50% Zinfandel, 40% Syrah and 10% Carignane which meets the Coro Mendocino standards. That said as these wines are distinctively labeled and require peer review I’ve still yet to try one. Anyhow let’s get to this one…

Price: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2009 Benefactor Cellars Red (back label)Per the bottle “Oh erstwhile unstoppable wine market! There are those who have mourned your passing with many a tear, many a boo hoo. But we celebreate the generosity of your death. Those wines which once haunted us from beyond our price range now pour happily – affordably, deliciously, attainably – into our glasses, thanks to you. A toast to failed predictions! To bloated, insupportable markets! Here’s to the Benefactor!”

What I Think:

(14.9%) 50% Zinfandel, 40% Syrah, 10% Carignane – Dark purple in color with warm briary, berry fruit and spice on the nose. It starts with almost candied plum and cherry before a firm acidic structure emerges on the mid-palate to maintain balance. From there it turns oaky and creamy showing vanilla on the finish which thins quickly. From there it lingers on nicely (albeit a bit hot) with a bit of spice and dusty chocolate. This wine is plush, comfortable (familiar) and fruity. An easy, smooth drinker for a $5 spot.

Rating: Buy It

Interested in reading more about the Benefactor Cellars Red?

  • Jeff from Viva la Wino thinks its “actually quite good, especially for $5″. High praise for those that know him…
  • Matt from Trader Joe’s Wine Notes says “Dennis Patton has set the bar very high for wines now occupying the $5 price point”.
  • The folks (or folk) over at Beards & Bellies calls it “a damn fine wine for $4.99″.
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5 thoughts on “2009 Benefactor Cellars Red

  1. Too bad Benefactor is already gone :(

    However, the next vintage of the TJ’s Reserve Paso Robles Syrah should be in stores this week just in time for the Culinary Compendium which hits 3/21.

  2. I’ve started referring to your blog when venturing into new TJ’s wine territory as a thrifty, amateur wino. Thanks for this great, thorough resource!

    I’m hosting a small wine & chocolate gathering soon and am doing it very low-budget (<$5 bottles that are a step above $2 Chuck). Grabbed a bottle of La Granja Tempranillo and Blue Fin Petite Sirah, neither of which I've tried. After reading about BFPS, I'm not excited to serve it. Looking to add a third option and possibly switch the BFPS… any suggestions? I read that Zins are good with dark chocolate… or possibly something that sparkles… Would Benefactor Cellars be worth a try? Thanks!!

  3. @Reader: If you still have access to the Benefactor, yes it’s worth a try.
    Here are some other possibilities:
    (Warning: I haven’t tried the current vintages, I’m just going on theory and sales history)
    Ruggero Nero d’Avola ($3.99)
    Paliconico (sp) Merlot/Malbec or Carmenere ($3.99)
    The Portes du Bordeaux ($4.99) should be available hopefully by next week if you want to go up to $5.

  4. Thanks, Angela! La Granja was pretty good on the second night. Guess I should’ve tried Benefactor before they ran out.

  5. I’ve learned to snag a TJ bargain. Had a b ottle of Benefactor and, for the price, it was awesome. A week later it was gone from my store when I went back to grab more. I bought a case from another nearby store.

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