Who would have guessed that a kid from Amherst, Massachusetts, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Sciences (Pre-Veterinary) and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Italian from the University of Massachusetts, would end up in Santa Barbara County as an up-and-coming winemaker? Benjamin Silver did just that after catching the wine bug in 1993 at a summer job at Chicama Vineyards on Martha’s Vineyard.
After graduating from college in 1994, Benjamin used his science background to land a harvest intern Lab Technician position with winemaker Daniel Gehrs at Zaca Mesa Winery in Santa Barbara County. After harvest, the winery offered him a full-time position as Lab Supervisor. “Dan took me under his wing as an apprentice winemaker and nurtured my passion for viticulture and winemaking” explained Benjamin. Upon Gehrs’ departure in 1998, Benjamin took over Zaca Mesa’s winemaking helm.
Benjamin also began to experiment with small quantities of Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Nebbiolo. This experimentation laid the foundation for the eventual formation of his Silver label. He left Zaca Mesa in 2000 to pursue the development of his own label, while also taking over as winemaker for White Hawk Vineyard.
Benjamin Silver Wines currently produces extremely small bottlings of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Mourvedre, Syrah, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese from Santa Barbara County. The vineyards in Santa Barbara County benefit from sandstone and loam soils, over 300 days of sunshine a year, and a maritime regulated climate. Within the region, there is a diverse range of mesoclimates. These unique areas provide the ideal climatic conditions for growing a wide range of grape varietals well. The ability to purchase world-class quality fruit, fruit which produces wines with intense flavor and complex regional character, keeps Benjamin committed to Santa Barbara County wines.
Benjamin sums up his winemaking philosophy: “My focus is to enhance the multidimensional character of each varietal—to reflect the personality of the vineyard and the grape in perfect harmony in each of my wines! That’s what makes winemaking exciting!”