Napa Valley AVA
Small lots of artisan wines from the finest vineyards in California
Randal Bennett was well onto a successful career in management consulting with a top notch national firm when he realized the work was not what he wanted to continue pursuing. He had been in London for about two years and realized his passion for wine was abundant enough to cause him to change the direction of his life.
Born and raised in California, Bennett had graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he studied business. The university’s proximity to California’s Central Coast growing region and frequent return visits after graduation had tweaked his interest in wine. His sojourn in Great Britain and its nearness to Europe’s magnificent wine countries made his decision to pursue a career in wine crystal clear.
“I had always been passionate about wine and found myself increasingly drawn to its mysteries,” the 47-year-old explained. “I wanted to know everything about wine and the process by which it was made. I read a number of books on the subject, talked to many, many people about it, and finally decided to give it a try.”
In 2007, Bennett and his wife Lindsay Marie took the giant step and Townley Wines became a reality.
For the record, Townley is Bennett’s middle name and has been in his family since the early 1700’s. The unique name seemed perfect for the Bennetts’ new wine venture.
The couple moved back to Northern California, to the town of Sonoma to be exact. With little formal training in the wine industry, Randal Bennett decided the apprentice route was his best bet towards a successful undertaking and a move that would provide his family with a more rural type of environment.
“I feel I was incredibly lucky with what happened next,” Bennett continued. “I went to work for Thomas Rivers Brown, the person many people consider the ‘rock star’ of winemaking. He was well on his way to being named Wine and Food magazine’s Winemaker of the Year for 2010. His assistant at the time was a winemaker named Mike Smith (Myriad Cellars, Carter Cellars) and the pair produced numerous 100-rated wines during their winemaking careers. They were willing to share what they knew and I learned a great deal about the art of winemaking from them.”
From there, Bennett switched to Sojourn Cellars in Sonoma City and its celebrated owner-winemaker Erich Bradley (Arrowood Winery). Once again, Randal Bennett was able to glean expertise and understanding from an incredibly gifted winemaker. Bennett is still associated with Sojourn Cellars in the capacity of general manager and assistant winemaker. He credits Bradley with showing him the refinements of sales and management associated with a boutique winery operation like Townely Wines.
In 2009, the first release of the new winery was offered to the general public, a minute 300-cases. “We intentionally started small and our growth has been slow and steady,” informed Bennett. “We will produce a little over 750 cases this year, but it is my intent to eventually grow Townley to around the 3,000-case level. It seems that number is about right for a boutique winery. It allows for employees on the sell side of the business that is so important to a winery’s success.”
Townley Wines buys all of its fruit from selected growers in various growing areas including Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Mendocino County. He resisted an impulse to purchase less expensive fruit when he started Townley Wines. “I was told by both Mike and Erich to buy the best fruit I could find, regardless of price. They said that the fruit dictates the quality of wine in the bottle and I’m glad I listened to them.”
Randal Bennett was surprised at the acclaim that accompanied Towny Wines upon their introduction. “I was really moved by the fact that people found our wines so compelling. I spent a great deal of time locating the exact type of fruit I wanted and my instincts proved correct. I still feel I have ridden on the shoulders of my mentors in this business.”
If modesty was a stairway to success, Randal Bennett would be on the top floor. He has determinedly stuck to his initial premise that smaller is better and of working with his customers on a direct basis.
His label is truly a work of art. Laguna Beach artist Shane Towny (his actual name, no relation) offered his help and a number of his prized landscapes grace the Townley Wines labels along with town shots taken by Randal Bennett.
Welcome to the world of Townley Wines. Enjoy!
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
Townley is a boutique winery focused on producing world-class artisan wines. Our philosophy emphasizes vineyard terroir and traditional winemaking methods to produce wines that are expressive of the true nature and potential of each varietal and vineyard location. I choose to work with vineyards in optimal microclimates and soils for each specific style of wine I want to make for each varietal. The growers I work with are meticulous farmers sharing my commitment to high quality and sustainable farming. My winemaking style is inspired by the winemakers I have learned form, including Thomas Rivers Brown of Schrader Cellars, Mike Smith of Myriad Cellars, and Erich Bradley of Sojourn Cellars.
Our 2014 Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay showcases my preferred style, one that is fruit-driven yet complex and balanced, with focused structure. The vineyard is in northern Mendocino, 150 miles north of San Francisco and 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean. It is an extreme location with steep terrain. The Chardonnay vines were planted in 1993 at elevations ranging from 1,700 to 2,200 feet. Vineyard owner Stuart Bewely has an unwavering commitment to meticulous farming. The vines produce exceptional, concentrated grapes each vintage with small, loose clusters and tiny berries with explosive flavors.
Please enjoy this introduction to Townley Wines and our winemaking style.
Randal Townley Bennett,
Winemaker & Owner