When pioneering winemaker Mike Benziger sold his family’s 85-acre winery and estate in Glen Ellen in 2015, his future wasn’t exactly clear. Though the multi-million dollar sales of Benziger Family Winery and Glen Ellen Wines were impressive, Benziger’s life was in the balance.
Having been through two bouts of cancer, in 2009 and 2011, he walked away from his life’s work in the winery business nearly three years ago to focus on his health, something he’d rarely thought much about before.
“Everyone takes health for granted until you don’t have it,” says Benziger, in one of several talks we’d have over the next few weeks. “I’d never been unhealthy in my life,” says the 66-year-old. “When I had a disease it was a real eye-opener.”
But he also saw an opportunity. As a champion of biodynamics for vineyards—an intensive style of sustainable farming — he pivoted, to a different sort of farming: Plants that could be used as medicine.
“Every plant has a job,” Benziger says, overlooking his Demeter-certified biodynamic farm. Bursting with lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, flowers, and the sweetest Asian pears you’ve ever tasted, his GlenTucky Family Farm has become synonymous with some of the most pristine produce in the county
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