Maeve Smith, Coursey Graves General Manager:  Here at Coursey Graves, our commitment to enhancing natural beauty is as important as crafting exceptional wines. Today, we are fortunate to hear about the remarkable transformation of our Bennett Mountain Estate from John and Denise Graves, owners of Coursey Graves since 2015.

John Graves: Thank you! We’re thrilled to share our journey with you.

Q: Your focus on preserving the natural beauty of the property is evident. Could you tell us about the changes and upgrades you’ve made since acquiring the property in 2015?

John G: Absolutely. While there has been construction, our primary focus has been on the plants, land, trees, and that breathtaking view. We’ve undergone significant upgrades to the grapevines, addressing issues like the Red Blotch virus and the unfortunate loss of Cabernet vines during the 2017 Santa Rosa fires. We’ve replanted two-thirds of our estate, introducing new varietals for delightful blends. By 2025, we aim to have all vines producing quality grapes for our Bordeaux blends.

Q: Rocks seem to play a unique role on your property. How have you incorporated them into your landscape?

Denise Graves: Rocks are abundant here, and we’ve turned them into assets. Heavy atmospheric rivers have shown us the path rains want to take down our mountainside. We’ve strategically built rock swales to guide water and prevent erosion, retaining walls, and winding stairways – all constructed by our talented vineyard staff using our own rocks removed from the vineyard fields. 

Q: The mention of oak trees caught our attention. How have you addressed the vulnerability of these trees?

John G: The 2017 fires highlighted the vulnerability of our native oaks. We’ve taken significant steps to restore them to their primacy, removing non-native species, regular pruning, and disease prevention measures. Our prized oak hybrid, akin to the Tree of Life, stands as a testament to our commitment.

Q: The mountain views sound breathtaking. Can you elaborate on how you’ve maximized this aspect of your property?

Denise G: Our view is indeed a gem. We’ve planted thousands of flowers, creating vibrant french gardens that bloom nearly year-round. The scene, complemented by our pond, bridge, and boat handcrafted by John (Graves), is truly picturesque.

Q: The landscaping around your winery is stunning. Can you tell us about the creative minds behind it?

Denise G: Certainly! Sonoma-based Garden Works initiated the design and planting of our winery meadows in 2019, winning a California landscape contractors award in 2021. The mastermind behind the designs, Matt Ripley, continued his work independently under Inspired Landscapes in 2021. Our garden is featured prominently on his website, inspiredlandscapessllc.com.

Q: The structural elements of your property are impressive. Who was behind the design?

John G: We enlisted the expertise of Charles Stinson, a renowned architect, to design our structures, including the home, office, storage facility, and winery upgrades. His vision connects the vertical lines of the buildings with the vineyard rows and even designed our logo.

Q: Tell us about the transformation of our tasting room. How did that come about?

Denise G: When we acquired the property in 2015, the existing tasting room was small, hot, and frankly, not the most inviting space. We wanted to create a more welcoming environment. Our new tasting room is that. It incorporates beautiful reclaimed materials, like the tasting table crafted from oak staves used in winemaking and doors to our caves made from wood sourced from used barrels.

Q: Lastly, what about outdoor tastings?

Denise G: Given our climate and extraordinary property, most people prefer tasting outdoors for much of the year. We’ve designed several beautiful private spaces overlooking the gardens, vineyards, and valley. Each space is perfect for relaxing with wine, enjoying views, and capturing picturesque moments with friends and family.

Maeve Smith: Thank you for sharing the extraordinary journey of Coursey Graves.

John G: Absolutely, Maeve. We believe that every element contributes to the overall experience of Coursey Graves, from the wines we craft to the spaces we’ve carefully designed. We want our visitors to not only enjoy exceptional wines but also feel connected to the beauty of nature surrounding them.

Denise G: And don’t take our word for it.. Our advice – Come and visit anytime, and don’t forget to bring a good camera!