By Andrea Stuart
For almost 25 years, Bernardus Winery and Vineyards has been steeped in owner Ben Pon’s Dutch heritage, honoring the art form of winemaking by transcending the ordinary. The orange crest embedded on the wine labels speaks to the eponymously named vintages with an appropriate design that incorporates two noble Dutch lions. A Holland native whose father designed the Volkswagen Bus, Pon’s focus is on creating a legacy that honors his appreciation for European wines.
Local winemaker Dean DeKorth has carried out Pon’s dream to create Bordeaux-style wines using vines grown in the Cachagua Appellation of Monterey County. Integrating experience with intuition and technical proficiency has endowed the Bernardus brand with a distinctive French influence that is punctuated by the climate and terrior of the Carmel Valley. DeKorth, also a viticulturalist, enologist, scholar, craftsman, and artist, has refined his talent for French winemaking since his residency in France, having referred to his Burgundian training, which focused on distinguishing aromas, flavors, and textural elements of wine in order to complement the palate.
Bernardus wines have earned praises from Robert Parker and Wine Enthusiast, scoring over 90 points for six of their current wines. Partnerships with vineyard designate growers such as Pisoni, Granscioni, Griva, among others, enable Bernardus to harvest the best Monterey County fruit.
Having imbued a charismatic element into the wines, Carmel Valley seemed a fitting place for the tasting room. Thus, the Bernardus Tasting Room was born and has since inspired the birth of numerous other tasting rooms in the area.
History has proven that when the former race car driver and Olympic skeet shooter Ben Pon has a dream, that dream comes true. Bernardus Winery has become the archetype for Monterey County wines, and continues to elevate American winemaking through passion and implementation.