DALLAS — Benedetto Vineyards started with a bottle of wine and four friends — Lisa and Nick Marshall, and Ben and Becky Fitzgerald — sitting around a dinner table.
“About three years ago, (Ben and Becky) moved outside of Salem and bought a house that was on 3 acres,” Nick said, “and we were over there having dinner one night and went, ‘Well what are you guys going to do with all this property?’ And we drank a little bit of wine and decided we were going to plant a vineyard there.”
And so they did, plunging head-first into the world of wine-making and vineyards, eventually finding themselves in Dallas.
The vineyard officially opened to the public on June 23.
The response has been great, Lisa said.
“The community has been very encouraging and accepting,” she said. “People want to come and taste the grapes that are right here on the property, and they want to support Dallas business.”
“It’s been fantastic,” Nick chimed in. “We really like Dallas, and it feels good that we have a lot of people from Dallas coming up here. It’s got a good neighborhood feel.”
The tasting room is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with weekly specials. There is a $10 tasting fee, which is waived if you buy a bottle of wine.
Six wines are on the tasting menu: a pinot gris, a rosé, two chardonnays, a pinot noir, and a blended red wine.
All their wine is made locally, at Eola Hills, and even though they’re not wine-makers, they’re heavily involved in the process.
It’s part of what makes their wine so unique, Nick said.
He compared wine-makers to artists.
“They’re good at it and are pretty proud of what they do. They’ve got their methods and their way of doing things. They don’t want you jumping in the middle of that.
“Well Steve Anderson, who’s our wine-maker at Eola Hills, has been doing it for over 25 years, and has kind of been there and done that in the wine-making world, so he’ll let us stick our paintbrush in the middle of the process, so to speak, and so I think that’s what sets us apart. These wines are totally different than what you would taste down in Eola Hills.”
At the heart of Benedetto’s is the philosophy of selling a product that you’re proud of.
“The first time we worked with Anderson … we’re mixing and blending and telling him what we like, and he asks, ‘Are you trying to make wine that the public likes or that you guys like?’” Nick said. “Well, we’re trying to make wine that we like, because if we can’t sell it, we’re going to have to drink it all,” he added, laughing.
Another thing that sets Benedetto Vineyards apart from various others is that either Nick, Lisa, Ben or Becky are always on the property.
“You can come here, and you’re going to meet one of the owners, and you’re going to meet someone who works in the vineyard, and who’s involved in the wine-making,” Nick said.
This vineyard was developed from a dream shared among friends and grew into something much bigger.
“We’re doing something that we love that we can share with other people,” Lisa said.
“We spent years going wine tasting, and getting in the car after we would taste somewhere and going, ‘If that was my place, I’d do this,’ or, ‘If that was my place I would do that,’” Nick said. “You can sit back and armchair quarterback your whole life, or you can step up and give it a shot and see how you do, and it’s exciting to give it a shot.”
Before they were Benedetto Vineyards, the Marshalls and the Fitzgeralds planted 2 acres of Gamaret wine on the Fitzgerald property.
At first, the friends were just going to sell their grapes to a winery and make wine for themselves, friends and family.
Then they found the property where Benedetto’s now sits, purchasing it from a former vineyard-grower.
“The guy who had this property before, his name is David Tennant, he planted this 15 years ago when he was 60 years old as a retirement project,” Nick said. “ … His dream was to have a tasting room and do a lot of the stuff we’re doing now, but he either sold his grapes or had his wine produced under another label, called Dragonfly Creek, but he just sold it through a distributor.
“When we met him, he was in his late 70s and it was getting hard to take care of all the property.”
The friends bought the property from Tennant, and established it to what it is now, including building the tasting room.
“Beck and I stained all the ceilings; the guys put the ceiling up, the flooring, the counter tops, we painted all the molding, and they put all the molding up,” Lisa said.
Benedetto’s is Italian for “blessed.”
That’s exactly how Nick describes their journey.
“Both Lisa and my families immigrated to the West Coast directly from Italy via Ellis Island,” Nick said.
“I always heard stories about my great-great-grandpa Luigi Ferrando making wine. He moved here to live the American dream and work in a lumber mill and make wine at home.”
Throughout this whole process, Nick said it’s been on-the-job learning.
“Lisa has an uncle who has another vineyard, and we had helped with their vineyard, so we had a feel for what it takes, but we weren’t experts, so we’re learning as we go,” Nick said. “It’s been fun.”