Now Randall Grahm is a character and I mean that in the very best way. I’ve previously referred to him as the Dos Equis man of the wine world and he never ceases to amuse. Be it his thoughts on blending the latest Cigare Volant or his letter introducing (pdf) the Contra he always finds a way to entertain.
So what is this Contra all about? For starters where did it get its name? From the Gonsalves vineyard in Contra Costa county from which 79% of this one hails. Did I mention this vineyard is a field blend? Oh how I love a field blend! The couch? Yip! Apparently in the vineyard there is a lot of “discarded junk lying around including the couch shown in the picture.” Interesting but let’s cut to the chase. How is juice in the bottle…
What They Said:
Per Bonny Doon Vineyard Winemaker and President-for-Life Randall Grahm “Contra unites the earthy rusticity of old-vine carignane – that hard, stoniness that if untempered may be a tad too austere for some – with the luscious, opulent fruitiness of a number of the softer blending grapes. In the wine, you’ve got rocks and raspberries (or maybe they’re mulberries or blackberries), a lively acidity, tannins that are firm but perfectly ripe, and the result is an amazing experience that is both intellectual and sensual. It is hard to really articulate why this experience is so special, but the yin and yang of soft and hard, of fruit and earth, creates the most electrifying aesthetic frisson.”
What I Think:
(13.5%) 55% Carignane, 15% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, 7% Petite Sirah, 5% Zinfandel and 3% Syrah – Soft nose with sour cherry, forest floor and spice notes. Lively and juicy on the palate this one shows mulberry fruit, a touch of red licorice and a hint of earthiness on a mineral, stony backbone. Its firm acidity & structure throughout make this super food friendly and a match for many a meal. As it evolves in the glass the fruit becomes plush and take center stage with the mineral notes moving to the edges. The finish is smooth and short with barrel notes but the lingering effect is slightly hot. On the plus side it lasts for ages while open under the screw top. I drank mine over a week plus and saw little oxidative effects even on day 8. With the constant friction between old world and new this is a fun wine to spend time with and I am already on the lookout for another bottle. Feel free to grab some for yourself while you wait for my follow up report…
Rating: Interesting <- a new rating in honor of Randall who believes as I do that the “wine tasting experience is far more about the experiencer than the experienced.”
Interested in reading more about the Bonny Doon Vineyards Contra?
- RJ’s Wine Blog discusses Randall Grahm literature skills and calls the Contra a “Great ‘good’ wine.”
- Jon Bonne writes it has the “perfect profile for a big meal.”
- Palate Press calls it a mix of elegance and muscle and recommends pairing it with roast duck.
- Katie of Gonzo Gastronomy says “All that for $14? I’d have gladly paid $20…”
*this wine was received as press sample