Down with the (Bonny) Doon!

…or why I’m a fan of Bonny Doon Vineyard

Bonny Doon Vineyard Those that have been following along closely (via twitter or via CellarTracker) know that I have been drinking (and enjoying) quite a few of their wines lately. Yet for whatever reason that has been slow to translate into me posting them here. That said it is time to reconcile that.

Now I thought of starting this with a big introduction to Bonny Doon Vineyard but it has already been done better than I can do justice by many others before (see here, here and here or you can read Randall’s version here) so I’ll stick to the short story. Randall Grahm originally set out to make Pinot Noir before discovering Rhone grapes were a better match for California’s Mediterranean climate. He made the first vintage of Cigare Volant in 1984. In 1990 the winery entered a rampant period of growth launching the well-known Big House brand (including Cardinal Zin) and later Poet’s Leap Riesling. In 2006 he made the decision to trim his portfolio from 450,000 cases to 35,000 cases, selling off the labels mentioned above, to focus on biodynamically produced wines exhibiting “vin de terroir”. Never one scared to rock the status quo he opted for screwtops on his premium wines in 2000, lists all ingredients used in winemaking on his labels and has now set out to grow a new vineyard from seeds (which is unheard of). In this I see a passion for exploration which I share. Perhaps that is part of the reason I am drawn to his wines but I’m guessing it is more because they are damn good!Randall Grahm

My first of the Bonny Doon wines was the 2008 Vin Gris which I fell head over heels for. From there I picked up a bottle here and there before I took advantage of a few of their “shipping included” six pack offers (get free shipping now on all case orders through November 25th). What I’ve learned over these bottles is these wines bring together a nice balance of new and old world for those that like some rusticity and focus to go along with their fruit (as well as pair it with a meal). Perhaps more exciting they show an excellent QPR track record and consistency from vintage to vintage. I really need to get down to the Santa Cruz Mountains and pay them a visit. I don’t know how many more excuses I need as I am keen to try their new red (the Vino Rosso) and look forward to dining at the Cellar Door Café. While I work on that here are some thoughts on their two latest releases:

  • 2010 Bonny Doon Vineyard Grenache Clos de Gilroy ($18) – Fresh floral aromas with light berry fruit. Light and juicy with tart cranberry, strawberry and hints of rhubarb along with a bright. From there it dries showing white pepper (and a touch of oak) that lingers pleasantly on a soft finish. My 2nd vintage of this one as I enjoyed the ’09 as well.
  • 2007 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant ($35) – The 23rd version of the flagship Cigare Volant is dominated by Grenache (versus a more even Grenache/Syrah blend in 2006 ). A beautiful nose with layers of aromas. Dark and lush with ripe blueberry flavors and a nice acidity to keep it honest. Slightly tart (yet barrelly sweet and creamy) with dry herbs and soft, lingering tannins on a warm, comforting finish. A lot to like here. Easily drinkable now and appears ready to age effortlessly.

For those that didn’t get enough (if there is one of you…) you can get more Bonny Doon coverage here or head on over to CellarTracker to read more of my tasting notes.

How about you? Are you a fan of Bonny Doon? If not who have you been a fan of lately?

2008 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare

2008 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de CigarePrice: $9.99 @ Cost Plus

What They Said:

Per Bonny Doon Vineyard “Fresh and bright with a pale pink color and a soupçon of blue rose. Hints of wild strawberry, white cherry, apple blossom, and the barest whiff of spearmint. Palate is quite dry and zesty with pale red fruits, blood orange, citrus and a lean yet supple finish. Another excellent example of our skill with Rosé, the 2008 has a greater quantity of grenache than previously yet it’s the cinsault and roussanne which really shine; adding complex notes of stone fruit and the nuanced texture of old vines. Delicious today but will develop added richness and aroma with an additional 6-12 months of bottle age.”

What I Think:

Surprisingly this is my first offering from Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Vineyards. Randall is known and called many things but he is always creative and sometimes eccentric in my mind. And best of all he is always pushing the boundaries of traditional thinking. From advocating for full “ingredient” listings being disclosed (beyond the grapes this includes tartaric acid, and sulfur dioxide with indigenous yeast, yeast nutrients, bentonite and French oak barrels used in the winemaking process) to trying to accelerate the process of creating terroir-driven wine in new regions it seems he is always up to something that captures my attention. Dos Equis: the most interesting man in the wine worldGiven that it is no surprise that I can’t help but think of him whenever I come across a Dos Equis advertisement as he is certainly the “most interesting man in the wine world”.

So what about that wine? This offering is a blend of 58% Grenache, 18% Cinsault, 10% Roussanne, 7% Mourvèdre, 4% Syrah and 3% Grenache Blanc. Reddish/salmon in color with loads of strawberry on the nose. On the palate it adds in flavors of the patch from whence they came on a floral/stony backbone. This fuller bodied Rose is dry on the mid-palate with enough acidity to keep it well balanced and delivers a tart, crisp finish. No quaffing allowed here! This one is a well made with enough to ponder on its own and the ability to pair with a meal should you desire. At $10 I’ll be revisiting this again throughout the summer. In fact if you’ll excuse me I believe I have a bottle chilled in the refrigerator right now…

Rating: Buy It

And as an added bonus for those wondering what to pair this with Viviane Bauquet Farre recommends a heirloom tomato caprese salad (and offers her thoughts on the Vin Gris de Cigare). This is a match I will surely have to try!