2010 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare

I’m way late to the party on this one as it has received heaps of praise from the interwebs. That said there is never too much of a good thing right? I was first introduced to this wine (my very first from Bonny Doon) with the 2008 vintage and have grown to love it more with each passing bottle. But enough of the love story, let’s get to the wine!

2010 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de CigarePrice: $15.00 @ Bonny Doon Vineyard*

What They Said:

Per Winophilia “Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Vineyard is one of the grandes dames of the Cali-Rhône movement, and for my money Grahm’s most consistent wine over the years has been his pink Vin Gris de Cigare. Made from a blend of Rhône varieties, it is a consistently excellent California take on the refreshing, dry Provence rosés loved by wine drinkers around the world. Grahm has been making this wine since 1984, back in the days when pink California wine meant the dreaded white zinfandel. That particular category was so uniformly bad that rosés as a group were uniformly rejected in the U.S., but Bonny Doon stuck with it. In the category of American rosé, this is the éminence grise, as pun-meister Grahm would likely say.

Very pale pink in color, it offers an array of red berry, citrus and spice flavors, with a racy quality that makes it extremely flexible with food. Or serve it by itself. At 12.8% alcohol it’s very easy to drink. You’ll be shocked how quickly a bottle disappears, so don’t buy just one.”

What I Think:

(12.8%) 71% Grenache, 16% Rousanne, 11% Grenache Blanc, 2% Mourvedre – An interesting mix of mostly red and some white grapes this one is a beautiful salmon pink in the glass. It explodes with strawberry field aromas (and a hint of minerals) on the nose. Strawberry, melon, crisp green apple greet you on the palate along with subtle floral notes. The mid-palate shows a firm rocky, creek bed mineral component and balanced acidity that leads to a crisp, pleasant and refreshing crescendo where the Rousanne adds a nice touch of richness to the finish. Dry throughout this one leaves your mouth watering and begging for more. Pairs easily with food and the only problem with popping it on the porch is that this is more than a typical quaffer and may distract your attention with its goodness. At $15 this is more than I typically look to spend on a rose but worth every penny. This one will leave you wishing you had more so be sure to stock up. I know I will be… 3,298 cases made

Rating: Wow!

*While I did receive a bottle of this wine as a sample I have since purchased many more on my own. You should too…

2006 Zaca Mesa Syrah

2006 Zaca Mesa SyrahPrice: $16.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “93 points and a “Smart Buy” designation from Wine Spectator: “Offering wonderful floral, grapey plum and wild berry aromas, this is rich, smooth and supple on the palate, with tiers of dark berry, mocha, mineral and spice flavors that glide along. Drink now through 2015.” (02/10) Zaca Mesa has been on a serious roll over the last few vintages with their Santa Ynez Valley Syrah bottling. The 2005 was wonderful with its mix of ripe fruit and intense spice, the 2006 is more of the same except that it is even bigger and has a little more of everything packed into the same $16.99 package. The nose is perfect varietal Syrah, full of roast fennel, hot tar, muffuletta, and sweet black berry jam. Back that with deep, perfectly ripe flavors of white pepper, cassis, fried sage and violet and this is one intense, full throttle Syrah. For well under $20 this is one of the biggest steals we currently have in the Domestic section. (Bryan Brick, K&L)”

What I Think:

After reading an intriguing tasting note from Steve Heimoff I set out to find the Zaca Mesa Grenache. That didn’t work out but I did find this Syrah and boy am I glad I did. Wow! It starts with a great nose. Deep fruit with brambly spice on a jammy nose. The palate is powerful with a surprisingly nice acidity that keeps it perfectly balanced. Nice layered flavors showing violets, blackberries, bacon, dusted chocolate and a nice mineral component to boot. The finish is loaded with herbs and spices and lingers on ever so nicely. This one makes me want to drink a whole lot more Syrah. Wine Spectator gave this one 93 points and I see why! This is the most enjoyable bottle of wine I have had in quite a while. I just bought a few more bottles and after taking a quick look as the other Zaca Mesa offerings this is a winery I need to explore further. Now if I can somehow just get my hands on that Grenache…

Rating: Wow! <- And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Interested in reading more about the Zaca Mesa Syrah?

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!

2007 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas

Price: $21.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

2007 Tablas Creek Côtes de TablasPer K&L Wines “93 points Robert Parker: “The 2007 Côtes de Tablas is a sensational wine as well as a great bargain. The fact that it is finished with a screw cap may give some consumers the wrong impression, but this is a serious, mouthfilling red. A blend of 50% Grenache and the balance equal parts Syrah and Counoise, it exhibits sweet, gamy notes along with plenty of pepper, licorice, roasted herb, blackberry, and cassis characteristics, a velvety, lush texture, a full-bodied richness, beautifully integrated acidity, abundant Provencal typicity, and good minerality for a wine of such remarkable flavor depth. Enjoy it over the next 5-6 years.” (08/09)

Tablas Creek, a partnership between Robert Haas and the Perrin family of France’s famed Château de Beaucastel, has been at the forefront of growing and producing top-notch Rhône varietals for more than 20 years. Their “Côtes de Tablas” blend of Grenache, Syrah and Counoise is an homage to the wines of the Southern Rhône kissed by the California sun. The 2007 vintage is fantastic and alluring from the moment you pop the cork. Lead by bright red cherry aromas underscored by hints of iron, game and fresh cracked black pepper, the bouquet translates seamlessly to the palate, which is fresh and spicy with a vein of anise that weaves itself through to the finish. Like other Perrin wines, this medium-bodied beauty is built for the table. Try it with braised short ribs, grilled hanger steak with shallots or bucatini all’Amatriciana.”

What I Think:

Tablas Creek is a wine I have been meaning to try for years. With that it silently became the movie that everyone raved about. Expectations growing each day as you await the experience. A bit ago they had a tasting at K&L Wines but I managed to catch a cold around that time. From my sick bed I added a couple bottles to my virtual cart which I picked up a few months later. Then the wine sat in the rack begging for me to drink it. Last Friday I took it up on the offer but could it meet the lofty expectations?

This effort was 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 25% Counoise. Anyone ever had a varietal bottling of Counoise? I haven’t but would love to give it a try. No better way to learn about a grape. Speaking of learning something crossed my mind when drinking this bottle; currants. This is a smell/taste that crosses my mind often. I need to get more familiar with it. I decided that part of my New Year’s Blogging Resolution (#nybr) will be to explore a different flavor component each month. The goal being to familiarize myself with each and expand my wine tasting vocabulary. Anise may be my early choice for February. Who else has wine related resolutions to share? Ok, ok let’s get to the wine…

The Côtes de Tablas greeted me with an expressive nose showing spicebox, herb, black cherry and dark brambly fruits notes. It was medium to dark garnet in color. The entry to the palate showed a glimpse of fruit that is quickly enveloped into a tight, but balanced, acidic wrapper from which emerges a dry, finish laced with red licorice flavors. My initial impression was that this wine was clearly well made, a bit tight and enjoyable without being memorable. Those that know me are aware I am looking for more than that in a $20 bottle. After four nights I learned that this one just needed more time in the bottle. Though enjoyable initially a few days of air made a world of difference. With time the front of the palate softened and the wine now greeted you with nice, warm fruit on entry while still holding its balance with a nice acidity emerging towards the middle that leads to a long, dry, chalky finish. In hindsight, I would have liked to let this one lie for at least another year (or decanted for a few hours). Had I checked earlier perhaps the Tablas Creek vintage chart (pdf) could have saved the day. It currently lists the ‘07 Côtes de Tablas as “early maturity”. The ’06 is drinking at “peak maturity”. I wonder if I can find a bottle for comparisons sake. In the mean time what to do about that bottle of ’07 Esprit de Beaucastel

Rating: Pricey