Jon Bonné was the wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and wrote a wine book, “The New California Wine.” Recently, Bonné has left the Chronicle and is heading east. He also intends to write a new book, “The New French Wine.”
During his West Coast tenure, Bonné championed wines of finesse, wines with lower alcohol, wines with lower sugar, wines with higher acid. These wines were, by and large, food friendly wines.
The wines that received less favor from Bonné were made from over ripe grapes, high sugar leading to notably high alcohol wines, over oaked, over tannic, huge fruit bombs, with overpowering winemaking notes. These wines, by and large, beat up food, destroying it.
Since his departure, several wine writers have celebrated his leaving, and more quietly some wineries have as well. Perhaps, the fairest criticism I read was that instead of finding and reporting on trends in California wine, Bonné tried to create those trends.
Overall, I liked Bonné’s writing, and found little to find fault with; I also like food friendly wines, although the wines I find so might fall in a broader range than his. McFadden, where I work, produces exactly the wines Bonné would favor, and if I didn’t love Guinness’ wines then I wouldn’t have applied to work for him. Simaine Cellars’ wines are, by contrast, huge; Victor makes incredibly deep wines, often with some damn high alcohol percentages, but every single one is solid, and they all pair well with food.
The wines chosen by Bonné for his Top 100 Wine list each year were also not monolithic in style. On the one hand, you would find the delightful Dashe Cellars Les Enfant Terribles Old Vine Zinfandel from McFadden Farm, a lighter, almost Beaujolais-esque wine, while on the other hand wines from Knez Winery repeatedly showed up on the list, and no Knez wine could be called a shrinking violet style wise.
Robert Parker Jr. is the most influential wine writer/critic in the industry. Parker does seem to award his highest ratings to some pretty gargantuan wines. The intensity of some of those wines seems to me to make them more of a meal by themselves than a suitable companion to other components of a full course meal.
At Jim Gordon’s Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley, Bonné and Parker got into it a bit. Parker had written a thinly veiled attack on Bonné and his preferences, and Bonné called out Parker during a Q & A following Parker’s keynote address. While warranted, and entertaining in a “is this really happening” way, the only people who really benefited were the wine writers who wrote detailed accounts of the exchange or posted video to their blogs — their view numbers were as stratospheric as the alcohol levels in a Parker 99 point rated wine.
Parker, for as long as he wants to be, will always be the king of wine writers. Bonné has a different voice, and I found it to be a worthwhile one. I would offer Bonné one suggestion, and that is to write about the wines, review them, rate them, list them, as he finds them, rather than to try to remake the industry to suit his preferences. As for me, that’s pretty much what I do, I take them as I find them, whether they are review samples sent to me, or wines I taste at dinners, or wines poured for me in a tasting room; each is different, and I simply ask myself, “do I like it?” For those wines I do like, I try to share here, with a note or two, and sometimes a food pairing suggestion. Anyway, I wish Jon Bonné good luck in his future endeavors and look forward to his next book.
I have been asked to help judge wines at the Lake County 14th Annual Home Wine and Beer Makers Festival on Saturday, June 27, from 1 to 5 p.m., at Library Park in Lakeport.
There will be tastings of amateur wine and beer, as well as premium commercial Lake County wines. In addition to the wine and beer, there will be music, food, and auction, raffles, and art & craft vendors. Presented by the Lake County Symphony Association, tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. For vendor information and advance ticket outlets, call (707) 277-8172 or (707) 277-7076.
I am honored to be tapped as a judge, and the invitation will undoubtedly lead to Lake County winery tasting room visits and a spotlight winery feature or two — long overdue. __________
A few weeks ago, a completely baseless — scientifically — scare about arsenic in wine was irresponsibly reported by CBS on their morning show, and spread like wildfire to many other news outlets. I had more than one customer ask me about it, and I wrote a piece for my blog at Johnonwine.com and posted it there because it needed to be addressed right away. Feel free to go to my blog, and scroll down to find the article.
More recently, the horribly unscientific and downright dangerous tripe of Vani Hari, the “Food Babe” blogger, received a thorough takedown by Yvette d’Entremont on Gawker, which has gone viral on Facebook and elsewhere.
While I prefer a wine made with organically or biodynamically grown grapes, that preference is more political than health based. I simply prefer supporting organic growing practices to the use, and overuse, of Round Up and other herbicides, and arsenic loaded fertilizers and insecticides, that many “conventional” or “sustainable” (a term that means nothing) growers indulge in.
That said, there are endless examples of delicious conventionally grown wines, and I am confident that they are no less “healthy” than organically grown wines.
The Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op has a spectacular selection of wines, sourced locally, and grown organically, priced terrifically. The Co-op buys in quantity and passes the savings on, clearly. For those who share an organic leaning preference, their wine selection is definitely worth browsing.