John on Wine – Bonny Doon is in my house!
This piece originally ran as a wine column in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, December 10, 2015
One of my favorite wineries is Bonny Doon, and one of my favorite winemakers is Bonny Doon owner Randall Grahm. Years ago, I traveled 42 California Counties with wine books and accessories for the Wine Appreciation Guild, and regularly I would visit all of the wineries and tasting rooms on the Santa Clara side of the Santa Cruz mountains, head over to Santa Cruz and grab a hotel for the night, so my first visit at 10:00 am the next morning would be at 10 Pine Flats Road, up the mountain off Hwy 1, into forests, to make the tasting room of Bonny Doon my day’s first visit, and to taste the new releases. I love Bonny Doon!
I was sent a review copy of Randall Grahm’s book, “Been Doon So Long, a Randall Grahm Vinthology,” by Amy Cleary, of the book’s publisher, U.C. Press, and wrote a glowing review, because I loved the book, for my online wine blog, johnonwine.com, in February 2010 (wow, I was shocked to find, looking back, that I’ve been writing about wine for more than six years). Randall Grahm included review excerpts in his marketing of the book, and the book appeared in my December 2010 list of top Christmas gifts for the wine lover in your life.
I revere Randall Grahm, he is an iconoclast, an original Rhone Ranger, and a man almost completely divorced from convention, yet dedicated to stellar wine. His labels are created by artists, and a signed and framed reproduction of one hangs in my home. I was thrilled to accept a recent email offer from Randall to have him send some of his wines to me for me to taste. For me, that’s hitting the big time as a wine writer, and an incredible honor.
Margaret Pedroni is one of my favorite people. Margaret worked two doors down from my McFadden tasting room, and was the manager for both Weibel and Ray’s Station, before heading over the mountain to become the National Brand Manager for Knez wines in the Anderson Valley…where I am headed soon. Margaret recently sat for the introductory Sommelier exam, passed, and was awarded her red pin from the Guild of Sommeliers. I invited Margaret to join me for a tasting of these wines, and our combined notes follow.
2010 Sparkling Albariño $36 – label by Grady McFerrin
Appearance: brilliant pale gold deep straw, slight reflective quality, volatile effervescence, great bubble structure, nice mousse; nose: dry caramel, fig, honey, cantaloupe melon, light moist hibiscus; medium full weight mouth feel, heavier and darker full fruited that classic Champagne grape variety based sparkling wine. Notable acidity providing structure; mouth: lemon-lime, grapefruit, ripe guava, herb; finish: long, graham (Grahm?) cracker and honeycomb notes.
2013 Le Cigare Blanc Réserve $45 – label by Chuck House
55% Rousanne, 26% Grenache Blanc, 19% Picpoul Blanc white blend.
Appearance: clear pale gold medium straw, very clear rim, bright medium clarity; nose: dense, deep, but muted. Honey, dried white rose, herb, white peach, vanilla, reduced pear, bruised nectarine, waxy floral white gardenia; balanced acidity with warm fruit notes; mouth: salty wet rock minerality, savory butter, pear, stone fruit, candied honeycomb, flint; finish: a touch short, cherry pit note
2014 Cuvée “R” Grenache $48 – label by Gary Taxali
Appearance: semi translucent light garnet cranberry rose color, light rim variation; nose: sexy, strawberry jam, strawberry pie complete with buttery crust, ripe cherry, light violet, candied rose petal confection, cardamom spice, slight watermelon; medium light bodied with favorable acidity to fruit; mouth: fruit forward, strawberry, bright cherry, rhubarb, watermelon, a little stemmy, dried herb blend; finish: long tapering notes of herbal rhubarb and sweet tart candied fruit. I enjoyed this wine greatly, as I love both Grenache and strawberries.
2014 Cinsaut Counoise $35 – label by Grady McFerrin
Cinsault 67% Counoise 33%
Appearance: Clear, bright light garnet rose, clear at rim, reflective; nose: seductive cocoa dusted cherry, strawberry, clove, vanilla, tiny bit of exciting gamy animal funk, nuance of rose, a light cola; level acidity, balance, with fruit, structured body; mouth: mineral, red ripe strawberry fruit, toffee, dried Italian oregano herb, raspberry, red currant, spice; finish: long with candied red fruit notes. Great acidity, great food wine; a truly delicious wine that will appeal to lovers of Syrah or Pinot Noir, sharing some characteristics with each. For both Margaret and me, this was our favorite wine of the six tasted.
2012 Syrah “Le Pousseur” $26 – label by Bascove
Appearance: dark, deep ruby, purple burgundy violet color; nose: the aromatics leapt out of the glass when inspecting for color. Dark plum, licorice, dark berry fruit, oak, gamy wet leather, Chinese 5 spice, floral, dusty bramble berry, mint undertone; tannins are noticeably evident, but soft. The wine is dry, astringent. Could benefit from being cellared for a couple of years; mouth: black cherry, ripe plum, blackberry, dark shading to blueberry, herb, pepper, spice, floral; finish: herbal eucalyptus and spice dark fruit.
2011 Le Cigare Volant Réserve $79 – label by Chuck House
37% Mourvedre, 34% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 9% Cinsault red blend
Appearance: lovely deep red ruby garnet with little rim variation; nose: multi-noted! Plush, strawberry, cherry, rhubarb, herb, violet, dried rose, spice, leather licorice, and it just keeps going, note after note; evident acid to fruit balance; a touch astringent but not overly so, owing perhaps to a cooler vintage; mouth: strawberry, cherry, briny cranberry, raspberry, stem, crushed stone, herb, rose, mint; finish: tapering sweet reduced red strawberry, cherry, berry, and oak; this wine would pair beautifully with flavorful game meat, like venison.
This was an incredibly enjoyable tasting experience, made more so by sharing it with a friend, and I urge you to seek out, buy, and enjoy the 2014 Bonny Doon Cinsaut Counoise, a perfect wine to introduce you to the vinous talents of Randall Grahm.
For more information about Bonny Doon, or to order wine, visit http://www.bonnydoonvineyard.com.