My lunch with Randall Grahm, part II
This is the second of two parts detailing my recent chat with Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm. Today, reviews of the wine we tasted. Part I — Grahm on wine, winemaking, and the post-modern wine world.
My Boony Doon moment came during the 2011 Le Cigare Blanc. I said I liked it a lot, and Grahm smiled and offered that it would be even better when he added picpoul to the blend, which is currently grenache blanc and roussanne. Which demonstrates his creativity and passion, but also what Grahm admits may be a less than consumer-centric approach to winemaking. It’s not as if wine drinkers are clamoring for a $25 white blend made with three grapes they’ve never heard of.
But how dull the world would be if all we drank were chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. Which, of course, is part of Grahm’s reason for being, and why so many of us appreciate what he does. After the jump, the eight wines and cider we tasted (all were samples):
The only disappointment? That we didn’t taste the Les Posseur syrah, my favorite Bonny Doon red. Otherwise, the wines were up to their usual standards — interesting, intriguing, and well worth drinking:
• Vin Gris de Cigare 2013 ($15, 13%): This rose was light and crisp, with hints of strawberry. It always makes me crazy, because I hate to pay more than $10 for quality rose and rarely have to. But the Vin Gris is usually worth the extra money.
• Le Cigare Blanc 2011 ($25, 12.5%): Maybe the best vintage ever of this white blend, with flavors of peaches and honey and an earthy finish. It’s not so much that it’s worth the $25, but that it’s a value at this price. Highly recommended.
• Le Cigare Blanc Reserve 2010 ($52, 12.4%): The Wine Curmudgeon’s guilty pleasure is pricey white Burgundy, about as subtle and sophisticated as wine gets. Somehow, this white blend (again, grenache blanc and roussanne) approaches that subtlety and sophistication. Look for honey, green apple and even a little hazelnut, a seductive richness, and a finish that lasts forever. Highly recommended, and especially for anyone who wants to buy me a present.
• Contra 2011 ($15, 13.5%): Is this red a Doon-style takeoff on a Rhone blend or an homage to the old-fashioned California field blend, when the wine was made with whatever grapes were available? It’s rich and full of black fruit, and the zinfandel really shows, marking this vintage more of a field blend. Always reliable, and a wine to drink with red sauces and pot roasts.
• Clos de Gilroy 2013 ($18, 14%): This red is about as close as Grahm gets to California-style wine, a grenache that offers lots of red fruit, but also spiciness and an earthy finish most wines like this don’t bother with in order to cram in more fruit and alcohol.
• Le Cigare Volant 2008 ($40, 14.2%): That this red Rhone blend can still taste so young but also be soft and full of red fruit speaks to Grahm’s winemaking skill. And, in this, it’s almost impossible to describe in a tasting note.The best I can do: If you like reds that go in a different direction, try this.
• A Proper Claret 2012 ($15, 13%): This red blend is mostly cabernet, a grape that Grahm has spitefully ignored for almost three decades. But, being Grahm, it also has tannat, best known as the national grape of Uruguay, and which means it’s not known at all. The result is a cabernet-like wine with black fruit, an almost wonderfully stinky aroma, soft tannins, and balanced acidity. There is also a complexity on the back that sneaks up on you and reminds you that something odd is going on here.
• A Riesling to Live 2013 ($15, 9.5%): The anti-wine snob white wine, with a bit of sweetness, green apple fruit, and a freshness that offsets the sweetness. This is the kind of wine you can drink all day, and another example why those of us who love riesling don’t understand why so many others think it isn’t real wine. Highly recommended.
• Querry Sparkling Hard Cider 2013 ($11, 6.9%): This cider, made with pear, quince, and apple (and who besides Grahm knew quince was a fruit?) made me feel old. It’s bone dry, delightful and refreshing, with subtle apple and pear flavors, but about the last thing a Baby Boomer would drink with dinner. Because we were taught to drink wine, and only wine, with dinner. But anyone who didn’t come to wine with scores and the Winestream Media (yes, the dreaded Millennials and Gen Xers) will drink this until they can’t buy it any more. Highly recommended, though I wish I understood it.