It's also why I ponied up $95 last night to go to a Bonny Doon wine tasting at City Winery and meet "the original Rhone deranger" himself. After all the good press recently, from both the establishment and the blogosphere, I thought Bonny Doon must be doing something I should know about. I remembered a wonderfully vibrant and complex Cigare Volant I had what seems like many years ago, and I realized I should learn more.
There is, apparently, a lot to learn about Bonny Doon. Grahm has been called "a marketing genius" (by himself, admittedly) and there is no shortage of information about him on the web. When I arrived at City Winery last night I was handed a volume sized press kit complete with press clippings from Wine Spectator to Wines & Vines. There is a lot of talk about "vins de terroir" and "minerality" and "sensitive crystallization" (although this last sounds like New Age crap to me) and I was quite excited. Sitting at the age of my seat before the tasting there was that air that something true and very American was about to happen.
The first two wines were exceptional. The 2008 Albarino ** from an estate vineyard in Soledad was tight and racy. The 2006 Le Cigare Blanc *** showed "quince and a little bit of spear mint." From Monterey, this was aged in 25% new wood, and was my favorite wine of the night. The 2008 Vin Gris de Cigare * was aromatic but a little flabby, while the 2003 Cigare Volant **/*** and 2004 Cigare Volant ** each showed a little reduction. The 2003 showed tar, smoke, and prune. The 2004 was fresher, earthier and riper and more complex. Neither was a "wow" wine.
By contrast, I very much enjoyed the 2005 Syrah Le Pousseur **/*** An elegant, restrained, but ripe and very purple wine, with a finish that made my teeth Zzzzzzzing! And the 2005 Nebbiolo is off the charts. (I couldn't append a star to this if I wanted to, because there is simply nothing in the world to compare it to.) In short, this wine stumped me. It may be the best Italian varietal wine from California I have ever tried. Then again, it may also be a freak. Those looking for a sangiovese from America should look for this instead.
Unfortunately, I found the 2007 Le Vol des Agnes uninspired.
These wines are good values. Overall, they are very fairly priced, very well made wines that show good fruit, nice complexity, and will go well with food. But these did not strike me as vins de terroir, and I wish I had tasted the minerality Grahm surely goes to great lengths to produce.