This is the second of a two-part series detailing my recent chat with Bonny Doon winemaker Randall Grahm. Part I is here.
Bonny Doon winemaker Randall Grahm and I tasted five wines during lunch at Dallas' Blue Plate restaurant; my only regret was that we didn't try the Vin Gris de Cigare, Grahm's rose. It has always been one of my favorites, even at $15 or so.
The wines, as always, were interesting and different. Grahm never met a grape that he didn't want to try and use in some way -- as long as the grape wasn't chardonnay, cabernet savignon or merlot. He'll have none of that at Bonny Doon, where his goal is to make wines with grapes that make sense in his vineyards in his part of northern California. And those three don't (as well as Grahm's first love, pinot noir). What we tasted, after the jump:
• Ca’ del Solo Muscat 2009 (about $17, sample): Not your grocery store sweet and sticky moscato, which makes perfect sense, since it's made with a different Italian varietal, moscato giallo). This is a dry, minerally wine that is amazingly complex and only 12.7 percent alcohol. Look for a bit of orange aroma and then lemon fruit in the wine. It's a wonderful aperitif, as well as something to enjoy with grilled tuna or something similar.
• Ca' del Solo Albarino 2009 (about $18, sample): Albarino is a Spanish grape that doesn't get a lot of play in the U.S.; when it does, it's sold as a sauvignon blanc knockoff and is often made to taste that way. This wine, though not especially Spanish in style (it has more fruit), tastes like albarino -- some lemon, a long mineral finish with a touch of softness in the middle, and just 12.8 percent alcohol. It's another seafood wine, but with raw oysters, boiled shrimp or steamed mussels.
• Contra 2009 (about $15, sample): Grahm does not make old-fashioned wines, so to compare this to a traditional California field blend isn't exactly accurate. Think of it as the more accomplished cousin to his old Big House Red blend. It's more than half carignane, but with five other grapes, including enough grenache and zinfandel to give it juicy red fruit. Just 13 1/2 percent alcohol (getting the theme here?), and something to lay in as holiday meal season approaches.
• Les Pousseur Syrah 2008 (about $20, sample): This has always been my favorite Bonny Doon red, since it combines the French approach to syrah with California fruit. It's still well made, but this vintage seemed fruitier (black cherry?) and more California in style. This isn't a bad thing; just different. And did I mention a syrah with just 13 1/2 percent alcohol? Think red meat with roasted mushrooms and garlic mashed potatoes.
• Le Cigare Volant 2007 (about $37, sample): This is the 23rd vintage of the Volant, which makes it -- though Grahm probably hates the term -- the winery's flagship. It's a Rhone-style red blend that's wonderfully rustic on the nose (the polite way of saying that it has a Rhone-style barnyard aroma), black fruit, and lots of black pepper at the back. Interestingly, it was fruitier than the last time I tasted it, which Grahm says it is not unusual in red wines with screwcaps. This is a gift wine for someone who wants to try something that's not quite what they're used to.