Tag Archives: Bonny Doon

Catfish meuniere, Randall Grahm, and Spy Valley

Honest wine

Honest wine is the best pairing for honest food.

The most important lesson I ever learned about seafood came from the late, much loved and much missed Merlin Kleinpeter: If you can ?t buy it from Robert at Bayou Seafood, she used to say, then don ?t buy it.

Which was Merlin ?s way of telling me that fresh is what matters, and that any supplier who wasn ?t honest about things like freshness wasn ?t worth my time and money. If the crabs weren ?t good that day, then Robert told her so, and Merlin didn ?t buy them.

I mention this because food and wine are inextricably linked, and not just about which wine goes with which food. Pairing wine with most takeout pizza, which never tastes as good as you think it should, is one thing. That ?s what $10 grocery store merlot was invented for.

But pairing wine with honest food ? food that someone cared about and that required them to make an effort when they prepared it — is another matter entirely. More, after the jump:

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Winebits 218: Bonny Doon, Skinnygirl, wine tastings

? Whither the family-owned winery? Bonny Doon's Randall Grahm takes to his award-winning blog to ponder the future of the family winery, and more specifically his winery. Those of us who care about these things should be especially concerned when Grahm writes that his bank is not pleased with Bonny Doon's finances. The post is quite long, but worth reading — not only for the insight it offers into the modern wine business (something Grahm touched on when we had lunch last fall), but for the usual Grahm wit (as a kid, he sold first-aid kits door to door) and footnotes. Yes, he puts footnotes in blog posts. And there are people who think the Wine Curmudgeon is odd.

? Bring on the Skinnygirl wine: Beam Estates, which owns a bunch of wine brands but is better known for spirits, is going to launch Skinnygirl, a line of reduced calorie wine similar to its Skinnygirl cocktails. The story in the Wine Spectator reports that the brand is aiming for 100 calories for a 5-ounce glass, which is about 25 less than it would normally have. Maybe they'll take the flavor out. The Wine Curmudgeon, oddly enough, has a passing knowledge of Skinnygirl cocktails. I was trying to convince a Dallas retailer to sponsor a local wine event last year, and he said what his chain really wanted was something like the Skinnygirl, former reality show star Bethenny Frankel, to make an appearance at one of his stores. Could we do something like that?

? Georgia legislature, always on the job: Georgia legislators have decided that wine tastings at retailers that sell spirits — as opposed to retailers that just sell wine — is not a good thing. The story, from Georgia Public Broadcasting, notes that package stores would face horrendous insurance problems if allowed to do wine tastings. Which, of course, does not seem to be a problem in other states that allow wine tastings in package stores, including that well-known bastion of sensible liquor laws and erudite legislators, Texas (where I live). Still, as excuses go, it is quite original and almost as good as the one that the beer business gives when it lobbies to restrict Internet wine sales: Teenagers will buy wine online and lie about their age!

My lunch with Randall, part II

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:

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My lunch with Randall, part I

My lunch with Randall, part IThis is the first of a two-part series detailing my recent chat with Bonny Doon winemaker Randall Grahm. Part II — a look at some of Bonny Doon’s wines — is here.

The last thing Randall Grahm looks like is the California winemaker that he is. Instead, he looks more like the one-time liberal arts major at the University of California that he was.

That contradiction goes a long way toward explaining why Grahm is one of the Wine Curmudgeon ?s favorite winemakers, and why his Bonny Doon wines are some of the most interesting made in California. Grahm understands that not only is the wine business about making enough money to stay in business, but about making wine that people want to drink — and not necessarily wine that they ?re told to drink, More, after the jump.

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Winebits 162: Pacific Rim, sommeliers, nutrition facts

? Grahm sells Pacific Rim: Randall Grahm has sold one of the last parts of his $10 wine empire, the Pacific Rim white wine brand, to the family that owns Banfi Vintners, a leading U.S. wine importer, and Italy’s Castello Banfi winery. No sale price was disclosed. Grahm, the impresario of California’s Bonny Doon, broke up his $10 wine operation in 2006, selling the Big House and Cardinal Zin labels and splitting Pacific Rim off from Bonny Doon. Pacific Rim, based in Washington state, is best known for riesling, but also does gewurtztraminer and chenin blanc.

? Not enough qualified sommeliers? That’s the opinion of top sommelier Jordan Mackay, who says demand for the wine experts in restaurants has outgrown supply. “Inexperienced sommeliers are winding up in jobs that they’re simply not ready for,” he wrote on Zester Daily Web site. This has hurt restaurant wine sales and reputations, he says, and isn’t so good for the rest of us: “And, diners, for a while, be warned that you may face young somms intent on selling you the wine they like (instead of the one you’re asking for).”

? Diageo wants serving facts on labels: Diageo, one of the world’s largest drinks company, wants the federal government to allow producers to put nutritional information, like serving size, alcohol per serving, carbohydrates and calories, on wine and spirits. The government’s alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau has been considering the Serving Fact Information proposal since 2003 — so long ago that I wrote a newspaper story about it. It has been held up by resistance from the industry, as well as a low priority in Washington. Diageo, seeing a marketing advantage, wants the TTB to let producers voluntarily include the information.

Mini-reviews 19: Contra, William Hill, Beaujolais Nouveau, 181 Merlot

Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, a special all red wines edition.

? Bonny Doon Contra 2009 ($14, sample): This Rhone blend is not exactly an upscale version of the old Big House Red, but it’s close enough. Lots of spice and fruit, though it does need food.

? William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($23, sample): A surprisingly well done and balanced Napa cabernet that is more or less affordable. It’s a step up from more inexpensive cabernets like Avalon and 337, with more body and structure.

? Georges Dub uf Beaujolais Nouveau 2010 ($8, purchased): Ripe bananas on the nose and a very thin and acidic body. Yet another in a long line of disappointing Nouveaus.

? 181 Merlot 2008 ($15, sample): A merlot from the same company that does the 337 cabernet sauvignon. Offers structure and substance for less than $25, which doesn’t happen often. On the other hand, the tasting notes compare Lodi, where the grapes are from, to merlot’s Garden of Eden in Pomerol, which is a bit much.