Tag Archives: Bonny Doon

Winebits 628: Randall Grahm, Walmart booze, health news

randall grahm

Randall Grahm

This week’s wine news: Randall Grahm sells Bonny Doon, Walmart booze plan in Texas suffers setback, and why there’s no health news on the blog

Boony Doon is sold: Randall Grahm has sold his Boony Doon Vineyard, marking the end of one of the most unique and iconoclastic wine operations in the U.S.  The new owner is WarRoom Ventures, a marketing company that owns California’s Lapis Luna Wines. No sales price was disclosed. Grahm, who pretty much invented the non-traditional wine label and pioneered screwcaps and ingredient labels, will become a partner in the new venture and oversee winemaking. The new Bonny Doon will make just four wines, and not its current 15 — its outstanding rose, a picpoul, and its flagship red and white Rhone blends. Boony Doon, regardless of whether the new company is successful, will be missed. For one thing, I will have less reason to talk to Grahm, who is always a treat, and I won’t be able to buy his standouts syrahs, some of my favorite wines in the world.

Banging head against wall: The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to re-examine Walmart’s attempt to open liquor stores in Texas. The ruling means the retailer can try to appeal to the Supreme Court or give up on its plan, which seemed quite possible after it won on the district level in 2018. But the Fifth Circuit has twice refused to hear the Walmart suit questioning the constitutionality of a Texas law that prohibits publicly-held companies from getting a retail liquor license. Its reasoning? That Texas law discriminates equally against in-state and out-of-state publicly held companies. Cue the three-tier meme. The only good news from this? If Walmart appeals and the Supremes agree to hear the case, it could be one more chip in the wall of three-tier.

More of the same: The Wine Curmudgeon banned health news from the blog years ago, since most of it was stupid or foolish or both. So here comes one more story to remind us why the ban is in place: Coffee may help people lost weight. Someone, somewhere, got money to do what appears to be legitimate academic research to discover the same thing that companies that make over the counter diet pills already know. Caffeine is a stimulant. Stimulants are diet aids. Coffee has caffeine. Sigh. And I once had an academic impugn the integrity of this research. Had only I known….

Monday Birthday Week 2019 giveaway: $50 Bonny Doon gift card

bonny doonWin a $50 Bonny Doon gift card

And the winner is: Chaz, who selected 981; the winning number was 935 (screen shot to the left).  Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s giveaway a wine cork holder in the shape of a letter — and yes, there are men’s sizes, too. This is the second of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 12th anniversary, we’re giving away a $50 gift card from Bonny Doon, one of my favorite California producers. This is the first of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the gift card.

Labor Day wine 2019

Labor Day wine 2019

Fire up the grill and break out the Labor Day 2019 wine

Enjoy Labor Day 2019 with four wines that focus on value and quality

It has been a mild summer in Dallas — lots of rain in June, an unseasonably cool day in July, and no 100 degree days until July 30. Having said that, Labor Day means cooler weather sooner rather than later, so let’s celebrate with Labor Day wine 2019.

These four bottles will get you started, and don’t overlook the blog’s porch wine guidelines:

Bonny Doon Malvasia Bianca 2018 ($18, purchased, 13.5%): This California white is nothing if not interesting, as well as a terrific food wine: Flavors of orange, lime, and then more orange. This means it’s varietally correct, and there is freshness and a very zippy acidity.

Sierra Cantabria Rosado 2018  ($12, purchased, 13%): This Spanish pink, made from tempranillo in the Rioja region, does all it should for the price — a little orangish red fruit, some stoniness on the back, and crisp throughout.
Imported by Fine Estates from Spain

Ludovicus Garnacha 2015 ($12, sample, 14%): It’s amazing that this Spanish red has aged this well, given the grape and the cost. Rich and full, easy tannins, lots of dark fruit (cherry? blackberry?), and surprisingly clean and un-cloying for a garnacha. Needs food — Labor Day barbecue, anyone?. Imported by Ole Wine Imports

La Granja 360 Brut NV ($6, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish bubbly from Trader Joe’s is pleasant and sweetish, more like Prosecco than Cava. That means  softer fruit (less tart green apple and more red delicious) and a much softer mouth feel. But the bubbles are tight, and you can do a lot worse for $6. Imported by Evaki

Photo: “Picnic-2004-681” by Nashville First Baptist is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

For more about Labor Day wine:
Labor Day wine 2018
Labor Day wine 2017
Labor Day wine 2016

Memorial Day and rose 2019

Check out these six roses — still cheap and delicious — for the blog’s 12th annual Memorial Day and rose celebration

Rose is officially mainstream after all those years in the wilderness. How else to explain a “dry” Provencal-style rose from E&J Gallo’s Apothic, the brand that all but invented sweet red blends?

So know, as we celebrate the blog’s 12th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza, that there is a lot of rose out there looks pink. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to taste like the dry rose we’ve taught the world to love.

In fact, as rose-maker extraordinaire Charles Bieler told me this spring, no-self respecting Big Wine company is going to let rose pass it by. Hence, some of them are making two, three, and even four labels to make sure they don’t miss any of the sales momentum. In this, there’s some talk among wine business types that rose is saving wine from the worst effects of premiumization, and that its popularity is boosting sales that otherwise would be even more flat than they already are.

So yes, there’s lots of plonk out there, which I know because I’ve tasted so much of it. How about thin? How about bitter? How about tannic? How about sweet? To paraphrase Joseph Conrad (though he was probably more of a vodka man): “The horror! The horror!”

But not when it comes to the roses reviewed this post and in tomorrow’s post. These are all cheap, delicious, and rose in style and honesty. What else would you expect from the Wine Curmudgeon?

Prices this year are a touch higher than last year, but there is still plenty of terrific rose for less than $15. Also, don’t overlook the blog’s rose primer, which discusses styles, why rose is dry, how it gets its pink color, and why vintage matters. This year, vintage isn’t quite as important as in the past, and many 2017s should still be wonderful. That’s because technical quality, traditionally a problem with rose, has improved and the wines don’t fall apart like they used to. But still be wary of anything older than two or years, and especially it isn’t pink any more. Brown wine isn’t worth drinking, no matter how little it costs.

For more suggestions, check out the rose category link, which lists 12 years of rose reviews. Today, six standout roses we’ve come to know and appreciate — each highly recommended. Tomorrow, six more roses worth drinking:

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2018 ($15, sample, 13.5%): The most interesting of Randall Grahm’s California pink of the past several years. It’s more Provence in style, with barley tart strawberry fruit, and even fresher. Honest wine from an honest producer does matter.

Mont Gravet Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French rose is made with cinsault, a terrific grape for pink wine. It’s fresh, bright, and crisp – with more depth than the 2017 and better quality fruit. Plus, the red fruit (berries) taste likes red fruit and not soda pop. Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): The cabernet sauvingon in the blend gives this Provencal wine a little more structure, depth, and body this year, as well as a little darker flavor (almost blackberry?). As it ages, the caberrnet should go to the back and more red fruit will come to the front. Imported by Bieler et Fils

Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2018 ($12, sample, 13.5%): One of the most consistent and enjoyable California pinks, and also made in a darker style (cranberry, blackberry?) that lots of people try but few succeed with. In this, it tastes like rose and not red wine.

Angels & Cowboys Rose 2018 ($15, purchased, 12.8%): This California effort, always one of my favorites, is much more subtle this vintage, with a wisp of strawberry fruit and not much else. Still enjoyable and interestingly different.

Charles & Charles Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.6%): This Washington state rose, from Chalres Bieler and Charles Smith, is fresh and crisp, with tart strawberry and orange fruit and a very clean finish. All in all, another exceptional effort.

More about Memorial Day and rose:
Memorial Day and rose 2018
Memorial Day and rose 2017
Memorial Day and rose 2016
Winecast 36: Charles Bieler
Wine of the week: Ken Forrester Petit Rose 2018

Photo: “Wine o’Clock” by VanessaC (EY) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Expensive wine 118: Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2013

Le Cigare VolantThe Le Cigare Volant shows screwcap wines can age with style and grace

Randall Grahm, the Boony Doon impresario who only uses screwcaps, has insisted for years that wine ages under screwcap. This remains heresy in the wine business, which has grudgingly allowed that screwcaps are OK for cheap wine, but not for fine wine that can cellar for years. Which means not enough of the wine business has tasted this vintage of the Le Cigare Volant.

The Le Cigare Volant ($45, sample, 14.5%) is the Bonny Doon flagship, a fine red wine made in Grahm’s trademark Rhone style. Hence, Old World style and attention to terroir, but New World sensibility and technique. That means subtle tannins and a clean finish, but earthiness and spice (cinnamon, in the way it can be almost chili hot) on the front. There is also a mix of red and fruit black fruit (raspberries and plums), plus an almost gaminess that you don’t expect from California wine. Despite the high alcohol (and very high for Grahm, who prides himself on restraint), the wine is neither hot nor overwhelming.

Grahm says screwcap wines age differently than cork wines, which is not bad – just different. That this wine is still so young but intriguing speaks to this; as it continues to age over the next 8 to 10 years, the Le Cigare Volant will become richer and more complex, and it’s complex already.

Highly recommended. Serve this with lamb or duck, and enjoy not just the wine, but how easy it is to open the bottle.

Monday Birthday Week 2018 giveaway: $50 Bonny Doon gift card

bonny doonWin a $50 Bonny Doon gift card

And the winner is: Barb, who selected 439; the winning number was 435 (screen shot to the right). Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s giveaway a wine t-shirt from Zazzle — and yes, there are men’s sizes, too. This is the second of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 11th anniversary, we’re giving away a $50 gift card from Bonny Doon, one of my favorite California producers. This is the first of five daily giveaways; check out this post to see the prizes for the rest of the week.

Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.

If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the gift card.

rose reviews 2018

Mini-reviews 109: Even more rose reviews 2018

rose reviews 2018Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month, four rose reviews 2018 in honor of the blog’s 11th annual rose fest.

Château De Paraza Cuvée Spéciale Rose 2017 ($12, sample, 13.5%): This French rose would have been $8 in the old days, when only cranky wine writers drank rose, and it would have made the $10 Hall of Fame. Look for a flowery aroma, pretty watermelon fruit (not overdone at all), refreshing crispness, and a pleasing finish. Imported by Wines with Conviction

Hecht & Bannier Rose 2017 ( $16, sample, 13%): Rose for white zinfandel drinkers. It’s a little soft, which I assume is to simulate sweetness (cherry compote?). Plus, it’s short and not especially crisp. That this bottle costs as much as it does – from a very ordinary part of France – speaks to what’s going on with rose. Not to be confused with Hecht & Bannier’s Provencal rose, about $4 or $5 more and a step up in quality. Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons

M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Rose 2017 ($15, sample, 12.5%): More pink wine from France’s Languedoc at a “rose is trendy” price. This vintage is a little fruiter the previous and less Provencal in style, with almost peach fruit. It’s well-made and professional, and well worth buying if you can find it at $12. Imported by Sera Wine Imports.

Bonny Doon La Bulle-Moose de Cigare 2017 ($8/375 ml can, sample, 13%): This is Randall Grahm’s always top-notch California rose — dry, tart, and fresh — in a can with added carbonation. Call it fizzy pink with a pulltop. Enjoyable and much better than I expected, which speaks to the quality of the wine.