Tag Archives: Bonny Doon

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.

Monday Birthday Week giveaway: $50 Bonny Doon gift card

bonny doonWin a $50 Bonny Doon gift card


And the winner is: Jeff, who selected 912; the winning number was 947 (screen shot to the right). Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s giveaway is the French wine accessories gift pack, courtesy of Teuwen Communication.


Today, to celebrate the blog’s 10th 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.

2018 rose season

Memorial Day and rose 2017

Memorial Day and roseThese six roses are an all-star team for the blog’s 10th annual celebration of rose

The dramatic increase in rose’s popularity over the past couple of years means we have more great pink wine than ever. The difference in the number of roses worth drinking this year and when I did my first rose post 10 years ago is almost unbelievable – rose not just from Europe and California, but almost everywhere in the world. It’s something I never expected to see.

The downside? The wine business, and especially Big Wine, is trying to make rose over into a commodity like it has done with red blends, fake oak chardonnay, and pinot noir that doesn’t taste like pinot noir. That means their wines are slightly sweet and not especially crisp, as they aim at the “smooth” flavor their focus groups claim to like. There is also the trend toward red wine-like roses, much favored by the hipsters and their Hampton and Napa brethren.

There’s nothing wrong with these wines, of course, if that’s what you like. But almost all of the Big Wine efforts are labeled as dry rose, so those of us who expect crisp and fresh will be disappointed when the wine is soft and leaves that cotton candy feeling in the back of our mouth. And there is almost no way to tell which is which from anything written on the bottle.

Even so, enjoy this year’s rose bounty. My recommendations are after the jump, and you should also check out the rose category link, which lists 10 years of rose reviews. And 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.

Vintage, in fact, is especially important. Do not buy a rose older than two years, so 2015 is the limit this year. Otherwise, the wine will be tired, old, not crisp or fresh, and not worth drinking. If you have a choice between 2016 and 2015, always take the 2016.

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Christmas wine 2016

Christmas wine 2016Four choices for Christmas wine 2016 to help you enjoy the holiday

Suggestions for Christmas wine 2016 – either for a last-minute gift for a wine person, or to drink with all those upcoming holiday dinners and leftovers. As always, keep our wine gift giving tips in mind:

Farnese Fantini Rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 13%): An Italian pink wine that is fruity (very red cherry) and fresh. It’s not quite in the New World style, but it’s not quite Provencal, either. Very nicely done, and the sort of wine to enjoy at a holiday party and marvel at its cost and quality.

Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Sétilles 2013 ($22, purchased, 12.5%): Top-quality white Burgundy (made with chardonnay) at a remarkable price and that has all the things it should have — apple fruit, white pepper, that certain amount of oak. This wine is still young and a little tight, making it a fine value if you want to buy a couple of bottles to hold, either as a gift or for yourself.

Campo Viejo Cava Gran Brut Rosé NV ($10, sample, 12%): This grocery store Spanish sparkler can be inconsistent, but this bottle was everything I hoped for – varietally correct, tight bubbles, and fresh, cherryish fruit. A nice value, whether you want an aperitif or something to toast with.

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2012 ($45, purchased, 13.5%): This California Rhone-style blend from the irrepressible Randall Grahm shows why his wines are so interesting. It’s both earthy and refined, for one thing, with a wonderful foresty aroma and dark but not forbidding fruit. Plus, it will age for at least another decade, and get even more intriguing as it does. Highly recommended. If you know someone who wants to venture outside of their California cabernet sauvignon comfort zone, give them this.

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2015
Christmas wine 2014
Christmas wine 2013
Expensive wine 88: Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Expensive wine 86: Louis Latour Corton Grand Cru 2004

Wine and food pairings: One Thanksgiving turkey, five dinners, five wines

five dinners, five wines

Who knew this turkey would lend itself to five dinners and five wines?

What do with a 20-pound turkey? Use it to for five dinners paired with five wines

This year, the Wine Curmudgeon’s Thanksgiving turkey weighed 20 pounds. My old pal Jim Serroka, who shares holiday cooking duties with me, wanted lots of turkey for leftovers. Needless to say, we got them – as well as another post in the blog’s wine and food pairings series: One entree that can be turned into five dinners with five wines.

The goal here was to pair quality cheap wine with the leftovers as simply as possible – no wine geek for advice, no examining the turkey’s entrails for wines to drink. My wine and food pairings:

• The Thanksgiving turkey. Roasted with lots of herbs and vegetables, and stuffed with the Kleinpeter family’s traditional chicken cornbread dressing. I picked three wines; two were disappointing, proving that even I can over-think wine and food pairings. But the third was an old pal, the $16 Clos de Gilroy grenache from Bonny Doon. How winemaker Randall Graham gets cherryish fruit, a little earthiness, some white pepper, and a delightful freshness from California grenache is beyond my understanding, but I’m glad he does.

• Turkey rice cake. One of my great cooking discoveries was that rice freezes. Make eight cups in the rice cooker, divide it into 2- or 3-cup packages, freeze, and thaw when necessary. This was chopped leftover turkey, some of the roasted vegetables, and an egg mixed with rice; basically the same thing I did with noodles for the roast chicken post. The wine was a sample, the $25 Markham merlot – dependable and high quality and what California merlot is supposed to taste like – lighter and more approachable than cabernet sauvignon, with dark fruit and subtler tannins. And it didn’t overwhelm the rice cakes.

• Turkey sausage okra gumbo. I’ve been making this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey since I moved to Dallas, so long ago the city had two newspapers. It’s more or less the classic recipe – make the roux, add chopped onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic, stir, add the stock, stir, add the okra, let it simmer, and finish with the sausage and turkey. And no tomatoes – absolutely, positively no tomatoes. The wine was an $8 Rivarey Crianza, a tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain. It was simple and fruity, but with enough structure and backbone for the dark, smoky gumbo.

• Baked turkey Reubens. This is a Siegel family tradition; my Dad made these when I was a kid using Pepperidge Farm brown and serve rolls and leftover Thanksgiving turkey. It’s sliced turkey breast, quality Swiss cheese, canned and drained sauerkraut, and my Dad’s thousand island dressing (his secret ingredient was lime juice). Make the sandwich, wrap in foil, and bake until crusty. And what better wine than rose? The Ned, a $12 New Zealand pink wine, did the trick, and it will be even better in six months. This was a 2016, and had only been in the bottle for six or eight weeks.

• Turkey torte. This sort of baked Spanish-style omelette is usually made with potatoes, but turkey (with sauteed onions and peppers) works well, too. I drank a bottle of cava, a $10 Spanish sparkler called – believe it or not – Lady of Spain. The wine has been inconsistent, but this bottle was very cava-like, with tight bubbles and lemon fruit. And, of course, Spanish wine with a Spanish dish, one of the ways to make pairings work with less trouble.

More on five dinners, five wines
One chicken, five dinners, five wines
One pork shoulder, five dinners, five wines