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:
This 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.
? 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).”
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.
? 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.