Randall Graham, owner of Bonny Doon Winery, is crazy. He is also probably a genius.
But when the challenge of running a 450,000 case wine empire started to mean a decrease in quality, Graham sold off the two biggest brands. Bonny Doon was reborn as a 35,000 case boutique winery with a supreme emphasis on quality and biodynamic sustainability.
On February 13, 2010, I had an opportunity to taste the ‘new’ Bonny Doon winery. The wines were a revelation. A winery I’ve always loved became one I could love and respect. These are the wines with my impressions.
Ca’ del Solo 2008 Albarino. $17.99 OH Retail
This is a California Albarino that actually tasted like Albarino. It is stunning that a state with the amount of coastline (and by extension fish) wouldn’t be growing the ultimate fish-wine. I was craving a fresh grilled slab of fish with a spritz of lemon. And I don’t even really like fish.
Ca’ del Solo 2008 Muscat. $15.99 OH Retail.
The grape is Moscato, famous for the sparkling sweet wines of Italy. But this was done Alsatian-style. Just off-dry. A perfume nose that was totally sweet, but a taste that is dry. If you dry Vouvray or dry Riesling, you’ll love this.
Ca’ del Solo 2006 Sangiovese. $12.99 OH Retail.
Can the best American Sangiovese really be only twelve dollars? It appears so. This wine is a dead-ringer for $30 Rosso-di-Montalcino. Rich tobacco, leather, flowers, and meat in a wine with a lot of taste, but not heavy. We shouldn’t forget, however, a truly Italian level of acidity. No one would imagine this was a Calfornian wine from the taste. It was a watershed wine for USA Sangiovese.
Le Pousseur 2005 Syrah. $19.99 OH Retail.
Real Syrah is feminine, elegant, and beautiful according to the text on the back label of this wine. The winemakers of France’s Northern Rhone would agree and I’d be hesistant to argue. This is elegance under control. No wilting flower here. Like an elegant figure skater, this wine is power under control.
D.E.W.N. 2005 Syrah ‘Bien Nacido Vineyard’ $39.99 OH Retail.
While the other wines look to Europe for their style, this looks to Europe for ideology. And find it in Terroir – that expression of place that informs the best wines of the Continent. Randall Graham takes that perspective to what is arguably the most famous Syrah vineyard in America. The result is a wine of incredible complexity, power, and structure. It is a wine whose character is uniquely Bien Nacido, showing aromas and flavors only possible from this vineyard. Graham has been searching for an America ‘Grand Cru.’ With this wine, he has possibly found it.
We’ve only begun to scratch the surface. Next blog post will highlight Bonny Doon’s Cigare Volant. We’ll discuss the history of a wine based on UFOs and taste a vertical in red, white, and pink.