Bonny Doon's Randall Grahm at WWWB

Monday, January 15, 2018 - 07:30 PM

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 “I’ve never owned a vineyard, but I’m pretty sure I’ve drank an entire one by now.” – Anonymous


The best way to get into the wine business is to own a vineyard and that is just what Randall Grahm did in 1980 in the Santa Cruz Mountains region of California.

Since then he has shaken up the wine world with his quirky, edgy marketing techniques as well as his unique wines made from less popular varietals and a sense of humor that makes it easy to like both himself and his wines.

We have hosted several events with Randall over the years and this one will be unique as we will be tasting through the entire line-up of wines from Bonny Doon Vineyards with Randall and then we will be sitting down to dinner to enjoy the wines, the quirky man and Toni’s food.  We will have all the wines on hand to purchase this evening and everything will be on the table for dinner as well.  This will be a night to remember for Doon and Grahm fans!

The fee for this tasting and dinner is $95 + tax, for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail


Image result for Randall Grahm Founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard

Wine Watch Welcomes the one and only Randall Grahm Founder of Bonny Doon Vineyards to the Wine Watch Wine Bar
Monday, January 15th

Tasting Line-up:
2016 Vin Gris de Cigare

Doon Vin Gris Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016    
Price $15.75        Sale $13.86

(90 Points)"Randall makes a terrific, classically styled rosé and the 2016 Vin Gris de Cigare Rosé is reminiscent of a classy pink from Provence. Grapefruit, strawberries, spice and hints of rose petal all emerge from this medium bodied, supple, elegant and straight up delicious rose." - Jeb Dunnuck, August 2017

2014 “Gravitas

Doon Gravitas Bonny Doon Vineyard 2014   
Price: $15.75       Sale $13.86

90 POINTS, Wine Review Online: “For something different, it's always wise to turn to Bonny Doon and see what tricks winemaker Randall Grahm has up his sleeve. Gravitas is pretty much a white Bordeaux-style blend, except for the small splash of Orange Muscat (2.5 percent) that lends a floral note. The majority of the composition is Semillon and Sauvignon blanc. The wine is crafted in a soft, round, approachable style that emphasizes the fig and melon character of the Semillon. The Sauvignon delivers aromas of grapefruit and citrus as well as a bit of minerality and acid backbone. Delicious and delightful; a superb summer sipper." - Robert Whitley

2016 Picpoul

Doon Picpoul Bonny Doon Vineyard 2017   
Price: $17.50       Sale $15.40

Doon Picpoul Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016   
Price: $17.50       Sale $15.40

Picpoul, sometimes “pique-poule”, or lip-stinger, is an exceptionally beloved cépage of Southern France, lending balance to cuvées that might otherwise veer off into the direction of the fulsome.

This is our fifth vintage Picpoul from Beeswax, and very confidently I’d suggest that it is, far and away, our best effort to date. Picpoul or “lip-stinger” is known, of course for its tingling acidity, but coupled with its singular savoriness, it creates a dramatic sensation on the palate. I know that it’s impossible to smell the sensation of saltiness, but the nose of our Picpoul is maritime, coupled with a discreet suggestion of peaches, wildflowers and the (we really can’t help it, but it’s in there) ubiquitous fragrance of beeswax.
2014 Le Cigare Blanc

Doon Cigare Blanc Bonny Doon Vineyard 2014
Price: $23.50       Sale $20.68

A blend of 66% Grenache Blanc and 34% Roussanne.  Le Cigare Blanc is the white analog of Le Cigare Volant, our homage to the complex blended wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The great white Cigare is not unlike the great white whale; rarely seen, difficult to catch, yet its name is legend. It’s a rich, savory wine with greater power and extraction than one typically finds at Bonny Doon.

2014 Le Cigare Blanc Réserve “en bonbonne

Doon Cigare Blanc Bonny Doon Vineyard RESERVE 2014
Price: $38.50       Sale $33.88

A blend of 66% Grenache Blanc and 34% Roussanne.   This is the fifth iteration of Le Cigare Blanc Réserve, and we continue to learn more about the mysteries of élevage in glass demijohn. This wine is the same blend as our standard issue Cigare Blanc, apart from the fact that we’ve allowed it to undergo malolactic fermentation, and at that point, we gave it a light SO2 addition, racked it to glass demijohn (bonbonne), where it reposed for a year and a half, getting anaerobically stirred more or less fortnightly.

Image result for Doon Grenache Gilroy Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016

Doon Grenache Gilroy Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016   
Price: $17.50       Sale $15.40

We aim for weapons-grade fruit from our sundry Grenache vineyards, with the intent of producing killer Cigare, but sometimes we end up Clos (but no Cigare). A somewhat more elegant Clos de Gilroy than one has typically seen in years past, this wine has the elegance of a Proustian madeleine, and supports the notion that Grenache is the stylistic analogue (writ South) of Burgundian Pinot noir. This wine is exceptionally spicy, peppery and perfumed, and pairs exceptionally well with a range of dishes, not the least being peppered ahi tuna steak. Best served with a slight chill, especially as the weather warms up.

Image result for Doon Merlot Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016

Doon Merlot Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016   
Price: $15.75       Sale $13.86

You may well be looking at me sideways for saying it, but I will be drinking some $%&*#! Merlot.  Good, deep ruby color, with a lovely dusty aroma of fraise de bois, licorice and gingerbread, with the subtlest suggestion of garrigue de Provence; the ’16 vintage is a bit more substantial in weight and persistence than the ’15. Quite elegant on the palate when first opened, the wine continues to build in amplitude in the glass with more air. The Merlot has wonderful natural acidity (go figure!), medium tannins and great persistence.

Image result for Doon Proper Claret Bonny Doon Vineyard 2014

Doon Proper Claret Bonny Doon Vineyard 2014   
Price: $17.50       Sale $15.40

Some cautionary words: Bonny Doon Vineyard is, as we all know or should know, a strictly cabernet-free zone, at least it has been for the last twenty-nine years. The last “Claret” nominally produced at Bonny Doon Vineyard was in 1985 from grapes grown at our late Estate in the eponymous hamlet of Bonny Doon. It was a blend of approximately equal parts of cabernet sauvignon, cab. franc, merlot and malbec, and against all expectation, was actually pretty damn good.

Randall Grahm, owner and winemaker, has expressed indifference, occasionally bordering on amused disdain, for this popular grape variety. We are not really at liberty to say how Bonny Doon Vineyard has come to be entrusted with the distribution of a wine made from such improbably alien grape varieties, but suffice to say that the deal was doon grudgingly and harumphingly.

Image result for Doon Syrah Pousseur Bonny Doon Vineyard 2013

Doon Syrah Pousseur Bonny Doon Vineyard 2013
Price $23.50        Sale $20.68

With a (gulp) substantial (63%) percentage of Bien Nacido Syrah in the mix, we certainly recognize the contribution of the mostly coolish (global climate change adjusted) Santa Maria climate to the natural acidity and freshness of this wine, as well as to the correctness of varietal expression. Wild plums, blackberries, Griotte cherries and licorice (of course). The tannins are soft and supple, but the wine has so much persistence, there is every indication that it will greatly benefit from cellaring. But for now, the Pousseur will enormously benefit from decantation and the investment in large balloon Burgundy glasses.

Image result for Doon Cigare Volant Bonny Doon Vineyard 2012

Doon Cigare Volant Bonny Doon Vineyard 2011 375ml
Price: $22.75       Sale $20.02

Doon Cigare Volant Bonny Doon Vineyard 2012
Price: $40.00       Sale $35.20

A worthy successor to the ’11, though perhaps slightly less muscular, but conversely, incrementally more elegant. We have gotten particularly adept in allowing for the expression of a wonderful savoriness in Cigare, and a pretty nice mastery of tannins. Recent vintages seem to show more structure than years past, and we are convinced that this vintage will be capable of very long ageing.

Image result for Doon Cigare Volant RESERVE Bonny Doon Vineyard 2011

Doon Cigare Volant RESEVE Bonny Doon Vineyard 2011
Price: $75.00       Sale $66.00

Beautiful, deep violet robe, not quite saturated color, but nary a trace of rust. First nose is peppermint, cherries, and of course deep, loamy earth—almost the scent of decaying leaves. What I’ve loved best about the Cigare Réserve wines is their texture—utterly seamless and sleek, and secondarily, their quality of umami, no doubt a function of the glutamate released from the autolysis of yeast cells during the élevage. The wine has a very satisfying richness, an aura of confident power and authority, but it is in noway overbearing.

Charcuterie Selection:  Bresaola, Salumi Fennel Principe, Beemster Gouda, Barley Buzzed
Pacific Salmon Carpaccio with Pink Grapefruit Citrus Segments and pink pepper corn Aioli and Ciacci Piccolomini Olive Oil
Pancetta Wrapped Pork Loin Mole served with black bean and Roasted Corn Salsa

The cost of this event is $95 + tax, for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail


A bit about Bonny Doon Vineyard:

Image result for Bonny Doon Winery

Randall Grahm is a curious sight with dark, unkempt, shoulder length, curly hair.  He has been labeled weird, genius, a spoiled brat, innovator, press hog, and a poor little rich kid.  His neighbors have complained about his wild parties and stymied his efforts at expansion.  Yet, in a very short time, Randall Grahm, founder, proprietor, and winemaker, of Bonny Doon Vineyard in California's Santa Cruz Mountains became a legend, a cult figure, and the enfant terrible of the California wine business.  He dared to defy all conventional means of marketing wines with outrageously humorous labels, and he dared to stake his future on his cockeyed theory that a world obsessed with Chardonnay and Cabernet would also one day be mad about unheard of wines like Roussanne and Mourvèdre.  He passionately believed - when all others thought him a humorous buffoon - that winelovers would open their hearts, minds, and palates to obscure Rhône varietals like Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah.  Bonny Doon's smashing success and Randall Grahm's novel flair for marketing have given him influence far in excess of what his small 30,000 case production should warrant.  He has succeeded beyond his wildest imagination (which is the wildest in California), his peers have given him credit for popularizing wines that were formerly appreciated only as cult wines, and nobody today denies that Bonny Doon makes some of California's best and definitely some of California's most interesting wines.

Randall Grahm was drawn to California wine and the Santa Cruz Mountains by a phenomenal 1975 Pinot Noir from Ken Burnap's Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards.  Grahm had been kicking around for years as a "professional student" at institutions of higher learning like UCLA, MIT, and UCSC, where he even took literature courses and studied pre-med.  In 1980 he got the backing of his father to buy a fifty acre parcel about two miles from the Pacific Ocean and seventy-five miles south of San Francisco, and there he began an ambitious planting of his vineyards to some obscure Rhône varietals.  In the years after that Pinot Noir, he discovered the majesty of a great Rhône in the form of a 1971 Château Rayas and a 1978 Château de Beaucastel - both Châteauneuf-du-Papes.  Rayas and Beaucastel are blends of numerous Rhône grapes and are considered the greatest and longest-lived wines of the district.  Grahm reasoned that the warm conditions which prevailed in the Southern Rhône more closely paralleled those of California than did the conditions in Champagne, Burgundy, and Bordeaux.  Yet, for a hundred years, conventional wisdom had it that chardonnay, cabernet, and pinot noir - not Rhône varieties - were the vines to plant in California's Rhônish climate.

Pinot noir didn't last long with Bonny Doon (the winery even experimented with importing grapes from 700 miles away in Oregon from Bethel Heights Winery) - the last vintage was 1985.  From that point forward, Grahm sunk all of his energies into Rhône varietals. In 1990 he grafted over the chardonnay vines on his estate to Roussanne and Marsanne - the white grapes for Hermitage Blanc. Fortunately, a wine from Mas de Daumas Gassac in the Provence district of France, which was a blend of chardonnay, marsanne, and roussanne, persuaded him that he should keep some of the vines for future experimentation.  Grahm, who once went around preaching to everybody to 'just say no to Chardonnay" produced his last estate Chardonnay in 1990.  To some (us included) it was an unwise move to tear up this vineyard, for the property yielded impossibly small amounts of wine - approximately 3/4 tons per acre - and it delivered one of the best Chardonnays made in California!  Grahm also produced about 2000 cases of a rather austere Chardonnay with fruit purchased from La Reina Vineyard in Monterey; 1990 was the last vintage for that wine also.

Grahm's bread and butter wine, amounting to about half of his total production, is a very dry Rosé called Vin Gris de Cigare (Grahm calls it a "thinking person's rosé"). Bonny Doon also produces a red blend table wine known as Grahm Cru Vin Rouge, a 100% Mourvèdre known as Old Telegram, and a red Grenache called Clos de Gilroy. Grahm makes a few barrels of a delicious, honeyed Viognier and a hauntingly complex blend of roussanne and marsanne known as Le Sophiste.  Bonny Doon's flagship wine and the wine that really put the winery on the map is Le Cigare Volant.  The name was the result of Grahm's fascination with the mind set of the city fathers of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, after which he patterned the wine.  It seems that a law was passed in 1954 to forbid flying saucers (cigare volants) from landing and scaring the wits out of the local citizenry - the Bonny Doon label and name became a spoof on that ordinance.  The first Le Cigare Volant was produced in 1984 and was a smashing success - it was primarily a blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre.  In 1987, more Mourvèdre was added; and it resulted in an outstanding blend that just oozed with viscous black raspberry fruit.  We were so taken with this wine that we named it "Best Rhône varietal of 1990" in The Wine News.  More recent vintages of Le Cigare have been just as good.

At the beginning of the 1990's Bonny Doon continued to expand into other possibilities with varietals that caught Grahm's fancy. One such wine was Le Gaucher (first introduced in 1991) that is an unusual blend of Barbera and Mourvèdre.  The winery's most successful new offering has been its Pacific Rim Riesling.  Grahm describes this wine as an example of "our ongoing compact with Ugly Duckling varieties."  Grahm seems to have his finger right on the pulse of the American winedrinker on this wine - it has been enormously successful in new-style American restaurants, where its exquisitely crisp, spicy, floral flavors perfectly complement piquant Asian or "fusion" cuisine.  Grahm soon recognized that his small vineyard could not possibly produce enough wine to meet the exploding demand for Bonny Doon, so in 1988 he acquired an 80 acre parcel (30 of it plantable) about two miles from his original winery.  Then he acquired a 160 acre parcel in Monterey, where he has begun experiments with a multitude of Italian grape varieties.  The first of these wines appeared in the early 1990's under the Ca' del Solo name, described by Grahm as an "imaginary kingdom located somewhere near the Soledad - Piemonte border, whose inhabitants speak a grammatically unique dialect." The Ca'del Solo lineup currently features the following wines: Malvasia Bianca (a dry, aromatic white); Il Pescatore (a dry, barrel-fermented Friuli-style blend); a Barbera; a rustic blend of Rhône and Italian varietals called Big House Red; a provocative blend of Tuscan varietals called Il Fiasco; and a low alcohol, slightly sparkling wine called Moscato del Solo.  Ca' del Solo is a work in progress; and according to Grahm, we can expect in the coming years "a proliferation of eclectic Italian varietals" under the Ca' del Solo name.  As if this mind-boggling array of wines were not enough to dazzle even the most avid of winelovers, Bonny Doon now produces a number of distilled spirits including a marc brandy, a grappa, a eaux-de-vie from pear orchards nearby the winery, and various fruit-flavored brandies.  With his incredibly diverse palette of offerings, it is no wonder that one writer said of Grahm: "he is to wine what Van Gogh was to painting."

 Fast Forward to Donn 2014:

 Excerpt from Been Doon So Long
Doon to Earth | page 260

In 2009, two years after the sale of Big House and Cardinal Zin brands, there is still considerable confusion about what precisely has been sold and exactly who or what constitutes Bonny Doon in its current incarnation.  Most disturbingly, it now appears to be karmic payback time after my years of pushing the envelope, marketing- and promotion-wise.  The wines we are now producing are much better and more “serious” – if by that we mean as winegrowers we are more focused and attentive – but I fear my reputation as a jocular marketeer may forever-doom (or doon) my chances of the world ever taking the wines themselves seriously.1  Our distributor in New York somewhat facetiously suggested that I consider taking out an advertisement in the Wine Spectator to dispel the confusion within the industry about the company, with the ancillary benefit of improving diplomatic relations with the Spectator.  I was nervous about taking out the ad for a number of reasons – it was quite dear for a winery our size, seemed to be advertising was that you were in trouble.

DoontoEarthThe piece was revised numerous times.  When I first wrote it, I attempted to channel the spirit of Robert Crumb (in the vague and unrealistic hope that I might persuade him to draw the strip).  The early versions were perhaps a bit too raw, self-deprecating, and self-revelatory.2  Maybe a little too self-consciously, I ended up toning it down more than I should have.  I had tried to make the case that many company was really all about transparency, and it seemed that a little brutal honesty would likely be well appreciated.  Or not.

Crumb was, not surprisingly, unavailable, but we were fortunate to find a wonderful cartoonist in Ed Piskor.  Ed was infinitely patient with my unending requests for revisions, and in the end of the strip, shown in the following spread, turned out great, with a lot of fine detail.  The strip ran, and the Wine Spectator loved it.  We turned it into a lovely poster, and many customers called us to obtain a copy.  But it did not seem to drive sales a whit, one very important metric of how one’s brand is valued.  Maybe there is more karma to be worked out.  Alternative explanation: people are now too absorbed in their own problems to pay much attention to almost anything that does not hit them squarely over the head.  (FALL 2008)

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