This Week’s Wine Tasting

Bonny Doon Vineyard and Hayes Valley


Bonny Doon Vineyard– “While Bonny Doon Vineyard began with the (in retrospect) foolish attempt to replicate Burgundy in California, Randall Grahm realized early on that he would have far more success creating more distinctive and original wines working with Rhône varieties in the Central Coast of California. In 1986 Bonny Doon Vineyard released the inaugural vintage (1984) of Le Cigare Volant, an homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and this continues as the winery’s flagship/starship brand.

Since then, Bonny Doon Vineyard has enjoyed a long history of innovation– the first to truly popularize Rhône grapes in California, to successfully work with cryo-extraction for sundry “Vins de Glacière”, the first to utilize microbullage [a.k.a. micro-oxygenation] in California, the first to popularize screwcaps for premium wines, and, quite significantly, the first to embrace true transparency in labeling with its ingredient labeling initiative.

Bonny Doon Vineyard grew and grew with some incredibly popular brands (Big House, Cardinal Zin and Pacific Rim) until it became the 28th largest winery in the United States. Randall came to the realization– better late than never– that he had found that the company had diverged to a great extent from his original intention of producing soulful, distinctive and original wines… With this in mind, he sold off the larger brands (Big House and Cardinal Zin) in 2006 and Pacific Rim in 2010.

In the intervening years, the focus of the winery has been to spend far more time working with vineyards in improving their practices, as well as on making wines with a much lighter touch. Recently, Randall has purchased an extraordinary property in San Juan Bautista, which he calls Popelouchum, (the Mutsun word for “paradise,”) where he is profoundly intent on producing singular wines expressive of place.”

Bonny Doon Picpoul 2014– Arroyo Seco, California. Beeswax Vineyard. 100% Picpoul. “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. Possibly the coolest feature of this wine is its extremely pale, straw color. It is clearly a wine to be consumed in the freshness of day, ideally al fresco. The fragrance is captivating—white flowers, to be sure, and almost something candied, or more accurately, honeyed. (This is the Beeswax Vineyard, after all.) On the palate, it is startlingly dry and very crisp, with the slightest refreshing hint of bitterness. No, not bitter, but rather briny. You salivate after tasting this wine. Pairing suggestions: It is possibly one of the genius wines of all times to pair with oysters; sardines or even a salade Niçoise. Other ideas include Bouillabaisse (seafood stew), boquerones, shellfish and codfish brandade.” $15.99

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare Rose 2014– Central Coast, California. A blend of 35% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre, 16% Grenache blanc, 12.5% Roussanne, 8% Carignane, 8% Cinsaut, 1.5% Marsanne, and 1% Counoise. “Our Vin Gris, a Provençal-styled pink, is a rather pale salmon color. There is a lovely chalky/smoky gunpowder tea aspect to the nose, with a suggestion of bergamot, wild strawberry and maybe even a delicate trace of wintergreen. The fragrance is discreet and above all, elegant and draws one to the wine rather than mounts a frontal assault on one’s sensorium. On the palate, the wine has a sleek, salty, savory, mouth-watering aspect and a refreshing acidity. There is a wonderful persistent finish, making this one of the most food-friendly wines conceivable. The grenache for our Vin Gris came from bespoke sections of the Alta Loma and Mesa Verde Vineyards, harvested at the appropriate maturity level for this elegant style of wine. The mourvèdre came from Del Barba Vineyard. About 27% of the wine is composed of traditional white Rhône varieties from Beeswax Vineyard, which add a surprising richness and foundation. We employed the practice of bâtonnage—the stirring or re-suspension of lees after fermentation—to give the wine a creaminess of texture. Pairing suggestions: Seafood, such as scallops, ceviche, and oysters. Salad, such as Niçoise or Tarragon Chicken Salad with Almonds. Cheeses, such as creamy California chèvre (we suggest Harley Farms, Cypress Grove, or Laura Chenel). Provençal-styled dishes in general suite this pink best.”

Winemaker notes: “This wine is perhaps the most emblematic of the great sea change that has occurred at Bonny Doon Vineyard since the sell-off/draw-down of the Ginormous Doonamath. This wine is a true Vin Gris, which is to say, made from bespoke grapes (not a by-product of red wine production), harvested at the appropriate ripeness level for its style, and receiving but minimal skin contact. The essential principle here is that less is truly more. The wine does not overwhelm one with fruitybombasticity; its charms are seductively subtle. Discreet nose of alpine strawberry, evolving into a refreshing mintiness with additional air and warming. On the palate, a beautiful natural crispness and a great sleek and savory texture, in virtue of the extended lees contact/bâtonnage the wine received post-fermentation.” $15.99

Bonny Doon A Proper Claret 2012– California. A blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 15% Tannat, 13% Petit Verdot, 8% Syrah, 1% Petite Sirah. “It is lean, neither overly alcoholic (weighing in at 13%) nor overly extracted, nor overly oakèd; it is precisely what one would imagine A Proper Claret to be. The wine contains a substantial dollop of petit verdot (13%), adding a silky note of violets and textural elegance, in counterpoint to the lead-in-the-pencil firmness offered by the inclusion of the virile tannat (15%). Tannat, the grape implicated in the French paradox (and the vinifera variety with resveratrol levels that are off the charts), is principally grown in Gascony (land of Les Trois Mousquetaires), though it was historically grown as well in Bordeaux as late as the 19th century. There is still a lovely minty, cedary aspect to this wine, reflective of its perfect balance, with nary a prunish note to be found. Pairing suggestions: Proper (British) mutton, proper leg of lamb, (ideally served with proper Yorkshire pudding).” $15.99



Hayes Valley Winery– “Located in the northern Central Coast of California, the lore of Hayes Valley extends back to the days of missionaries and the historic El Camino Real. The land was planted with wine grapes in the late 1800’s, but the vineyards eventually succumbed to Prohibition.

Agriculture was restored to the Valley in the late 1990’s with the planting of new vines. The Hayes Valley is an ideal climate for growing grapes—cool, foggy nights followed by warm sunny days.

Hayes Valley Wines are grown and produced at Clos LaChance Estate Vineyards and Winery in California’s Northern Central Coast, which was one of the first 17 certified sustainable wineries in California. The winery is committed to producing the best quality wine possible while protecting the environment and conserving natural resources. As a family-owned and operated winery, it is important for Clos LaChance to maintain the long-term viability of the land for future generations.”

Hayes Vineyard Chardonnay 2013– Central Coast, California. 100% Chardonnay from Scheid Vineyards. Aged in 20% New French Oak, 80% stainless steel tanks, 20% underwent malolactic fermentation. “Hayes Valley Chardonnay opens up with aromas of tropical fruits—pineapples and bananas. Pears and apples are also prevalent, with a hint of toasty oak. Flavors of baked apples, banana and vanilla carry through the palate, along with a creamy mouth feel and a hint of butter. Solid acidity makes this a great wine to pair with many dishes or to drink on its own. Pair with: Chicken dishes (Chicken Piccata, Roasted or Grilled Chicken with a light sauce), Seafood (Steamed Lobster with Butter, Baked Shrimp, Roasted Halibut with a light sauce) and soft, mild cheeses (Brie and Camembert).” $10.99

Hayes Vineyard Meritage 2013– Central Coast, California. A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Malbec, and 15% Petit Verdot. Vineyards: 90% Estate Vineyards and 10% Castoro Vineyard. Aged in 25% New French 5% New American, 70% Neutral French. “Vibrant purple color with a slight meniscus. Dark, almost opaque, but not totally. On the nose, aromas of strawberry jam, fresh raspberries and a hint of vanilla and spice. Very smooth on the palate with bright acidity and mild tannins. The fruit flavors are similar to the aromas, but subtle – somewhat Old World in style. The finish has that spice carry through along with a bit of earthiness. Pair with: BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, grilled onion chicken, beef stew, shrimp tacos, beef stroganoff with mushrooms, Montreal-seasoned tri-tip.” $10.99

Hayes Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013– Central Coast, California. A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Zinfandel, and 10% Syrah. Vineyards: 75% Castoro Vineyards and 25% Estate Vineyards. Aged in 80% French Oak and 20% Neutral American Oak. “Aromas of cocoa, dried cherry, black currants and a hint of cigar. Vanilla and spice undertones. Rich cherry and blackberry flavors upon first sip. Medium tannins and acidity create perfect balance. A bit of bakers spice and rosemary on the finish. Pair with: Beef Dishes (New York Steak with Gorgonzola Butter, Prime Rib, Grilled Filet), Grilled Lamb with Mushrooms, Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts or Pecans, Blue Cheeses (Camembert, Aged Jack, Parmesan, Gorgonzola).” $10.99

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