It's fitting with today commencing the Weekend Celebration of American Rhones, in San Francisco, to celebrate this amazing, unique release of Cigare Blanc, the flagship Rhone white blend from Bonny Doon Vineyards.
It's creator, Randall Grahm, tonight at a very special ceremony will be awarded the first ever Rhone Rangers lifetime achievement award. As I wrote in For The Love of Rhône: Randall Grahm Lifetime Achievement Award; A Rhône Weekend in SF the American Rhone winemakers and consumers owe Randall this, and much more.
The Re-Emergence of The Original Rhone Ranger, Pioneer's Vision
In his spot-on keynote speech at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, (video or transcript ) Randall gently chided the wine industry, for being a victim of its own success, almost 'selling out' and lamenting the world of unique wines, that had some risk to making them.
'Modern winemakers live in an era of tragic self-consciousness about the economic consequences of their winemaking decisions, utterly aware of the peril of somehow falling outside of the stylistic parameters of accepted wine styles.'
On a macro level this is sadly true. Wines, especially whites, are made risk free, manipulated, and churned out by the container load for mass market. “Flash Detente' – seriously? I'll go return to my beer brewing roots before I ever cross this line. Every article I read on it gives me hives – where does this end?
But there is a burgeoning new movement, a tiny but growing population of bold winemakers who return to the risk taking Randall laments, making wines of unique varieties, vinification, climates and more. (Teaser, also watch for notice for a special tasting of a gang of 13 of these upstarts in Healdsburg in May.)
These vintners of passion often selling their crafts for a modest price, keeping the approachable. Sommeliers are loving this re-birth. Some old school journalists have no clue what to do with it – why not keep just writing about Cabernet & Zinfandel. Other visionaries like Jon Bonné of the Chronicle embrace and support the change, and even has a book coming out. (You can pre-order now, I did.)
Leading By Example and Creativity – Winemaking With Risk (Equals Reward.)
Randall leads the path again (one that I follow, inspired, with my own Rhone project.) His special 2010 Cigare Blanc Reserve and 2008 Cigare Volante are aged 'en bonbonne' - glass carboys, protected from light and air, and stirred….magnetically. As only Randall could do.
Why? Randall was inspired by wines of Dan Wheeler tasted from carboy, and astonished by how fresh the wines were, 20 years later, followed by a similar experience with Emidio Pepe.
At the Wine Bloggers Conference, Randall held a special semi private tasting of some of his wines, including the 2010 Cigare Blanc reserve & 2008 Cigare Volant Reserve 'en bonbonne'. The gift was lost on some, but it was a special experience to taste these the normal and en bonbonne' side by side. There was a clear, textural and flavor difference.
It inspired me to taste them both again later several times, where I could focus without Rex Pickett of Sideways making drinking from dump bucket jokes to impress a nearby female. Not a problem as I am a DOON Club member, and regularly order, and have, including a re-order of this wine.
Review: Bonny Doon Vineyard 2010 Cigare Blanc Reserve en bonbonne
A certified biodynamic blend of 56% Grenache Blanc and 44% Rousanne. (You had me at Grenache Blanc.) As Randall's own tasting notes concur, it continues to improve in bottle, and was changed, even more favorably from last fall.
The 2010 vintage was allowed to go through secondary malo-lactic (a personal preference for me, as I think many white wines, with sufficient acidity, should do to enhance mouth feel and complexity.)
- To The Eye: Slightly cloudy, but clearer than previous tastings. Its turbidity makes me love it even more. It's about time the consumer world understood a tad of turbidity in whites might make it better. I will follow with less trepidation.
- On The Nose: wondrous nose of yellow pear, stone fruits, hints of white grapefruit and phizer viagra hazelnut.
- On The Palate: Amazing. Lush, but in a restrained way. Textural and 'grown up' but with a vibrant acid backbone that lingers beneath in balance. The front palate starts off bright and fresh, the mid palate shows the wondrous texture, mouth feel ripe pear, yellow peach, citrus. The finish is of ripe Meyer lemon, lingering pleasant acidity.
I have yet to figure out how Bonny Doon makes these so wonderful in flavor and low in alcohol, as Roussanne and Grenache Blanc both require proper ripening, ever for my acid addicted palate. Bravo.
A wine that while wonderful solo, would be heavenly with rich seafood, creamy pasta, or roasted chicken.
- Recommendation: This is one to buy a case and drink 1-2 bottles a year. Buy online while you can.
94 points. Yes its pricier than every day wine. Life is short, live a little.
Winemakers Notes & Geeky Stuff
I have written in various places about the inspiration to age wine in demijohns/carboys/bonbonnes. Some of it has come from my fascination with oxidation/reduction chemistry, an aspect of wine art/science not well understood and its importance greatly unappreciated. Years ago, as a young pup I tasted wine from carboy with Dan Wheeler of Nicasio Cellars in his do-it-yourself-handdug cave in Soquel, and was astonished at how youthful were the wines, twenty plus years later, almost as if they had been placed in suspended animation. At about the same time, I also happened to taste the wines from Emidio Pepe in Abruzzo, who also aged his product in demijohns, likewise evincing extraordinary youthfulness and vitality.
We did some small encouraging experiments years ago, then more or less forgot about them until relatively recently, at which point we began the carboy ageing project with red Cigare. It wasn’t until ’09 that it dooned on me that perhaps there were even more interesting things to discover with the white. The ’10 Cigare Blanc Réserve, our second vintage of this wine, is absolutely amazing, an advance over the ’09. To refresh everyone’s memory, this wine is more or less 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.
The wine derives entirely from the Beeswax Vineyard, located at the mouth of the Arroyo Seco, and is farmed biodynamically and produced according to biodynamic specifications (very easy on the extraneous additions).
I’ve had the pleasure of tasting this wine over the last year, and what is most remarkable about it is that every time I taste it, it gets younger and younger! The wine was not filtered, and therefore is partly cloudy, though lately, it is curiously, getting brighter and brighter. The wine has a rich, unctuous texture, despite its modest (12ish%) alcohol, as well as possesses the most satisfying savoriness. In the nose, there is a wonderful suggestion of hazelnuts (hmm, white Burgundy, anyone?), as well as a beautiful fragrance of wintergreen and a wine-like pear. A great gastronomy wine, one that will perfectly suit rich, cream-based dishes.
- Blend: 56% roussanne, 44% grenache blanc (Certified Biodynamic®)
- Vineyard: Beeswax (Certified Biodynamic®)
- Appellation: Arroyo Seco
- Serving Temp: 50-55ºF
- Alcohol by Volume: 12.4%
- TA: 6.2 g/L
- pH: 3.62
- Optimal drinkability: Drink now-2020
- Production: 497 cases