Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Wine: Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc 2010

When I ran into Bonny Doon Vineyard’s founder and President For Life, Randall Grahm, at the Los Angeles Rhone Rangers tasting event, he seemed baffled at the popularity of his Le Cigare Blanc.  Grahm told me he never thought he’d see a “wellspring of interest in white Rhone grape varieties,” hypothesizing that it may have been connected with the Mayan calendar and the end of the world.  If that’s the case, drink up.  There’s not much time left to enjoy it.

The grapes for this wine - 55% Roussanne and 45% Grenache Blanc - come from Beeswax Vineyard, a biodynamically-farmed plot in the Arroyo Seco AVA in Monterey County.  The Bonny Doon website describes, “Surrounded on three sides by wilderness and shielded from the cool Pacific Coast winds by the Santa Lucia Mountains, Beeswax Vineyard grows complex, concentrated and mineral intensive grapes, produced from deeply rooted vines."

It’s called, on the label, “white wine of the earth,” and the minerality found in it bears that out.  At a breezy 12.7% abv, this wine refreshes, and won’t leave you feeling woozy on the porch.

For the uninitiated, the name is taken from Bonny Doon’s flagship wine, Le Cigare Volant.  It’s a reference to a cigar-shaped flying saucer reportedly seen at one time over the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  The local government feared these aliens would damage the sacred crop, so a decree was issued banning the spaceships.  It must have worked, as I don’t think the Rhone Valley has been bothered by UFOs since then.  As a remembrance, Le Cigare Blanc comes bottled under a screw cap bearing the likeness of an alien.

The wine shows a nice color - a light golden hue - in the glass.  I smell apricots, tropical fruit, citrus and cantaloupe, with a soft vanilla note from the French oak wafting in and out.  On the palate, pears and apricots are joined by a melon rind minerality.  There’s the suggestion of an almond -butter-and-quince sandwich in there, too, with a savory note on the finish, which lingers long and well.

The acidity is fantastic, and makes me want a pork chop, or a nice soft cheese.  In my brief chat with Grahm, he explained the popularity of Le Cigare Blanc by saying, “white Rhone grapes, especially Roussanne, are fabulous food wines.”  We already knew that, and - presumably - so do the aliens.

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