Friday, March 22, 2013

A Pair Of Bonny Doon Wines: Le Cigare Blanc


Le Cigare Blanc is the white version of Bonny Doon Vineyard’s masterful homage to Châteuaneuf-du-Pape, Le Cigare Volant.  For the uninitiated, that red wine is named to honor a decree issued in a village in that famous wine region which banned flying saucers from ever landing there and ruining the vineyards.  The region has never encountered the need for enforcement of that decree.  The light-hearted aspect of the name sits at the crux of Bonny Doon winemaker/owner Randall Grahm's sense of humor, a sensibility that permeates his writing and his labels.  As "president-for-life" of Bonny Doon, it is his wit that marks the wines and the marketing effort behind them.

Le Cigare Blanc Beeswax Vineyard 2011

This blend of 62% Grenache Blanc and 38% Roussanne is Grahm’s tip of the hat to the white blends of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  He e explains on the label, “Resistance is futile,” and he is correct.

The grapes come from the Beeswax Vineyard in the Arroyo Seco AVA of Monterey County and are
biodynamically farmed.  2011 was a particularly cool vintage, so the wine offers great flavor at a modest alcohol level of 12.5% abv.  1,650 cases were produced and they all are contained under what Grahm knows as a Stelvin closure.  You may know it as a screwcap.

The wine underwent a complete malolactic fermentation, so the mouthfeel is full and rich.  Aging took place in French oak barrels, and the suggested retail price is $28.

Le Cigare Blanc has a golden tint and a nose of apricots and cantaloupes, with a nutty little backbeat.  A quince flavor leads the way on the palate, with a savory quality - an almost salty quality - that intrigues me greatly.  Despite the intensity of the fruit here, it is the salinity that stays with me as a reminder.  The acidity is razor sharp and ready for whatever food you'd like to have with a white wine.  This wine's complexity is - to me, anyway - literally dazzling.  As much as I admire Grahm's red wines, Le Cigare Blanc may well be my favorite of the Bonny Doon line.

Le Cigare Blanc Réserve 2010

The Réserve version of Le Cigare Blanc is labeled as en bonbonne, meaning the wine is aged in a carboy - a big glass jug.  Grahm feels this type of aging allows the wine to retain its freshness over a number of years.

The 2010 vintage is the second for this version of the wine.  The fruit again comes from Beeswax Vineyard, while the mix is 56% Grenache Blanc and 44% Roussanne.  Easy on the alcohol again, too, with 12.4% abv.  Bonny Doon produced only 498 cases, and the screwcap closure is used, as in all of Grahm's bottlings.  He says you can tuck this one away until 2020 without a worry.  According to Grahm, it tastes younger every time he samples it.  The unfiltered wine may appear partly cloudy in your glass - it did in mine.  It is sold only to DEWN club members at a retail price of $50.

It is highly interesting how two wines of such a similar nature can be so different.  Clearly, the aging process tells the story of these fraternal twins.  The Réserve - aged in glass - shows a very different bouquet than its wood-aged counterpart.  Strong floral scents  mingle with orange peel and a bit of almond on the nose, while the palate is youthful and breezy, with plenty of citrus.  The two wines do share certain qualities, though.  The bracing acidity and the savory taste are here, with that lovely salinity lasting long into the finish.


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