Monday, October 28, 2013

Rebel Wine: Bonny Doon Vineyards Contra 2011

2011 is the third vintage of Contra, an "old-vine field blend" of primarily Carignane, Mourvèdre and Zinfandel.  Bonny Doon's Randall Grahm writes that the grapes come from "the sandy, head-trained, dry-farmed vineyards of Oakley and Antioch in the Sacramento Delta of Contra Costa County."  This vintage is, as Grahm says, "a happy medium between the mineral-driven '09 and the riper '10."

The wine's name suggests not only the county in which the grapes were grown, but the Nicaraguan opposition forces funded by the US government.  I don't think Bonny Doon is being subsidized by the feds, but now that I'm thinking of it, Grahm's Twitter communication seemed to drop off after the guvmint shutdown.  For all I know, Carignane, Mourvèdre and Zinfandel could be code names for three old rebels still hiding out in the fields.  The couch-in-the-vineyard imagery on the wine's label suggests that one could get comfortable amongst those gnarly old vines, or at least in the presence of their fruit.

Grahm calls Contra one of the "straightforward and frank wines of yester- and future-year."  When I came across that nugget on the label it didn't sound the least bit unusual, possibly because of the spaceship hovering near the words.  I don't know what the future holds, but I sure get a sense of the past in this wine.

Contra is, specifically, 56% Carignane, 28% Mourvèdre, 9% Grenache, 6% Syrah and 1% Zinfandel.  Grahm calls it a "contrarian blend of old-fangled grape varieties from mostly older vineyards."  The varietal makeup certainly harkens back to California's gold rush era and the field blends of that day.  Although field blends are referenced here, it's not a true field blend, since the grapes were vinified separately.  2,256 cases were made, and it retails for an affordable $16.  Alcohol sits at a very respectable 13.5% abv.

Inky purple, Contra displays a dark and brooding nose full of currant, anise and all the dark fruit that's lying around.  It's wonderfully pungent and even a tad funky - I guess that's how they roll in the Contra Costa.  Sipping it shows a distinct mineral note running right through the middle of the blackberry, cassis and black licorice flavors.  Acidity is great, tannins are round and the wine goes down very smoothly with notes of cinnamon and allspice.  The finish is extraordinary - and extraordinarily long.

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