Friday, December 18, 2015

Have A Cigare - A White One

One of the wonders of tasting Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon wines from year to year is tracking how they turn out. Bigger wineries, with huge production in the tens of thousands of cases don’t see much change in their wines from vintage to vintage. They are made that way - reliable, unsurprising. Because nobody likes a surprise, right? We know that’s not true.

One of the Bonny Doon wines that shows so well from year to year is Le Cigare Blanc Réserve. This is the one aged in five gallon glass carboys - on the lees - which gives the wine a complexity you won’t find on the shelf at the supermarket. Grahm only made 275 cases of the 2013 vintage, so don’t expect it to be around forever.

Grahm notes that 2013 is the fourth vintage of Le Cigare Blanc Réserve, and it is a release that I look forward to each year with more fervor than, say, Christmas, or the beginning of baseball season.

Le Cigare Blanc Réserve is patterned after white Burgundy wines, even though this wine would seem to be more aligned with the Rhône Valley. The blend of 55% Roussanne, 26% Grenache Blanc and 19% Picpoul from the Arroyo Seco area certainly does not suggest Burgundy, but a taste might make you think otherwise.

As Grahm states, “One finds in the Cigare Blanc Réserve many of the qualities that one has come to love in white Burgundy - a lush, creamy texture, a haunting suggestion of the skin of pear (or is it quince?), as well as absolutely formidable length on the palate.” One would think it’s quince, but one would have to check with one's wife - she has a much better palate.

It’s the lees - the spent yeast cells - that really bring on the Burgundian feel. The wine’s contact with the lees, as Grahm notes, “contributes both to a textural richness ...and the slight reductive funkiness ... contributing to the distinctive toasty, hazelnut nose, as well as to a sort of energized zinginess, a kind of recharging of the wine’s battery, as it were.” Rich AND zingy in a white wine is a rare find, and a pleasant one.

The glass-aged wine carries an alcohol level of 14.1% abv and retails for $45. Grahm says you can expect it to age well for another eight to twelve years.

The pale yellow Cigare Blanc Reserve 2013 brings a savory nose, with a bit of apricot and peach fruit aromas to pair with the saline minerality. That salinity appears on the palate, too. The savory, salty quality is a Randall Grahm calling card, and it appears here in spades. Citrus flavors - lemon, lime, orange peel - make appearances on the palate that last into the finish. Acidity is high and refreshing.

Pairing suggestions will range from nuts to cheese to lobster. The simple tastes go great with it, but at is more than elegant enough for the fancy table, too. Grahm suggests “wild mushrooms sauteed in butter with a dash of coarse sea salt, monkfish stuffed with chorizo, and quiche with fresh leeks.” I will have to find a way to get invited to his place for dinner.


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