Showing posts with label Bonny Doon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bonny Doon. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Revolution In A Bottle

Just in from the western bloc, the terse message concerns Contra 2012, "a contrarian blend of mostly old-fangled grape varieties from mostly older vineyards located primarily in Contra Costa County." This adverb-riddled communique bears the unmistakable mark of CEO Randall Grahm, President for Life at Bonny Doon Vineyards. The presidential flair continues during his address to the troops in which he awards a purple heart to "a field blend that counter-intuitively contravenes convention." Alcohol hits 14.1% abv, while Grahm's wordplay scores considerably higher.

Contra. The ragtag grape militia is headed up by General Carignane 56%, Major Syrah 17%, Lieutenant Grenache 15% and Sergeant Mourvèdre 11%, followed by the grunts, Cinsault, one percent.

The extremely dark wine is aromatic with blackberry, black currant and plum. A whiff of tar sneaks in late. Flavors of dark fruit sit embedded in oak spice and feisty acidity with all the tannins needed to fight off the fat power of a heavily marbled steak.  It won't pull a sneak attack - it flashes its weapons upon the loosening of the screw cap, referred to as a Stelvin closure in the dossier.

The rebels hoist the wine in defiance of those for and against. Who knows which side is right. May as well keep all options open. Meet the new boss. Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Ten-four good buddy.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

For Syrah, X Marks The Spot

"It smells like dirt."  My wife took in the wine's aroma again.  "I know," I replied.   She insisted, "No, really, it smells like soil."  "That's the idea."

Denise was amazed by the aromas wafting from the bottle after I had opened the wine.  She took the bottle and had a swig.  Oh, it was a ladylike swig, but there she was, my dainty little flower, knocking back a gulp of great wine right from the bottle.  I always think that when a wine has a great nose, I could just sit and only smell it.  But maybe a wine with a great nose should make us grab the bottle and have a blast, unable to wait for niceties like glassware.  It should compel us to have a taste, right then and there.

The Santa Maria soil of Bien Nacido Vineyard is amazing.  It darkens everything that comes from it.  Pinot Noir is roughened, Chardonnay is toughened and Syrah is marked with the X.

The darkness of a wine made from grapes grown in Bien Nacido Vineyard can be overwhelming.  The grapes for Bonny Doon's 2011 Bien Nacido Syrah come from Block X, an older portion of the vineyard planted with the Estrella River Syrah clone.  The wine retails for $50 and only 463 cases were produced.  A year and a half (or so) in French oak left its mark like a line in the dirt; a tic-tac-toe criss-cross map pointing the way to buried treasure.

It's a deep, dark wine with a nose that is nothing if not intense.  Savory meets fruit as tar, tobacco and spice add complexity to plum, blackberry and currant.  The palate carries that interplay further, with that dark fruit colored a little brighter by baking spices, pepper and meat.  And the dirt of Santa Maria.

In a brief (for him) synopsis of his career with grapes, winemaker Randall Grahm writes, "Having tried my hand at Grenache in 1982, it seemed that the following year it was time to further my Rhône education with Syrah.  (I didn’t quite have the financial resources to purchase them both. There weren’t many Syrah options, so I went with Cliff Giacobine’s fruit at the Estrella River Vyd in 1983. We continued to purchase from him until the Bien Nacido Syrah came into production and became our default source for Syrah. Not a lot was understood about Syrah in the day; these vines were terribly over-irrigated, and over-cropped; the blistering hot climate of the east side of Paso tended to really efface varietal character and led to grape musts the acidity and pHs levels of which were totally out of whack."

"The ultra-consistent older Block X, planted with the "Estrella River" clone of Syrah (I suspect without any foundational evidence that it may actually be "Serine"), produces an extremely peppery, bacon-fat version of Syrah, far more consistently than modern clones."  Grahm notes, "This clone of Syrah has largely fallen out of favor in recent years, supplanted by modern clones that are beefier, darker in color, but lack the distinctive peppery spice of the proper Syrah we love from the Northern Rhône."  Hooray for dirt.  Hooray for Santa Maria.  Hooray for Block X.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

California Grenache: Bonny Doon Cuvée R 2012

"There is a place in our hearts for Grenache at Bonny Doon Vineyard," states the winery's new website.  "It is the misunderstood, Ugly Duckling cépage par excellence."   The Now And Zin California Grenache series threw the spotlight on this misjudged, maligned and magnificent grape.

The grapes for the Bonny Doon Grenache Cuvée R 2012 were grown in the Rancho Solo Vineyard, formerly the Ca' del Solo Vineyard in Monterey County town of Soledad.  Winemaker Randall Grahm says he has planted it at the new vineyard in San Juan Bautista. "It looks promising."  Grahm says, "This was the most impressive single batch of Grenache fruit I have ever chanced to encounter chez Doon."  And he has encountered quite a few.

If you want to get downright geeky about the grapes, Grahm reveals that the fruit for this wine was grown "from a selected clone of Grenache alleged to have originated from an extremely well-regarded, let’s rephrase that, from the most well-regarded domain in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, one known for making 100% Grenache cuvées of atypical elegance."

It retails for $48, but is only available to Bonny Doon’s DEWN Club members.   Cuvée R rocks a 14.9% abv number, so it’s a rather potent quaff.  The label art cartoon by Gary Taxali is worth at least a portion of the price.

The Cuvée R Grenache is extremely dark, with no light getting through the glass.  Upon opening, the nose was rather tight, a situation that resolves itself over time.  One sip makes it clear this is a very tasty, dark and delicious wine, but it’s not a big ol' California fruit stand.  This Grenache is dark, like the forest.  A nice level of acidity is refreshing in the mouth - but not the sort that takes your breath away - and the tannins are firm, provide a lively mate for meat.  Actually, the tannins seem to increase over the three nights I had this bottle open - quite the reverse of what I would have expected.  On the first night, the wine seemed a little dull, blunted.  On the second night it was a much livelier experience and by the third night it was brighter still.

The wine is full in the mouth and smooth as a bonus.  Not a bad choice for the holiday table.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

California Grenache: Bonny Doon Clos De Gilroy

In a recent article about California Grenache, Jon Bonné called Grenache "the Jan Brady of grapes."  He wrote that Grenache, when left to its own devices, is sometimes responsible for wines that are just not pretty enough.  He did offer, of course, that there are some great examples of California Grenache wines that are plenty pretty on their own.  Complex, even

Grenache seems well-suited to California, particularly in cooler vintages.  Sporting plenty of what the wine-buying public likes - fruit, tannins, acidity - and often available at great price points, Grenache would seem to be poised to make some noise.

Today in the California Grenache series, we sample the Bonny Doon Vineyard Clos De Gilroy Monterey County Grenache 2013.

Bonny Doon "President for Life" Randall Grahm’s scent of humor comes to the forefront on the labeling of this wine - see below.  Gilroy is the garlic capital of California - a town that truly does telegraph its whereabouts to travelers on the nearby freeway.  Think what you will, but the town is amazingly vampire-free.  

After laying on a few aioli-related puns, Grahm gets to the business end of the wine.  Made up of 75% Grenache, 17% Syrah and 8% Mourvèdre, Clos De Gilroy's grapes hail "from the Alta Loma vineyard in Greenfield (a particularly cool site for grenache) the gravelly Alamo Creek Vineyard near Santa Maria and some truly ancient mourvèdre vines in the sleepy Sacramento Delta town of Oakley, CA. "

These grapes - together with Grahm, although he claims minimal intervention - produce a wine with an absolutely brilliant nose.  Aromas of cherry and plum are dusted with a leathery layer of anise and tobacco.  The palate is big and dark, with multiple shadings of the fruits involved.  The cherry of Grenache leads the way, followed by the dark fruit and spice of the Syrah with Mourvèdre's savory notes and tannins.  There is a brooding funkiness to this wine that I find riveting.  I think it is a little too masculine to be comfortable when called "pretty," but it definitely wears its complexity well.  

And, it was another vampire-free night at chez Now And Zin.

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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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Three Syrah Wines From Bonny Doon Vineyards

Bonny Doon Vineyards’ chief Randall Grahm has made wine from many different grape varieties during his illustrious career, but the ones with which he really resonates are the grapes of the Rhône Valley.  He has been labeled "the original Rhône Ranger" for his pioneering effort of making Rhône-style wines in California.  Grahm supplied me with samples of three of his Syrah wines, which demonstrate his ability to choose vineyards and do the best work possible with the fruit found there.

It is this connection to the sense of place - terroir - offered by different vineyards that has captured Grahm's fascination.  He considers his winemaking efforts now to be vins de terroir - in which the grapes do the work - rather than vins d'effort, in which the winemaker does the work.  Grahm described his laissez faire methods in a recent article, "We spend more time in the vineyard so we don't have to spend so much time in the cellar."

Bonny Doon Le Pousseur Central Coast Syrah 2009

This is the entry-level Syrah from Bonny Doon.  The grapes are 56% Alamo Creek Vineyard, 32% Bien Nacido Vineyard and 12% Chequera Vineyard.  A blurb addressing Grahm's hands-off style of winemaking, with minimal intervention, adorns the label.  The alcohol content is a restrained 13.5% abv and the wine retails for $25.

The wine is inky black, no light gets through.  The bouquet is as dark as the color, showing black fruit and bacon fat.  Plums and blackberries define the palate, but the fruit has to coexist with dark, savory notes.  Everything meshes seamlessly in a wave of minerality.  This is entry-level wine at its highest order.

Bonny Doon Alamo Creek Syrah, San Luis Obispo County, 2008

Grahm calls this one "intensely concentrated and mineral-rich."  The vineyard is located northeast of the town of Santa Maria ("where the wild things roam") and where rock outcroppings of the Alamo Creek Valley indicate the minerals to come.  At 13.5% abv, the wine retails for $35.  Again, decant before enjoying.

The wines of the Santa Maria area are among my favorites in California, mineral-driven and dark, with great complexity.  This wine is dark in appearance, and sports a dark nose of blackberry and black currant.  Gobs of tar aromas make it hard to stop sniffing.  The palate, once decanted, is extremely smooth with fine tannins.  Flavors are dark and rich, with a full ripeness that just explodes on the palate.

Bonny Doon Bien Nacido Syrah, Santa Maria Valley, 2008

Grahm's label notes: "The Syrah from Bien Nacido Vineyard is most evocative of the character of the genuine Northern Rhône article of any Syrah we see, likely owing to the exceptionally cool climate, the age of its (X-block) vines and calcareous soil."  The wine has a 13.9% abv number and retails for $40.  Grahm recommends decanting an hour or two for best effect.

Inky black, the wine is just as dark on the nose.  Minerals come forth strongly, with hints of tobacco under the black plum aromas.  Nice, chewy tannins decorate the palate, with extremely dark and savory fruit flavors.  There is a smattering of pepper and roast beef, with a beautiful minerality.  Pairing with dark chocolate and sea salt is magnificent.  It is quite possibly the best California Syrah I've had, and easily rivals the top French entries.

For something to drink right away, any one of these Syrahs beats the label off a cult Cab on the experience alone, not to mention the lower price points.  All three are the kind of wines you'll want to pop open for special occasions - but life is short.  Don't wait.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Great Central Coast Wine List: Westside Tavern

One of those "the movie starts in an hour" decisions led me to my first visit to Westside Tavern in the mall on Pico Boulevard.  Just downstairs from the AMC multiplex, this is a place I'll be hitting again for pre- or post-movie dining or drinks.  It's not just about the convenience.  Judging from the cheese, meat and bread plate, the food is worth a trip.  But you know what gets me excited.

The wine list is literally loaded with selections from California's Central Coast.  Why is this not standard procedure at Los Angeles restaurants?  Lori Theis is the director of special events at Westside Tavern, and she does the wine list like it ought to be done here in Southern California.  There are so many good Central Coast choices, I'll need a number of visits to explore them all.  Our waitress told me that the list includes many seasonal choices - as it should - so I may never finish sampling the regional wines on offer.  But I'll try.

I was taken aback by the sheer number of wines I'd like to enjoy, and I hadn't even looked at the menu.  I only knew that Denise had decided on the cheese and meat board, so I asked the waitress if she thought a red or white wine would be a better fit.  She said the reds were her choice for that pairing, so I ordered the Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy Grenache.  The 2010 vintage is $11 by the glass.  Denise had the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from Ancient Peaks, one of our favorite Paso Robles wines.  It was also $11 btg.  Both were served at cellar temperature, which you don't always get in L.A.'s eateries.

The Clos de Gilroy is 75% Grenache, 13% Cinsault and 12% Syrah, so there is a lot going on in the glass.  The wine’s grapes do not originate in Gilroy - home of the Garlic Festival - but from a smattering of Central Coast vineyards.  When Denise heard me ask for the wine by name, she wondered if it smelled like garlic.  It does not, although that would be an interesting tasting note.

Clos de Gilroy does smell a bit like meat, with cherries and an earthy sensation in the bouquet as well.  The palate shows very nice acidity with racy dark fruit flavors - I get prunes - and a medium-length black cherry cola finish.  Peppery notes keep popping up.  The wine is beautiful with the cheese and meat plate - an excellent match with the toasted raisin nut bread that comes with it.

The Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon, by the way, shows those famous Margarita Vineyard minerals in full force, with strong, dark fruit and a nice tannic structure.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bonny Doon Contra: A Modern Day Field Blend

Bonny Doon Vineyards of Santa Cruz, California is the workplace of Randall Grahm, The Rhone Ranger.  He's been in front of the pack for so long, people recognize him by the back of his head.  Folks thought Grahm was crazy when he decided Rhone grape varieties were the right thing to do in California.  Now they have to think of other reasons.

His Contra red blend is so named because of its contrarian stance in the face of modern winemaking.  The grapes come primarily from Contra Costa County, and the label calls them, "mostly old-fangled grape varieties from mostly older vineyards."  That's the way Grahm rolls, as he uses his skills to produce wines that reflect the terroir from which they come.  The Carignane grapes used in Contra are said to come from 100-plus year-old vines, mixed with other varieties.

Grahm sees it as a straightforward wine that both looks to the past and the future.  In the past, winemaker intervention was minimal because they didn’t have the technology to intervene.  Tomorrow, Grahm envisions, winemakers will choose a return to those simpler times.

Contra is a blend of 68% Carignane grapes and 38% Syrah.  The Carignane comes from several vineyards.  The Syrah is mainly from Alamo Creek Vineyard in San Luis Obispo, with some from Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria.  It’s the latter which gets credit from Grahm for the “exceptionally vibrant, peppery/minty, smoked meat note” in the wine.

There’s a caveat, though.  Contra is indicated as an Old Vine Field Blend on the label, which I am excited about.  “Field blend” is the term for the way grapes were grown once upon a time.  Vineyards were planted with different varieties scattered about, with only a "more of this, less of that" attitude from row to row.  These mixed grapes were grown, harvested and vinified together.  Modern winemaking keeps everything separate until the blending, which occurs in the cellar.  The old way had the wine blended, so to speak, out in the field.

Since the different grapes in Contra are from different vineyards, “field blend" is not a completely accurate term.  Considering Grahm's literate nature and his efforts at being transparent in labeling, the wording seemed odd to me.  So I did what people do when they want to check with Grahm.  I tweeted him.  Here are his responses:

“Grapes from multiple vyds in Oakley, Antioch, but each vyd. itself is more or less a field blend. #oldskool”

“The vyds are a mix of carignane, zin and mourvedre. Some blocks are mostly one thing or another.”

“Normally, we will try to keep them separate as their ripening is usually slightly different (within days apart).”

“For Contra, we don't have to be quite as precise in segregating them, and we can also co-ferment.”

So there it is.  A field blend, at least on the Carignane side.

Grahm now publishes the ingredients of his wines right on the label.  Contra's transparency blurb shows grapes, tartaric acid and sulfur dioxide, with indigenous yeast, yeast nutrients and oak chips used in the winemaking process.  As in Bonny Doon's other wines, Contra is sealed with a Stelvin closure, otherwise known as a screwcap.  The alcohol content is 13.7% abv.

Sitting in the glass, Contra is very dark in color.  It's inky in the middle, purple around the edge. A nose of blackberry has a big whiff of alcohol on it until it blows off.  Give it ample decanting time and you'll be fine.  Once the wine airs out, the nose is all dark fruit and tar.  The palate shows more of the same.  Blackberry and black cherry flavors lead the way for a brambly taste that falls in behind the fruit.  The tannins are great, with enough muscle to handle any kind of food, yet not so forceful that drinkability suffers.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ca' del Solo Albarino 2008

Bonny Doon Vineyard's Randall Grahm has two driving forces in the present phase of his arc as a winemaker.  One is to make wines which express a sense of place - terroir - and the other is to achieve and maintain a green attitude toward winemaking.  With his Ca' del Solo Albarino, he makes great strides on both counts.

His terroir is fully on display in this wine, a zesty and mineral-laden representation of the earth from his Salinas Valley vineyard.  It is also certified Biodynamic, a front-burner issue for Grahm these days.  Grahm's needs have been met with this beautiful white - and so have ours.

The wine pours up a pale yellow-green in the glass.  It's wonderfully aromatic, with floral notes, a ton of citrus and plenty of minerals. It has a nose that keeps you busy.  It's one of those wines that smells so good you might have to remind yourself to drink it.  Please don't forget to do so.  On the palate, this Albarino is nice and crisp, a very clean taste - zesty is the word that keeps popping into my head - and it finishes clean.

Grahm has a proclivity for unheralded grapes.  While Albarino doesn't really qualify as unheralded for me, the other two grapes in the mix are decidedly lesser stars.  Loureiro and Treixadura both hail from northern Portugal and are used mainly as blending grapes in crisp, dry white wines.

Variety:  75% Albarino, 21% Loureiro, 4% Treixadura
Appellation:  California > Monterey County
Vineyard:  Ca' del Solo
Vintage:  2008
Alcohol Level:  12.8%
Price:  $20
Acquisition disclaimer:  Provided for purpose of review

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology" (review)

Been Doon So LongWhen a person takes his  passionate interests very seriously, he runs the risk of becoming a geek.  Ask anyone who has seen all the Star Trek movies more than once.  Ask anyone who has built a computer from scratch, for fun.  Ask Randall Grahm.

He takes wine as he takes his other passions - very seriously, but in a not-so-serious sort of way.  That which he holds dear he treats with a razor-sharp wit.  The results are smartly funny and comically smart.

Literature is obviously something very close to his soul, yet he can throw down parodies of great works like a morning-show deejay throws down parodies of Michael Jackson songs.  He's the Weird Al Yankovic of the Dewey Decimal System.  His love and knowledge of wine is beyond question, yet he named his flagship wine after a French flying-saucer-in-the-vineyard story.  And a very serious wine it is.

Now Grahm has written a book in which he lets his geek flag fly.  Been Doon So Long starts with a pun utilizing his winery's name and continues with unabated geekness throughout.

Grahm's writing is rich and complex with layer upon layer peeling away to reveal nuances guaranteed to make the wine geek in you come out and party.

The founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard fills each page with his extensive oenological knowledge and expansive literary and historical references.  This is quite entertaining to a reader with some background knowledge about wine in general and Grahm specifically.  Anyone attempting to pierce this tome without at least a cursory exposure to his wry and sometimes tangled wit is treading ground which may prove to be too hard for tilling.

Grahm has written this book for those "in the know," and it will take either a vast bank of knowledge or constant Wikipedia usage to keep up with him.  Most of the humor - besides being unrelentingly oblique - is rooted nearly completely in wine lore.  In his Ten Ways You Know You’ve Met a Real Wine Geek, my favorite is number nine: "He has intimated that he would like to 'date' Jancis."  If you aren't aware that Jancis Robinson is a world-renowned wine authority the joke is clearly lost, and that is probably the most accessible item on the ten-item list which contains 16 footnotes.

Randall Grahm reads his bookThat said, the market for this book is most likely people who like Bonny Doon and Randall Grahm.  It may not be for everyone, but Grahm certainly knows his audience.

One chapter details the evolution of the labels of the Bonny Doon family, from the rather plain-looking early ones for the Bonny Doon Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, through "Old Telegram," "Le Cigare Volant," "Clos de Gilroy and "Ca del Solo" to "Cardinal Zin" and the beautifully understated label for "Ca del Solo Albarino."

A great portion of Been Doon So Long consists of parodies of great art.  Many of his literary parodies were created as promotional support for his wines.  In newsletters that were eagerly awaited by his fans, he hawked his wares in the various voices of Thomas Pynchon, Franz Kafka and James Joyce.  He even utilizes the hedonistic descriptive style of one Robert Parker.  My favorite is Don Quijones, the Man for Garnacha, or A Confederacy of Doonces.  A companion chapter has Grahm delving into the world of verse, taking poetic license with everything from The Inferno to Howl. Having these parodies collected in one volume is no doubt the best Christmas gift many of his fans received.

Writing about some of his recurring themes Grahm cites, "the banality of Chardonnay, the pretentiousness of Napa Valley, the banal pretentiousness of Napa Valley Chardonnay...lead to a heartfelt cry for tolerance of diverse wine styles and the oddball grape varieties."  As a wine drinker who is relentlessly drawn to to wines made from grapes little known to me, I relate well to his footnoted feelings of ABC, "Anything But Cabernet (or Chardonnay.)"  Nowadays, there are plenty of California winemakers dabbling in the Rhone varieties; any one of them might be referred to as a Rhone Ranger.  Grahm, in the mid 1980s, was, more or less, THE Rhone Ranger.  Just as the California wine pioneers before him did, Grahm's Bonny Doon helped pave the way for other dreamers who kicked clods of dirt in between their rows of Roussanne.

From a literary standpoint, Grahm seems pathologically obsessed with notation, footnotes appearing in his writing almost as frequently as adjectives.  This allows him to cram in triple the information that the normal structure of a sentence would allow.  I don't remember seeing it, but I'm sure somewhere within the pages there is a footnote within a footnote.  His full commitment to the obscure reference at least partially explains his dependence upon footnotes.

If that sounds a tad negative, please note - or footnote, if you will - that I really enjoy interesting reading, even when there is a dangerously long tangential offshoot waiting around every preposition.  Grahm's writing is indeed interesting.  I also admire a good obscure reference from time to time, as long as it is fully explained in the footnotes.

Anyone who has ever enjoyed a Bonny Doon wine could find something to like about Been Doon So Long.  Grahm relates wine to the worlds of song, story, stage and screen in a most entertaining fashion.  In a way, this book exhibits Grahm's roots and influences in the same way wine exhibits the roots and influences of the grapes.  It's his terroir on display here.  If you are in on the jokes, the book will have you convulsing in laughter.  If you are on the outside of his references looking in, better pay close attention to those footnotes.