Bonny Doon Vineyard is a must-see Santa Cruz winery
–Since 1983, Bonny Doon Vineyard has made its mark on the wine industry and curated its own page in the history of California viticulture. Winemaker and founder Randall Grahm’s philosophy regarding Bonny Doon Vineyard is to produce wine that truly embraces all aspects of its production: a clear focus on the health of the vineyard plants and soil, maintaining a light hand in guiding the flavor of the fruit to develop, leading the industry in full transparency for ingredient labels.
Nestled in Santa Cruz, Bonny Doon Vineyard sources grapes from all over the diverse regions in California to produce one-of-a-kind wines. With eclectic wine names inspired by quirky French stories to flavors ranging from bold spices to light acidity, Bonny Doon has become a well-renowned winery that pushes the industry to innovate and refine the entire winemaking process.
Here are some top recommendations:
Le Cigare Volant
When the fruity, dry taste of Cinsault fruit is paired with spicy, bold Syrah fruit, a true wine masterpiece is created. The 2019 Le Cigare Volant is a bright mix of four varietals, dominating with Grenache. Described as tasting like ‘Juicy Elderberry, Exuberance, and Joy’, Le Cigare Volant stands on its own for unmatchable flavors found in this red wine.
“This was the first year of production for the Cinsault and it was thinned multiple times both for enhanced concentration and evenness of ripening. The cooler climate gives the Cinsault a wonderful articulation of flavor,” Grahm notes.
The story behind the name Le Cigare Volant is just as unique as the wine itself. In the French town of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a 1954 ordinance was passed banning flying saucers, which resembled ‘flying cigars’, from landing in the vineyards. Any ‘flying cigar’ that caused damage by landing would be taken to the pound. This distinctive story was the inspiration for naming this wine Le Cigare Volant, or The Flying Cigar.
When tasting Le Cigare Volant, make sure to appreciate the flavors that arise from the carefully grown and harvested grapes. As Grahm says, “Something magical happens when Syrah and Cinsault marry; the healthy tannin titer from the Syrah seems to give more structure to the Cinsault, helps to stabilize color. The spicy, licorice component from the Syrah is a perfect foil to the Griotte cherry derived from the Cinsault”.
Le Cigare Volant has critical acclaim, with Wilfred Wong awarding 91 points and noting that a perfect meal this wine can accompany is a savory chicken adobo. The wine label is also the perfect talking point when displaying this wine at a dinner party; the 1855 print of “Bordeaux et Ses Châteaux” was edited by Jules Vern circa 1870 to display a tranquil French town with a flying saucer hovering above.
Le Cigare Blanc
A crisp, bright white wine, Le Cigare Blanc is the perfect summer sip. The 2020 Le Cigare Blanc is an exciting blend of 60% Grenache Blanc, 32% Vermentino, and 8% Clairette Blanche; each varietal brings its own statement flavor to the forefront while still remaining delicate enough to mix well with the other fruit.
“While the blend features Grenache Blanc in the majority, it is really the Vermentino character that shines through in this wine – pineapple, lim, mango and pine tree, herbal underbrush and wet stones. There is a lively (but appropriate) acidity on the palate and the addition of Clairette Blanche to the blend adds sustained length to the palate – a basso continuo, if you will,” described Grahm.
Recommendations for dishes that pair well with Le Cigare Blanc include seafood meals, such as grilled fish with rosemary sprigs. Grahm even suggests preparing the fish ‘grilled a la plancha’ for an excellent dish. “Alcohol well in hand and quite delicate in weight – just a delicious, refreshing gulp of wine,” Grahm said.
The history of Le Cigare Blanc’s name and label are identical to the Le Cigare Volant; the beautiful artwork on the label is sure to be a fine addition to your wine collection. With the delightful notes and bright flavors present in Le Cigare Blanc, this wine can be boiled down to its essence: ‘Pineapple, mango and lime. Delicious and refreshing’.
Vin Gris de Cigare
Described as a blend of ‘Wild strawberry, peach, guava, with wonderful creaminess and length’, the 2020 Vin Gris de Cigare will provide a fresh, smooth taste that soothes the soul. A delightful blend of 71% Grenache, 11% Cinsaut, 5% Clairette Blanche, 5% Grenache Blanc, 4% Mourvedre, and 4% Vermentino, the Vin Gris de Cigare is sure to please with these exciting flavors.
“It’s really the Grenache that dominates this blend; Grenache in a cool vintage is nothing if not an extraordinary blessing. One finds olfactorily the usual suspects: wild strawberry, peach, guava and rhubarb and very discreet scent of white pepper,” Grahm said.
This rose was produced using grapes right from the Central Coast, spanning vineyards in Monterey, Paso Robles, Arroyo Seco, Santa Ynez Valley, and San Lucas. The fruit is of the highest quality in order to bring a flavorful, exquisite wine.
The production of Vin Gris de Cigare is integral to producing the well known creamy taste. As Grahm notes, “We have continued the practice of leaving the wine post-fermentation on its lees to great effect; the wine has a wonderful creaminess and length on the palate in virtue of this enlightened practice”.
The gorgeous label, identical to the other ‘Cigare’ wines, will be a talking point when Vin Gris de Cigare is served to friends and family. Vin Gris de Cigare was awarded 91 points by Wilfred Wong and it is suggested that a perfect meal to enjoy alongside this wine would be a red tuna sashimi.
One of Bonny Doon Vineyards most acidic wines, the 2020 Picpoul is an exciting and invigorating white wine. Harvested from the Beeswax Vineyard in the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County, the renowned fruit brings standout flavors to the Picpoul.
“The redoubtable Beeswax Vineyard…has the very singular habit of producing white grapes all of which coincidentally enough express the unique scent of….well, beeswax. Along with beeswax, one apprehends the rather discreet scent of white flowers and perhaps pineapple,” Grahm describes.
Picpoul translates to “lip stinger” and each sip will bring an acidic taste to the forefront, followed by a ripe flavor and savory finish. The fruit is known to be thrifty, which means upkeep of the vines is of the utmost importance to have a high yield with constant quality and flavor. Awarded 90 points by Wilfred Wong, the Picpoul is noted to have a mix of fruity and sandalwood aromas.
“But while the scent of Picpoul is subtle, one is forcefully struck by the wine’s bracing acidity and its unique savoriness…there is a discernible quality of brininess that makes this wine an absolutely perfect match for all manner of nutriment of the crustacean and molluscan variety,” Grahm said.
The eclectic label on the Picpoul is a fun hand drawing by Wendy Cook; it notes two people pronouncing ‘Pic – Poul’ and highlights the Beeswax Vineyard. Summed up as tasting like ‘White flowers, pineapple, and a refreshing finish”, the Picpoul is sure to be a favorite among tasters.