We kicked off this year’s 12 Days of Wine with a story of endings and beginnings and we end in the same way. It has been a tough year, filled with changes, so we end again with joyful bubbles.
These bubbles are made in the Method Champenoise style but made of Riesling. They come to us from Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon.
It’s been a year of endings and beginnings for Bonny Doon also. After closing the iconic Bonny Doon tasting room in Davenport Ca in December of last year, he announced in January that he had sold Bonny Doon to WarRoom Ventures.
Randall stays as chief winemaker and business partner, but the label will now pare down to just a few of the plethora of wines that Randall used to create.
If you don’t know the name “Randall Grahm” you certainly will recognize some of his labels. He was the original Rhone Ranger and created the brands Big House and Pacific Rim Riesling. He was the king of marketing! Creating witty labels and then having them designed by amazing artists. The back labels are often a litany of clever and philosophical puns.
He was a darling to the media, always available for comment. He’s also a real human and if you find him on Twitter, he shares his views, his day and is always ready to answer comments and engage.
He’s a regular guy! Well, a regular guy who is a little eccentric, a bit of a geek, passionate, philosophical…I could go on. He is a character, but a very approachable character. His newsletters for Bonny Doon were a joy to read, often with many footnotes.
So, no longer is there a tasting room with a Cigare Volant (flying cigar – the French term for a spaceship yes there is a story there, here’s a link), no longer a club for the Dewnsters, or a wide variety of eclectic wines from small vineyards to look forward to receiving. So an ending.
But there is also a beginning. It began a while ago actually, in 2010 when Randall bought a piece of property near San Juan Bautista, which is inland from Monterey Bay. He calls the 400-acre property Popelouchum (it means “paradise” in the Mutsun tongue, the language of the Ohlone people who lived in this area).
Here he is propagating new varieties, looking to create “wines of place”. These grapes are growing in soil that has not seen grapes before. They will try to breed new grapes. He is obsessed with creating wines that are unique and without all the responsibility of running Bonny Doon, I hope that he will have the time to focus on this passion. I don’t know what will come of it, but the prospect is very exciting and I look forward to following his journey.
Bonny Doon 2018 Riesling to Live
This wine comes from the Wirz Vineyard in the Cienega Valley, which is maybe 20 miles southeast of Popelouchum. It is a Riesling, as I mentioned made in the traditional champenoise method and finished with no dosage (no added sugar). The back label “The felicity of the pairing of this wine with Asian or fusion cuisine creates its own raison (or raisin) d’étre, indeed almost Sektual in nature.”
Ah, the puns, “Sekt” is the name for German Sparkling wine and as Germany is known for Riesling…
The Wirz Vineyard vines are old and ungrafted. To circle back even further with our tale, these are some of the very same vines that produced Riesling for Randall’s Pacific Rim Riesling, back in the day. This vineyard sits on a border so 52% of the fruit is from San Benito County and 48% from Monterey County. Dry farmed organically, the fruit is intense with bright acid. It was whole-cluster pressed and does 16 months en tirage (aged on the lees or dead yeast cells in the bottle).
100% Riesling 13.5% abv $35 SRP
(If you want some, Bonny Doon has offered a discount code! Scroll to the bottom of this piece for the link and the code!)
This wine was finished with a crown cap. I had chilled it and jokingly said to Michael “Stand back” as I started to pull the bottle cap off. Much to my surprise, the bottle erupted, covering the table and floor with fizzy juice that I so had wanted in my mouth! Luckily we only lost a bit of the bottle, a good ¾ left to enjoy.
Notes of citrus, tart yellow apple, and white pepper. Dry with notes of wet stone, lemon, tart yellow fruit, and a bit of apple cider.
What to pair?
Butternut Squash and black bean tostadas
While it wasn’t Asian, it was a style of fusion. We paired it with Butternut Squash and black bean tostadas, topped with pickled onions, and soft-cooked eggs.
It was lovely with the butternut and beans, it pulled up the pickled onion notes and the acid cut through the fat in the soft-cooked eggs.
It was a joyful lunch as I sat in my somewhat sticky (from the bottle eruption) dining room seat with the sun bouncing through the room.
For Dessert? Pavlovas
I have been wanting to make a Pavlova for the longest time. My pandemic binging of Zumbo’s Just Desserts, made me crave doing this even more. I found a stunning recipe for these magical clouds on Pinterest, but the massive, stunning Pavolova would need to rest overnight and I didn’t allow enough time. So…I found a recipe to make slightly smaller Pavlovas.
We topped our 6 inch Pavlova’s with an Apricot crème and then dressed it in berries, sliced dried apricot, and mint.
They were every bit as magical as I had hoped and were the perfect celebratory pairing with this luscious sparkling wine.
Need a “Riesling to Live”?
When I reached out to Bonny Doon, to let them know that we would be featuring this wine, Christi contacted us to say that they would love to offer our readers a special…
We are happy to offer 20% off (and $10 shipping*) on a purchase of 6 or more bottles of the 2018 Riesling to Live.
Use CODE 12Days at checkout. Not combinable with any other offer.
Offer expires 1/31/2021 or while supplies last.
*Ground shipping to participating states.
Head to the Bonny Doon site to find this before it runs out!
So, Happy Holidays! Go stock up on this! It’s delicious!
Thank you all for joining us on this journey of the 12 Days of Wine 2020. It has been a joy to put together! We wish all of you a wonderful end to this challenging (look how good I was there! That wasn’t the first word that I typed.) year and here is to a much better, much brighter 2021.
If you missed any of our #12DaysofWine2020 posts you can find them all here!
Indeed, here is to Endings and Beginnings!
Sources and Resources
More from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Bonny Doon and Randall Grahm
- Flash Tour Central Coast – Day 4 – Santa Cruz to Paso Robles on the Pacific Coast Highway
- Le Cigare Blanc 2015 – A Pairing, A look Back and a look forward.
- Sparkling Vermentino – “Tears of Laughter and Joy”
- On the 10th Doon of Wine…Short Ribs and a Syrah from Bonny Doon
- Picpoul from Pinet and California and a Seaside Pairing with the #Winophiles
- A Tale of Two Malvasia Biancas
- Comparing Rhône Blends from California’s Central Coast
- A Tale of Two Syrahs
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.