November Domestic Wine: 2012 Bonny Doon ‘A Proper Claret’ Red Blend, CALIFORNIA

Bonny Doon Vineyard is a winery based in the city of Santa Cruz in the central coast of California. It was started by Randall Grahm in 1983. Bonny Doon was amongst the first Californian wineries to embrace Rhone varietals, giving Randall Grahm the nickname “The Rhone Ranger“. The winery is known for its untraditional labels, including illustrations by Ralph Steadman, Bascove, Grady McFerrin, and Gary Taxali. In recent years, the winery has embraced some slightly obscure Italian varieties, screwcaps, and biodynamic production.

History of Claret at Bonny Doon: Some cautionary words: Bonny Doon Vineyard is, as we all know or should know, a strictly cabernet-free zone, at least it has been for the last twenty-eight years. The last “Claret” produced at Bonny Doon Vineyard was in 1985 from grapes grown at their late Estate in the eponymous hamlet of Bonny Doon. It was a blend of approximately equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec, and against all expectation, it was actually pretty damn good. Randall Grahm, owner and winemaker, has expressed opprobrium, occasionally bordering on amused disdain, for this popular grape variety. They are not really at liberty to say how Bonny Doon Vineyard has come to be entrusted with the distribution of a wine made from such improbably alien grape varieties, but suffice to say that the deal was doon grudgingly and harumphingly.

Varietals: 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petit Verdot, 8% Tannat, 1% Petite Sirah

Alcohol: 13.2% by volume

Tasting Notes: So, with these caveats listed above, the sentiment at Bonny Doon Vineyard is that if you ever were to drink a cabernet-based blend, this would be one that would serve quite well. It is lean, neither overly alcoholic (weighing in at 13%), nor overly extracted; it is precisely as one would imagine ‘A Proper Claret’ to be. The wine contains a substantial dollop of petit verdot (22%), which adds a silky note of violets and textural elegance, in precision counterpoint to the lead-in-the-pencil firmness offered by the inclusion of the manly tannat (8%). There is a lovely suggestion of cedar and mint, in the nose. The wine has medium tannins, nice acidity, and finishes cleanly.

Food Pairings: Proper (British) mutton, proper leg of lamb, (ideally served with proper Yorkshire pudding).

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Rich and vibrant! Loaded with flavors of hickory, cedar, and smoke. Gorgeous weight on the palate, with a long and elegant finish. The unique blend is a trademark of Bonny Doon. This is a new wine for us at FWS, and I am happy to share it with you. Enjoy!”-JL

November Imported Wine: 2010 Domaine Mireille et Vincent Côtes du Rhône Rouge, Rhone, FRANCE

Located in the municipality of Richerenches, Domaine Mireille et Vincent covers 15 hectares on the left bank of the Rhone . Very famous for its truffles, the town is also known for its wines! The Domaine was founded in 1980s by Bernard Bizard, who before that worked at several other estates. Bizard named the domaine after the couple’s two children, Mireille and Vincent, with the first vintage in 1985.

History of Domaine MIreille et Vincent and  its Relation to the Environment: The average age of vines at the Domaine is 35 years old, making the vineyards almost entirely old vines. These vines will flourish for up to 60 years, and account for over 45% of the vines planted in this area. The old vines of Domaine Mireille et Vincent are planted on hillsides with red clay and are more or less pebbly. These strong vineyards give the wine a powerful aroma. Other vineyards in the Domaine are located on old truffle fields, and enjoy a refreshing Mediterranean climate, including wind from the Alps. All of these environmental factors give character and distinction to the wines of this area, and especially the wines at Domaine Mireille et Vincent.

“We are not organic, but we believe in the environment,” said Bernard Bizard . Bizard implements new practices constantly to allow the grapes to truly shine. The Domaine produces three separate Côtes du Rhône: one white, one red, and a rosé. The white wine is crafted from traditional varieties (Roussanne , Clairette , Marsanne and Viognier) and have a light color with pale gold shades . The red is typically a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan and is characterized by spicy notes. Lastly, the rosé is a prettier style but has some spice as well.

Varietals: Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan

Alcohol: 14.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: Cool and elegant, pure, and with a lovely scent of berries.

Food Pairings: Pair this wine with a hearty meat dish, ragu, or even a roast. This wine will be great with your Thanksgiving turkey as well.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Extremely flavorful, with notes of Worchester, garlic salt, and onion. A very pretty and delicate style, with beautiful aromatics. The vintage gives the wine ripeness, but it is not over the top. Enjoy with soups and stews.”-JL