“Make it new!” — Ezra Pound For as long as I’ve been thinking about making fine wine I’ve always been intrigued by the question of how in the New World, in California specifically, one might find one’s true and lasting place on the global stage. In the last forty years California wines have been particularly […]
I am saying goodbye to Le Cigare Volant, at least to the wine that I’ve made in a certain, distinctive style for so many years. It’s just a wine, of course, and presumably for as long as I continue to ply my trade, I will make other cool wines, maybe even a few ultimately far more […]
It is a pleasure to be here today to talk about wine packaging and labeling, a subject I never imagined I’d be qualified to talk about, but something about which, like it or not, as an entrepreneurial winery owner, I’ve been compelled to try to master. I started out in the wine business with the […]
Harvest is wrapping up here as we take in the last of the Alta Loma Grenache, which seems to be this vintage’s giving tree. Not to worry though, as the unanticipated excess will go into our next vintage of Vin Gris de Cigare, which has been continuously a vintage sell out. In the broader […]
My friend, Guy Miller, who is a physician, biochemist and deep thinker about the role of electrochemistry in biological systems, walked into the Bonny Doon Vineyard tasting room more than twenty years ago, and somehow in very short order, struck up a conversation about redox chemistry with me. (“Far more interesting than acid-base chemistry,” he […]
In a sense, growing grapes is like growing any other fruit or vegetable. The tasks are to get sufficient nutrients to the crop and to avoid disease. The question I’m trying to probe is whether good farming and vineyard management does more than produce a sufficient quantity of healthy, well-ripened grapes. If the answer is […]
When I first started in the wine business almost thirty-five year ago it seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea to pursue the varietal wine of one’s dreams. Broadly speaking, you were either a Cab guy or a Zin guy or a Pinot guy. (There were a few outliers like the eccentric Charbono Society of Inglenook […]
On (At Long Last) Planting a Proper Vineyard1 It has been a long time, indeed almost twenty years, since the tragic demise, grace Ã la maladie de Pierce, of the Estate vineyard in Bonny Doon. In the relatively short life of the vineyard, initially planted in 1980, we went through one episode of replanting – grubbing […]
What do you do with your life to make it as meaningful as it can be? It has been a while now that I’ve realized that I was not cut out for a brilliant career as a medical researcher, who might potentially find the cure for a dire disease, nor, has it turned out that […]
I’ve been a partisan of “alternative varieties” for a long time, partially because I am a non-conformist by nature, but also for two significant reasons: 1) I am convinced that so much of what has been planted in the New World is a result of an historical accident1 and/or a function of commercial expediency, not […]
In planting my new vineyard/garden/Eden in San Juan, I aim to bring something of real beauty into existence. But I also see it as an opportunity to connect myself to Nature—both the natural world and, more pointedly, my own essential nature.
I’m a little nervous about characterizing my quest to produce a vin de terroir—a wine expressive of a specific place—as a “spiritual journey.” Any journey must be grounded in genuine action, but whither forward?
If one is looking for true originality in a New World wine, grape hybridization may well be the most rational way to proceed. But I have some nagging doubts about the potential brilliance of vinifera hybrids, and what might really be meant by “wine quality.”
Terroir’s self-evident truth carries with it a deep, almost elemental, psychic force and resonance, and in a very real sense, terroir cannot exist without human beings to discover it, express it, and in the end, to appreciate it.
Solstice 2010 has come and gone, and the year has started once again to wax, with an auspicious, adumbrating total lunar eclipse to boot, providing an excellent moment to reflect upon what’s behind us, and to look ahead with hope.
When I started making wine, I was little concerned about the future arc of the wine’s narrative; I wanted people to like them, so they would buy them and drink them now. But I have grown to embrace the beauty of natural, unmanipulated wines, and our the new Cigares are quite different from Cigares d’antan, and are capable of aging for a very long time.
By amplifying the qualities of terroir, and by growing grapes from seeds, we may be able to create a real sensory paradigm shift in how we experience wine.
There are some problems in pursuing anything approaching a consensus about what constitutes “good” or “great” Grenache. It seems to suffer a bit from the perception that it is a second class citizen, a supporting actor rather than the star cépage. In an age of the cult of personality, of the superstar chef, superstar everything, how is Grenache to comport itself?
Lately, in thinking long and hard about what grape varieties (and anything else) we might plant at the new estate in San Juan Bautista, I am facing yet another variant of the New World Conundrum. I’ve publically proclaimed myself to be a “terroirist,” i.e. someone committed to “expressing the unique individuality of the site.” All well and good, and while this sounds quite noble when declaimed from the mountaintop, what exactly does it really mean?
Andy, as you recall, the last time we spoke, I was very keen on the idea of growing grape vines from seedlings at our new property in San Juan Bautista. I’d like to catch you up on my current thinking and ask a few questions, as this project is potentially fraught with a non-trivial amount of danger. It would seem that there are some clever things that one might do, and some not so clever ones as well.
I recently sold my vineyard in Soledad in the Salinas Valley. I didn’t really want to do it – it was arguably producing the most interesting grapes with which we were privileged to work. The AlbariÃ±o and Loureiro seemed to consistently produce wines that were elegant, true expressions of the grape1 and the Moscato Giallo was lovely – elegant, balanced and haunting.
Life is a recursive circle. We are given our genetic or karmic marching orders, it would seem, as some sort of holographic imprint, a model we follow, and we follow it over and over again, like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, until the end of our days. Maybe, with luck, in each successive iteration, we are able to interpret and act on this internal siren song with ever-greater skill and insight.
It was just about a month ago (March 13th to be precise) that I was inducted into the Vintner’s Hall of Fame at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, CA. (Dramatic pause here, to let the irony sink in.) I confess that as much as I seek approbation from my peers – perhaps even to a neurotic degree – I often do have some problems in graciously accepting it when it is actually proffered. So, this particular honor has been a real tough one for me.
We are just about to bottle the 2008 vintage of Le Cigare Volant and celebrate, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of its continuous production. I’ve written elsewhere about a number of the winemaking details and the stylistic evolution of this wine, as well as about changes in my own thinking in regard to what we have achieved and might hope to achieve with Cigare…
My friend Amy recently told me, “Randall, you’re really missing the boat.” “Of course I am,” I told her. “The nautical conveyance and I haven’t been, shall we say, intimate for quite some time.” “No, you’re missing a great business opportunity.” “And, what pray tell, Amy, might that be?” “You make chick wine,” she said. “You should be marketing your wine to women.”
Years ago, when I had decided that Pinot Noir and that other Burgundian variety were just not going to work so well at our Estate Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I began to focus instead on RhÃ´ne varieties. We produced then an extraordinary haunting wine from our Estate called “Le Sophiste,” a putative blend […]