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Oct 11, 2011 10:14 AM

Le Cigare Volante vs Chateauneuf de Pape

One of the few French wines that get my blood going is CdP. For some reason, the earthy, sometimes barnyard nose appeals to me. however the $45-55 I have been paying seems abit steep. I was at the Boony Doon Cellars in Santa Cruz this weekend ( thank God for California) for a tasting and had a 02 and an 07 of their 'de Pape style Blend. YUM! Just a touch more fruit than the French versions I'm used to, or maybe less earth. Like most of my favorite Ca. wines, It does not need food to show off but with a grilled Harvarti cheese and apple sandwich I was in heaven.
and with a screw top! The 02 seemed softer and more muted at first but openned up nicely after a few minutes in glass. Bought a half case of each. My 100 bottle cabinet is now full and i have 2 cases in my bedroom closet like before.

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  1. I have slowly been working through a case of the 03 over the last two years and sadly only have one bottle left. I love Randall Grahm's approach to winemaking and there's always something of interest in any wine he makes. I used to enjoy the Clos de Gilroy but understand he no longer makes it. His recent book "Been Doon So Long" is positively surreal and quite hilarious.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Al Toon

      They were pouring a 2010 Clos de Gilroy this weekend for tasting and it is on website for sale


      I did a tasting with him and I was impressed with the wines especially for the money!

      1. Let me admit my biases up front . . . I've been friends with Randall since 1974, so take my comments with how many ever grains of salt you deem appropriate.

        Randall -- as he probably will admit himself -- lost his way for a bit. In no small part, that's why he sold off so many brands and re-focused his efforts . . . so, for a time, his wines were (to long-time fans) disappointing and "overly commercial" (for lack of a better term). As a result, his *early* vintages (1984, 1985, etc.) were better than his wines (IMHO -- but then again, what do I know) from the 1990s and early-2000s. The late-2000s got back on track . . . .

        Bonny Doon, Edmonds St. John, and Domaine Terre Rouge are my favorite "Rhône-esque" California producers.

        8 Replies
        1. re: zin1953

          As I understand it, he was also a victim of his success. He found these great little vineyards, many in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Central Coast area, and made good wine from them. Demand for his wines increased, so he had to look for more vineyards to supply the volume. And then other winemakers saw what good wine could be made from the vineyards he found and outbid him when his contracts expired. He got squeezed on both cost and volume considerations.

          1. re: SteveTimko

            That was certainly a part of it . . .

            There's more to it, of course. It's not only that demand for his wine increased; it's that he also started making more and more wines -- the ever-expanding Ca' del Solo line is one example; so, too, is the fact that he wasn't prepared for the huge demand (no one ever is; take a look at Ravenswood and their "Vintner's Blend" Zinfandel) for his lower-tier wines like "Big House Red" and "-White."

            So he began scrounging for grapes for the low-end, and the high-end suffered; he began importing wines in bulk from France, and losing sources here in California, etc., etc.

            AND . . . Randall became such a showman, such a spokesperson, that the demands upon his time took him increasingly away from actually making wine (where he wanted to be) and more on the road (as a salesman, as a speaker at wine festivals/events/dinners) -- so much so that, in some ways, he nearly became a caricature of himself (think that famous picture from the Wine Spectator of Randall dressed as "The Rhone Ranger"). In some ways, people wanted him -- no, EXPECTED him -- to be "The Rhone Ranger," rather than to be Randall Grahm . . .

            That was a problem.

            Randall is, fortunately (in very humble and biased point-of-view), back on track. He has sold a number of brands, gotten rid of a lot of fluff, and re-focused on making wine. And from what I've tried recently, his wines today are as good or better than they have ever been!


            1. re: zin1953

              Its funny because I read nothing about wine until recently, and yet somehow the myth of Randall Grahm as a "New age" but highly ambitious wine maker from the hippie outpost of Santa Cruz was one that I remember following. I was not really drinking much wine then and the idea of wine in the Santa Cruz Hills seemed novel, and the idea of this "Rebel" trying to become the new face of California wine was rather exciting. I skimmed over the varietal particulars, which meant nothing to me at the time. and focused on the business drama. An Icarus tale of sorts.

              I have to applaud someone who had the balls to give it a real hard try. And to realize that he could try to be the face of wine, or he could make wine.

              1. re: budnball

                >>> "Santa Cruz Hills" <<<

                WTF?!?!?!? ;^) They ARE mountains, you know. You've driven over them . . .

                The distinction is important. Not only does it *snow* in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA was the FIRST appellation granted in the UnitedStates by ATF/TTB to recognize the importance of "Mountains" and their affect on viticulture.

                As for "wine in the Santa Cruz Hills seem(ing) novel," should I point out that the first commercial winery in California was begun in 1840 by Jean-Louis Vignes in what is today downtown Los Angeles. However, winemaking in the Santa Cruz Mountains dates back to 1848 (IIRC), and Charles LeFranc founded his original Alamdén Winery on the eastern slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1852. What is now known as "the Mountain Winery" is Paul Masson's original Santa Cruz Mountains winery and "château" -- build in 1905 (though the main winery was established on the flatland of Saratoga in 1888). The Jarvis brothers founded Vine Hill Winery in 1877, while Emmet Rixford planted his legendary "La Questa" vineyard in Woodside in 1884, and on and on . . .

                In the 20th century, Bargetto was established in 1933, as Prohibition was ending. Chafee Hall founded Hallcrest in 1941; Martin Ray, who sold Paul Masson to Seagram's in 1943, planted his own vineyards one year earlier and started his winery. Ridge began in 1959; David Bruce in 1964; Mount Eden Vineyard and Roudon-Smith, 1972; Kathryn Kennedy, 1973; Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, 1975; Ahlgren, Felton-Empire, and 4-5 others all started in 1976; Smothers resurrected Vine Hill in 1977 (though moved to Sonoma later on),; and another 5-6 opened their doors in 1979 . . .

                Randall founded Bonny Doon Vineyard in 1984, a relative latecomer, though ground-breaking in his own way, without a doubt!


                P.S. I might be off on some of the dates; I'm still in my office, and all of my wine books are at home, but if I'm off it's only by +/- a year or two. Except for Ridge -- they used to have a sign on the wall of the winey that read, "Ridge Vineyards, Est. 1066"

                1. re: zin1953

                  C,mon Jason, chill out. I am just being casual and even tho you have a great knowledge of the facts, you missed my point. All I was saying is that he made it thru to the general public which no other vintner has done in the last 20 or 30 years.

                  Yes I drive over the Santa Cruz hills twice a week. 2700 feet ain't no Alp.

                  1. re: budnball

                    Gee, we get grapes from a vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mtns. at over 3300" . . . but I digress.

                    Apparently you missed my ";^)" -- but, to be serious for a moment: trust me, they're mountains (and, as I said, an important distinction).

                    >>> All I was saying is that he made it thru to the general public which no other vintner has done in the last 20 or 30 years. <<<

                    While I would dispute the idea (and, I think, so would Randall) that making wine in the Santa Cruz Mountains was at all "novel" -- there were some 30-35 wineries (IIRC) already in the region when Bonny Doon Vineyards made its first wine in 1984; and at the time, total production in the region had yet to equal what was being made there by the early 1900s -- this in NO WAY diminishes the impact Randall has had upon not only California but New World winemaking as a whole . . . extending, even, to consumers.


                    >>> Yes I drive over the Santa Cruz hills twice a week. <<<

                    So, I presume, you will notify the cartographers of the world?

                    1. re: zin1953

                      Wow, talking about making a mountain out of a........
                      The average, non wine drinking public think most California wine is made in Napa. At the time of the Grahm story, I was one of them. I did not know at the time that good wine is made all over the state

                      I get it! You know all! Hit me over the head with more facts!

              2. re: zin1953

                Jason, as always thanks for your insight and background. Much appreciated.