Pretty much nothing the iconoclastic Randall Grahm touches falls under the conventional norms of winemaking, and that certainly includes his popular and always-satisfying rosé known as Vin Gris de Cigare.
The founder of California’s Bonny Doon Vineyard doesn’t just bleed off some of the juice of a single red variety to make his rosé; the 2019 Vin Gris de Cigare is a $15 blend of seven different grapes: more than three-quarters of it Grenache, with smaller proportions of Cinsault, Grenache Gris, and the white Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Picpoul, and Clairette Blanche.
The “pink wine of the earth,” as Grahm describes it, is a reflection of his fascination with terroir and his focus (perhaps obsession is more accurate) on Rhone and other southern French varieties in California’s Central Coast area, where the grapes in this rosé blend come from vineyards in Monterey County, Paso Robles, and Arroyo Seco.
What we have, then, in the 2019 Vin Gris de Cigare, is a rosé of complexity and character, which is more than can be said of many rosés that flood the wine landscape at this time of year from here and abroad.
There is a nice balance between fruit and spice and herbs notes, with aromas and tastes of strawberry, raspberry, and white peach, with hints of white flowers, thyme, and white pepper. There’s a lot going on here: The vivid fruit up front gives way to a more herbal quality that’s present on a creamy finish.
Potential food pairings abound, from full-flavored fish to grilled chicken to your choice of vegetable dishes. With 26,000 cases of the 2019 Vin Gris de Cigare produced, it will be widely available.
Another new Bonny Doon release worth considering: the lovely 2019 Picpoul from Arroyo Seco. It’s a light and nuanced $15 white wine with lively acidity, and an ABV of just 11 percent. It takes its inspiration from the Picpoul de Pinet variety of Languedoc in southern France.
After almost four decades, Bonny Doon was sold early this year to a larger wine company, with Grahm staying on to oversee the winemaking in a scaled-down portfolio of wines with higher volume and lower prices. It’s a major change, but knowing Randall Grahm, I doubt it will be his last act.