Week 7 – The Bonny Doon Vineyard, A Proper Claret 2012

IMG_2210A lot of people who start getting into wine tend to get too serious, often forgetting that it should just be plain fun. Wine should first and foremost be something to enjoy. You can analyse it all you want afterwards, coming up with a complete herbarium to describe it but you should never forget that its essence is simply being a drink. When talking to winemakers I often get the impression that they lose track of this as well, simply getting too deep into either the winemaking process or the marketing machine that engulfs them at the first hint of success. Luckily there are those who possess a healthy disdain to market conformity, consumer research or tastes as managed by advertising agencies.

Randall Grahm is one of those people. Founder of the Bonny Doon Vineyard, he is without a doubt one of the most influential figures in the American winescene, focusing completely on creating the wines that he wants. He does look at the great classics, specifically those of the Rhône valley, always in the context of the terroir he deals with in California. A quick look at the estate’s website will show you that he can be all over the place, making more than thirty wines. I hope to one day visit the man himself but for today I’ll just be glad that at least some of his wines can be found in Belgium.

Randall Grahm may have risen to fame thanks to his work with Rhone varieties but he has also ventured throughout the history of Bordeaux with A Proper Claret 2012. Of course there’s a twist as Grahm himself describes Bonny Doon as a Cabernet-free zone. Nonetheless, it’s based primarily on Cabernet Sauvignon balanced with Petit Verdot, Tannat, Syrah and Petite Sirah. The term ’claret’ was originally used for wines from Bordeaux, lighter red wines with little extraction resulting in a clear colour. Bordeaux has however fallen victim to Parker’s preference for overextraction, jammy fruit and elevated alcohol levels, not having much in common with proper claret.

On the nose a bit reductive at first but showing light fruity notes later on. Smooth and supple on the palate, present but balanced tannins that add a zingy punch towards the finish. The fruitiness, the sunshine is still present but countered with spices (which I think is the Syrah showing, it reminded me of what you would expect in the Northern Rhone). It reached its peak on the second day, showing more depth on the nose in particular and staying smooth in the mouth which is quite fun as you would not really associate it with Cabernet Sauvignon. A great introduction to proper American wine for us Europeans!

PS – I will be spending the rest of the week in Burgundy so there will be no post over the weekend!

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