Like Columbus who sought a trade route to Asia, Randall Grahm set sail in 1979 for the Great American Pinot Noir, foundered on the shoals of astringency and finesselessness and ended up running aground in the utterly unexpected New World of Rhône and Italian grape varieties.
With his family's assistance, Randall purchased property in the Santa Cruz Mountains in a magically quaint area known as Bonny Doon, intent on producing the Great American Pinot Noir. The GAPN proved to be systematically elusive but he was greatly encouraged by experimental batches of Rhône varieties. The late great Bonny Doon Estate Vineyard (1981 – 1994, a tragic victim to Pierce’s Disease) was eventually planted to syrah, “roussanne,” marsanne and viognier and produced achingly beautiful wines confirming that California's temperate climate is well suited to the sun-loving grapes of the Mediterranean. In 1986 Bonny Doon Vineyard released the inaugural vintage (1984) of Le Cigare Volant, an homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
He was proclaimed Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year by the James Beard Foundation in 1994. Randall lectures frequently to wine societies and technical groups, and occasionally contributes quixotically sincere articles to wine journals. In 2010 the Culinary Institute of America inducted him into the Vintner’s Hall of Fame.
Carignane does not produce a wine that you would serve the queen, whom, we trust has minimal interest in #countrymatters. There is just an unregenerate degree of rusticity to this wine (coupled mercifully with a fragrant, perfumed sweetness), a sort of earthiness, sweatiness, the hayride of one's early to mid-adolescence, undertaken with the blossoming figure of one's febrile fantasy. Ahem. These carignane vines are old, with roots that descend eighty or ninety feet into the water table, extracting minerals all the way doon; the dominant aroma is raw (or perhaps gently smoked) meat, though with a bit of a swirl, slightly more complexity emerges-licorice, flowers, sage and savory (in both senses of the word). The palate is lush and rich, a very complete mouthful of wine.
Great meat wine, especially with grilled sausage, lamb, or roast duck.