Poached pear, apricot, orange marmalade and floral honey aromas display an exotic personality. Fat and unctuous, with deep pit fruit compote flavors complicated by subtle hints of toffeed nuts and pear skin.
Bonny Doon Vineyard near Santa Cruz is one of California’s most idiosyncratic producers, thanks to its founder, Randall Graham. Graham was a Pinot Noir obsessed college student in Santa Cruz in the late 1970s, who, a few years later, convinced his parents to help him start a winery in Bonny Doon, a hamlet in the Santa Cruz mountains. Unable to produce Pinot Noir that pleased him, he switched to making wines with Rhone grapes. In 1986 he released his first commercial wine, the 1984 Le Cigar Volant, which was an homage to Châteauneuf du Pape. The rest is history. Graham was among the first California producers to make and successfully market Rhone-style wines, and his were especially notable for their off-beat labels, tongue-in-cheek names and contrarian marketing. He started using screwcaps when they were still reviled by many in the industry, and expanded his Euro-centric approach to winemaking to include Italian and Spanish-style wines. By the early 21st century wine reviewers blamed Bonny Doon’s very large production levels for a drop in quality, and Graham subsequently sold off several of his more commercial labels. Today the estate still focuses on wines made from Rhone, Italian and Spanish grapes. Robert M. Parker Jr. has written that Graham “is one of the most gifted and brilliant wine producers in California.”
Central Coast AVA is a huge wine producing area that extends from Santa Barbara County in the south to San Francisco in the north. With more than 100,000 vineyard acres, it includes parts of six counties near the Pacific Ocean. Nearly 20 smaller AVAs lie within the Central Coast AVA. Central Coast earned appellation status in 1985. Included in the appellation are parts of the counties of Contra Costa, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. Nearly every grape varietal grown in California is grown somewhere in the Central Coast AVA, though Chardonnay accounts for nearly 50% of the entire wine grape crop.