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.”
Edna Valley AVA is within San Luis Obispo County, and within the large Central Coast AVA. Edna Valley became an AVA in 1982 and it includes 22,400 acres of extremely fertile land blessed with a long growing season. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the principal grapes, though Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Albarino, Grenache, Viognier, Merlot and Petite Sirah also are grown. Spanish missionaries were growing grape vines in the Edna Valley in the 18th century, but the valley’s modern wine industry took off in the 1970s. Today there are more than 50 Edna Valley wineries.
This grape is grown in milder climates and produces a medium-to full-bodied wine. It is also known as Shiraz, but should not be confused with Petit Sirah, which was developed by crossing Syrah with Peloursin.