For those near the central coast of California, don't pass up a chance to visit the eclectic Bonny Doon Vineyard. This Santa Cruz winery features a wide selection of wines with colorful labels that serve as pieces of art. Under the direction of winemaker Randall Graham, Bonny Doon produces biodynamic wines made with great respect for terroir and minimal intervention.
History of Bonny Doon Vineyard
After graduating from University of California at Davis in 1979 with a Plant Science Degree, Randall Graham bought property in California's Santa Cruz Mountains where he intended to cultivate and create Pinot Noir wines. Trial and error quickly showed Graham that the climate and terroir was better suited to Rhône varietals such as Grenache and Syrah, and in 1984, Bonny Doon winery released its first vintage of the flagship wine, Le Cigare Volant (the flying cigar), a red Rhône style blend that paid homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape from France. The wine is a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsaut, and Viognier. Graham and Bonny Doon quickly became known for their Rhône-style wines, leading Wine Spectator to dub him "the Rhône Ranger" in 1989.
A History of Innovation
Over the years, Bonny Doon has been a leader and innovator in the California wine industry, pursuing biodynamic production of the wines, championing minimal intervention in winemaking, using screwcaps on their bottles, putting wine in a can, and adding ingredients lists to their labels in order to challenge their winemakers to use as few interventions in the wines as possible.
Wines of Place
One of the driving principles of Bonny Doon winery is to produce vin de terroir (wine of place) that represents the place from which the wine comes, a distinctly Old World winemaking approach. This differs from the approach of many New World winemakers who strive for consistency and therefore create vin d'effort (wine of effort) which reflects the winemaking rather than the place where the grapes are grown. Bonny Doon winery does this via winemaking practices that seek to allow grapes to grow and wines to ferment as naturally as possible.
Bonny Doon's Beautiful Bottles of Wine
The winery also seeks to make their bottles as beautiful on the outside as the wines they contain. Because of this, Bonny Doon is known for its artist illustrated labels by a number of artists who create unique stylized and colorful labels that are works of art.
Wines From Bonny Doon
Bonny Doon produces moderately priced red, white, pink, sparkling, and dessert wines.
Red wines focus on Rhône varietals and include:
- Le Cigare Volant, "Cuvée Oumuamua" - A blend of Grenache, Cinsaut, and Syrah with notes of kirsch and blackberry
- Le Cigare Volant - An award-winning blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Cinsaut, and Viognier with aromas of mulberries and cherries
- Old Telegram - Old vine Mourvèdre with earthy blackberry flavors
- Cinsaut - A 100% Cinsaut wine with notes of cherry, pepper, and strawberries
Whites are also made from Rhône grape varietals and include:
- Le Cigare Blanc - A blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Picpoul; this wine racks up high critics ratings in the low 90 point range
- Le Cigare Blanc Réserve "en bonbonne" - A blend of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne that has been made with malolactic fermentation for buttery notes
- Picpoul - An acidic white with savory and saline characteristics
- Grenache Blanc - A zippy white with hints of anise and mint
Grenache Blanc/Grenache/Cinsaut Blend - White wine with a pink tinge and flavors of strawberries and peaches
Currently, Bonny Doon offers one "pink wine" (their name for rosé), Vin Gris de Cigare. It's a blend of both red and white grapes including Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Carignan, Cinsaut, Mourvèdre, Picpoul, and Vermentino. It has delicate fruity and floral notes, and is well-received by critics garnering scores in the low 90-point range.
Bonny Doon also produces one dessert wine, Viognier, "Vin de Glacière" (wine of the icebox). It's a sweet white that has its sweet balanced by acidity.
Always the innovator, Bonny Doon even offers wine in cans. These single-serving wines include both fizzy pink and flat red wines.
Dooniverse Wine Clubs
Bonny Doon has three different levels of wine club membership offering 12, 18, or 36 bottles per year. You can sign up for membership online, and prices range from $100 per release to $500 per release.
Visiting Bonny Doon Winery
Bonny Doon's tasting room is located at 450 Highway 1 in Davenport, California. The winery is open 11 to 5 daily. Walk-ins are welcome, and a flight costs $15 per person. Groups of 6 or more must make reservations by calling 831-471-8031.
A Unique California Winery
Bonny Doon's innovation continues under the guidance of Randall Graham. For those who like an adventurous spirit and affordable quality wines made with biodynamic practices, you're sure to find a wine you love from Bonny Doon Winery.