One of the many pleasures of a visit from my excellent co-author and his partner is I invariably end up with a wine or twelve from the USA. It seems most locally available wines from the States are very expensive, especially compared to their price back home, so I don’t often indulge. Hence, most opportunities I’ve had to drink good American wine have been courtesy of Chris and Dan.
Here’s one such wine. It’s notable for being from Bonny Doon, cult Californian producer whose driving force, Randall Grahm, caused hearts to beat faster on Twitter and in the blogosphere a few months ago when he published some less than flattering observations about Australian wine. I’ll reserve my own thoughts around that incident and simply remark this wine is a fascinating counterpoint to some Australian Shiraz styles.
A few notes. The alcohol level is 12.8% abv. The fruit comes from two vineyards in quite different areas of California: Thoma Vineyard (El Dorado County) and Chequera Vineyard (San Luis Obispo County). The label is typically awesome Bonny Doon, neo-constructivist in style. As an aside, Mr Grahm seems to have a talent for simultaneously awful and awesome wine names. Bouteille Call, The Heart has its Rieslings. Need I go on?
Forgive my digression. To the wine itself, its aroma expresses in softly cool climate Syrah mode. It’s nowhere near as aggressively floral as something from the Gimblett Gravels, for example, nor is it as deeply spiced as Grampians Shiraz. To start, the aroma profile is quite meaty, with a bacon fat vibe that dovetails elegantly with spice and fruit. It’s light and detailed, ephemeral perhaps, lacking some power and depth but showing good nuance and sophisticated balance.
The palate is true to form, being fleet of foot and moderately intense. The flavours are delicious; red and purple berries, spice, a bit of funk. Again, it’s not a wine of overt power, and could do with some stuffing, but as an expression of restrained Syrah it strikes me as successful, not least because it’s absolutely delicious. Shared between three of us, the bottle simply disappeared in an instant. From a functional standpoint, there’s something to be said for low alcohol, subtly flavoured wines, because they are just so easy to drink, and won’t punish you for indulging in an extra glass.
After we polished off this bottle, I opened a 2008 Dowie Doole Reserve Shiraz
which, it should be said, is drinking superbly right now. The contrast couldn’t be greater. The McLaren Vale wine was powerful and rich and deep and all the things one looks for in a robust Australian Shiraz. And yes, it totally overwhelmed the Bonny Doon wine. But, a day on, I’ve retained an impression of the Californian that is firmly positive. Very worthwhile.