Bonny Doon DEWN Barbera/Freisa Amarone 2007

I’ve been on the Bonny Doon mailing list for coming up on a decade at this point, and I still feel my heart sink whenever I open up my every-two-months club shipment and see… something Italianate. Try as I might, I just can’t bring myself to wholeheartedly embrace Italian wines and winemaking styles, and that goes double when it’s an American or other winery who have just issued a press release saying that the second the American consumer market discovers Walla Walla sangiovese, they are absolutely sure that a massive new (and profitable!) wine market will appear out of nowhere.Yes, I’ve had ecstatic experiences with Italian wines before – Amarone is by far one of my favorite wines – but when I see something like this, I get all sad panda, very quickly. So, it was with some trepidation that I opened this bottle tonight.There’s an indefinable, high-tech-ness to the nose here; it smells massively fruity, and there’s an odd designer yeast-y (or something) note here was well. It’s kind of like aerosolized white pepper intruding into a basket of overripe raspberries set somewhere in a dilapadated garden of tea roses; there’s also a sour muskiness that smells of dry cleaning sent out after a long night at Studio 54 – all floral aldehydes, sweat, and “clean.” Finally, there’s a damascone peachiness sneaking in at the end. It’s all very confusing and kind of remarkable – this is wine? is it supposed to smell like this?Just a little bit sweet in the mouth, there’s a wonderful dark cherry note with tannins hiding in the background (but they don’t really seem to do much; was this microoxygenated?). Acidity is reasonable, it’s actually kind of delicious, and then there’s a very soft finish of damask rose with the tannin lingering around just a bit as well.So, yeah, this is a total Frankenwine, but hey. It’s delicious, it’s a welcome experiment, and it would (presumably) be a hell of a lot of fun to serve this to a connisseur of European wines and see if they can guess what it is. I know I couldn’t.Bonny Doon VineyardPrice: US $25Closure: StelvinDate tasted: June 2008

5 thoughts on “Bonny Doon DEWN Barbera/Freisa Amarone 2007

  1. I actually really enjoyed this wine. I didn’t get quite all the nose you did – but it is very fruit forward. Probably my favorite shipment from Bonny Doon so far. I did make the very happy discovery that this wine stayed in the bottle very well – after 4 days there was a glass left, and I tried it fully expecting to spit our a mouthful of vinegar. I was plesantly surprised to discover that it was still quite drinkable! Gives me good hope for aging it.

    • I enjoyed it quite a bit myself, Tasha! Fruit forward is probably the understatement of the year – this is so fruity that I find I’m trying to avoid making Charles Nelson Reilly jokes – but it sure was delicious, wasn’t it?

      Sadly, we drank the whole dang bottle in a single evening, so I couldn’t come back to it after a few days and try it again – but I still have one bottle left, so I’ll try to pace myself better next time! If you wind up keeping it around for a few years, I’d love to hear about it what it becomes over time. some previous Amarone-esque DEWN offering were still good many years later (eg the Fish Out of Water from the late 90s).

  2. I’ve been thinking about this note for a while. Specifically, I’m wondering about the value of endless experimentation. I wonder, sometimes, whether it has a point. That is, whether it simply fetishises novelty or whether there’s something deeper, more beautiful and valuable about these “Frankenwines,” as you call them.

    If it’s hard to put a price on difference per se (and I believe it is), what value should we place on an ideal synergy of variety, region and winemaking? Perhaps they are incompatible concepts, to be measured on different scales. Sort of like modernism versus postmodernism.

    I need a drink.

    • Especially after 9/11, I got the feeling that Herr Grahm himself had begun to grow tired of endless, restless experimentation; things like the Rock Quartet disappeared, and instead he seemed to begin paying more attention to things like place and minimalist intervention. His new bottlings, for example, now have crypto-biodynamic images on the front labels and actual lists of ingredients on the back. I’m mostly grateful for the change – and yet I sometimes find myself lamenting the fearless experimenting that he used to be so well known for.

      I suppose on some level all of the experimenting is an entirely understandable reaction to the endless parade of received knowledge that so many of us got from the academy, or even most books about wine: all good wine is French (or at the very least European), all good wine is naturally made, etc. So why not prove them wrong by doing what we Americans do well, which is to throw absolutely everything at the wall and see what sticks? Sometimes the results are fantastic – late harvest Zinfandel is of course basically without European precedent – and sometimes they’re less clearly good (remember the Spätlese-style syrah we shared once?). But is it inevitable that we all become dissatisfied and start doing things the ancient, well-proven way that established itself over centuries in Europe?

      I have to say (I’m having a glass of the 1996 OH&OP right now) that (especially as of late) I find myself leaning towards saying “you know, the experimentation is fine – it may produce a better wine that careless, indifferent winemaking – but it’s still no substitute for doing it the hard way: a superior site, minimalist/noninternventionist winemaking, and a long history of vintages that show which variety does well for the place.”

  3. I well remember the Spätlese-style Syrah we had, and it’s not a bad example on which to pivot this conversation. I didn’t think it was an especially successful wine, and yet it was fun and inventive and all those things with which most wines don’t even attempt to engage. And using the word “Bitch” on the label doesn’t count. 🙂

    This is something of which I’m sometimes guilty, but the world of wine frequently lacks a playfulness that can be a dead end but is often its own reward, too. The traditional pursuit of perfection (site, technique, history, etc) is, in a way, quite reductive. Despite the tension between Old and New World techniques, the latter characterised by a more technology-focused approach, they both fall into the main line of a primarily narrative view of quality. This is not bad per se, as astonishing wines can be the result, but the approach is blind to interesting tangents, valuable failures, one-off performances, etc.

    As a drinker, I sometimes find the Old World model for wines so limiting. Many winemakers seem to use their favourite Old World wines as a starting point for creativity, which is amusingly ironic on the one hand, but disappointing on the other, as it throws out the possibility of a new Hunter Semillon, or Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, or late harvest Zinfandel. What is the point of trying to make a wine that tastes like a Burgundy from Yarra Valley grapes? But then, a drinking life without those almost unbearably refined wines that are the result of painstaking work over generations would be very much the poorer. It would be a shame to be without either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *