Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant Réserve 2010

On my first day at Bonny Doon Vineyard, I helped to wash and fill several hundred glass carboys with 2012 Le Cigare Volant. On my second and third days, we washed and filled several hundred more. While doing this work, it occurred to me more than once that maturing wine in this manner had better be worth the effort.

As it turned out, the timing of my visit to Bonny Doon coincided with this annual event, reserved for the very top wines of the estate (the reserve Le Cigare Volant and reserve Le Cigare Blanc). The first step in preparing the carboys for the 2012 Le Cigare Volant was to decant from them the 2010 vintage, which went to tank and, later in the week, to bottle. I assisted with bottling the ’10 and was given a freshly bottled example to taste. I wasn’t sure how the wine would show, given the many phases through which it had passed in just a few days, but found it already-enjoyable with its essential character intact.

The point of ageing these wines on lees in carboys, it seems, is to create for them a highly anaerobic/reductive environment in which freshness can be maintained and desirable flavours developed. On tasting, I was especially interested to see what, if anything, I might discern in the wine from this method of cellaring, and it seems to me the most striking influence is a savoury minerality that asserts itself through the latter half of the wine’s line. This creates for the wine’s palate a nice sweet-savoury narrative. It begins with almost-plush red berries and spice, deceptively friendly given the progressively more savoury countenance the wine adopts from mid-palate onwards. There begins notes of dried meat, minerals and a range of quite subtle reductive components (of the struck match and smoke sort) that create an impression of seriousness and detail. Tannins are fine and firm, meshing well with the after palate’s angularity of flavour.

Although it’s difficult to assess a wine so recently bottled, I do feel the way in which it was raised has contributed a distinctive character to the wine. These more savoury influences add further sophistication and interest to a wine that already benefits from pretty, restrained fruit aromas and flavours. I will look out for this when it’s released.

Bonny Doon Vineyard
Price: $NA
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Bonny Doon Vineyard Syrah Cuvée Splendide 2006

This one slipped in under the radar somehow; not a wine club selection from Bonny Doon, this was a one-off purchase from last summer. I’m a sucker for Randall Grahm’s wolf-cries; just as his Heart Has Its Rieslings was said to be the veritable bomb back in the fall of 2001 (word to the wise: there are still a number of bottles of that for sale at the main Glengarry shop in Auckland to this day), this was another one of Mr Grahm’s “OMG yum” mentions to wine club members; as a result, it’s open in front of me now.

Nothing surprising about color here; what is surprising is the smell. It’s a witness to the change in philosophy at the winery in Santa Cruz, I reckon: no more weird, microbullage-d to death velveteen aromas. Instead, there’s a sour dust lazily orbiting the wine in in the glass. It’s a surprise, a good surprise. Hell, I’ll even go out on a limb here and say that there’s something like Slim Jims and truckstop chili: a stale meatiness with the suggestion of warm asphalt.

Appealingly restrained, upright, dry in the mouth, the finish is solidly tannic, shot through with uptight French fruit. Overall, the effect is one of unexpected minerality: the fruits are very much sitting at the back of the room, patient, yielding the stage to structure worth of an Irish nun’s lesson plan. The overall effect is deliriously delicious and would surely benefit from a fresh joint (of lamb, not Humboldt County’s finest) on the side.

Surprisingly, I think this one might actually last a long, long time: it’d be interesting to see what happens with the arthritic grip of the wine’s bones loosens and lets some of that California fruit steal the spotlight.


Bonny Doon
Price: $24
Closure: Stelvin