Thursday, June 28, 2007

It's Official: Bonny Doon Is Biodynamic

Last month, Bonny Doon's Randall Grahm received Demeter Certification for his Ca' del Solo estate vineyard in Santa Cruz. Since 2003, the vineyard has been farmed biodynamically and with the Demeter Certification now in place for both the vineyard and the winery it will be fascinating to see how these changes alter the market perception--and the taste--of Bonny Doon wines. (image from the Biodynamic Agriculture Association UK)

Grahm's goal is to make Bonny Doon a 100% biodynamic estate winery, a goal that I heartily approve of since I felt like the brand was getting a bit out of hand and losing its focus, and that its marketing strengths were in danger of outrunning his winemaking abilities. I'm happy to report as a DEWN (Doon Esoteric Wine Network) Club member, that I have received some of the smaller production Ca' del Solo wines and have really enjoyed the post-2003 bottlings. Going biodynamic has meant that Grahm cut back on production. He's also drawing on the skills of a talented team including director of viticulture Philippe Coderey, vineyard manager Nicole Walsh, and associate winemaker Jillian Johnson.

Varietally speaking, the new focus seems to be on Mediterranean grapes. If it's a grape grown in Spain, southern France, or Italy, the folks at Bonny Doon are interested in it. I don't usually write up my reviews of Bonny Doon wines on the blog, since the ones I drink can be hard to find. But in light of their announcement, I thought I would share my reactions to two wines I've had recently that were made from grapes harvested near the beginning of the biodynamic transformation:

2004 Bonny Doon Vineyard Piemontese Blend Cá del Solo Vineyard ($20) had abundant initial aromas of cranberry and plum develop that developed herbal notes as the wine opened up. More cranberry was in the flavors, along with berry, plum, herb, and mineral notes. Mild tannins, and a dry, almost austere finish, this wine was made for pasta with red sauce or a simple grilled beefsteak.

2004 Bonny Doon Vineyard Dolcetto Cá del Solo Vineyard ($18) was very, very good. Dark purpley-red in color, its aromas were a tad alcoholic at first and there was a strong tannic grip to the first sips. Once it was left open for an hour, the tannins and plummy fruit integrated, and aromas of rose petal emerged to accompany a distinctive spicy flavor note. It's nice smooth finish made this a good partner for spaghetti carbonara.

These tasting notes bode well for the future of Bonny Doon. Though neither of these particular wines is available any longer, there are several wines from the Ca' del Solo vineyard that are available over at their website, including an albarino, a muscat, and a grenache. (sorry there are no direct links, but the site if flashified, so you're on your own!) Also, it is worth noting that even wines that are designated DEWN, and are therefore restricted to club members for a time, often become available to everybody a little later on. This was the case with their grenache, for instance.

But buyer beware. Not all Doon wines are biodynamic--only those from Ca' del Solo grapes harvested after 2003. And the first certified biodynamic grapes will be picked this fall. Additional caveats: last summer Grahm sold off the Big House and Cardinal Zin brands, so those aren't even made by Bonny Doon anymore. The Pacific Rim wines are in the process of relocating to parts north, although Grahm seems (for the moment at least) to still be involved in the project.

I'm enjoying being on Bonny Doon's journey from mega-brand to biodynamic estate winery. If you want to join me, head over to the website and pick up a few bottles. See what you think.


winedeb said...

Nice article. I have not had his wine for awhile, but will look for his new ones soon. I was a Big House fan and may follow to see if any changes.

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks, Deb. I'll be interested to see what you think of the Big House. I was not impressed with the new version (without Grahm) because I felt it was a bit mushy, but lots of other folks still love it.