Aliens in the Vineyard
My ringtone is set to R2-D2’s whistle, and I love a good dose of sci-fi. The intergalatically-delicious wines from the Rhone Valley of France are another obsession. Idiosyncratic California wine maker Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards (you’ve gotta read his erratic, erudite prose to believe it) and his wines have long been on my radar.
SOOOOO, HOW DID I MISS THE ALIEN WINES?
Keith Farmer of Brookhaven Wines in Atlanta saved me, Luke-Skywalker-style, from my Black Hole of Ignorance by spinning this tale…
It was the 1950’s, the dark days of the Cold War, and France was gripped by a rash of UFO sightings – cigar-shaped UFO’s to be precise: “Cigare Volant.” Media coverage was thick, and citizens nationwide were nervous.
Leadership of the town and wine region of Chateauneuf-du-pape showed little concern for their citizenry, but were trés worried about their exquisite wines and vineyards. (These wines, which today still emboss the papal regalia on their bottles, came to international acclaim in the 1300’s, during the 70 years of the Avignon Papacy. Their popularity shows no sign of waning, especially in my house.)
The Mayor of Chateauneuf-du-pape proactively banned these “Cigare Volant” from landing in their vineyards – a publicity-grabbing decree that was reprinted in several French papers… News clip in the Le Haut-Marnais Républicain, of Chaumont, France, 1954, translated to read:
- Mayor does not joke around, therefore the “saucers or cigars” landing in Chateauneuf-du-Pape will be held in custody if the rural policeman catches them
- — Mr. Lucien Jeune, mayor of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, has just taken the following decree which was approved by the prefect for the Vaucluse and was made executory:
The Mayor of Chateauneuf-du-Pape decrees:
Article 1. — The overflight, the landing and the takeoff of aircraft known as flying saucers or flying cigars, whatever their nationality is, are prohibited on the territory of the community.
Article 2. — Any aircraft, known as flying saucer or flying cigar, which should land on the territory of the community will be immediately held in custody.
Article 3. — The forest officer and the city policeman are in charge, each one in what relates to him, of the execution of this decree.”
To the best I can discern, the law is still on the books – and seems to be working.
Decades later, Bonny Doon developed a family of Rhone-inspired wines, naming them the Cigare Wines in homage to those cigar-shaped craft. Lucky for me, Keith was pouring their amazing rosé, Vin Gris de Cigare at a Vine & Tap tasting, while the above story unfolded. Sure enough, there’s even a spaceship on the label.
Aliens aside, this is one of my favorite rosés to date – and it’s well-documented how much I love rosé. Great balance of fruit, mineral and savory notes, with no sweetness; take this otherworldly interloper hope this summer and enjoy him with whatever comes off the grill. Or with a cigar.