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Archive for the tag “California”

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.

Cigar Volant exhaust

The author & friends in CDP, fighting a gust of the Mistral; or was it Cigar Volant exhaust?

BDV logo color 0.5in

Bonny Doon’s interpretation of the Cigar Volant.

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:

FLYING SAUCERS!

  1. 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
  2. — 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.

Vin Gris De Cigare

With or without the spaceship, this rose is tasty.

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.

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Piqued by Pinot Grigio, go figure!

To be blunt, I’ve never been a big Pinto Grigio fan.  I know, it’s Italy’s most popular white and the U.S. drinks an ocean of it, but… to me, it seems like something you’d put in an Italian baby’s sippy cup.  I generally find it watery and lackluster, without enough chutzpah to stand up to anything more than a quick, after-work Happy Hour.

So I was thrilled to taste Swanson’s 2010 Pinot Grigio – and ask for more.  Poured by Mr. Swanson himself (I’m sure that helped), it’s lemony and citrusy with a weight and mouthful surprising (to me) for a Pinot Grigio.  The debonair Mr. Swanson is proud to say this lushness comes not from oak (the wine only sees stainless steel), but from the quality of his Oakville grapes. (I’d say the addition of 10% chardonnay is also part of the success, but let’s not split hairs.)  There’s enough acid to pair with lighter food, and the balance is good.  If Pinot Grigio has let you down before, I’d give this California translation a swirl. Swanson Vineyards

While we’re talking about Swanson, I was also intrigued by their flagship Merlot.  As Chef Nancy said, “You don’t have to drink it, the gorgeous smell is enough!”

Don’t listen to Miles from the movie Sideways; there are tons of luscious California Merlots.  The best of them can get pretty pricey.  This one packs a juicy, black cherry punch at a fairly reasonable price.

Clark Swanson

Clark Swanson stopped by our neighborhood wine shop and charmed us all.

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