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Archive for the tag “rose wines”

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.


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:


  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.


Winning Wines from the SWE

No surprise, the most common question I field after tasting 100-ish wines at something like the Society of Wine Educator’s conference: What were your faves? Believe or not, a few stunners really do shine in my memory. Over the next couple of days, I’ll quickly highlight them here…

Stunner #1: 2012 Onesta Bechthold Vineyard Lodi Cinsault Rosé ($18)
Oh, yum. (No secret, I’m passionate about Rosé – you can read my most recent musings here.) This bright-strawberry-and-guava gem just rang to me; dry in the classic French style, it’s bright, juicy and boasts a remarkable creamy character I just found addicting.

Winemaker/owner Jillian Johnson is crafting her copper/pink Rosé mainly from Cinsault, a native French grape we don’t grow alot of here in the U.S. This fruit comes from the Bechthold Vineyard, in Lodi, CA, which was planted in 1886 – these 127 year old vines are probably the oldest Cinsault vines in the United States.

Onesta owner/wine maker Jill Johnson

Onesta owner/wine maker Jillian Johnson celebrating her Cinsaults.

Lodi is a warm-climate wine region roughly East of San Francisco and south of Sacramento, and deservedly famous for its Zinfandels and historic old vines. Based on this Rosé, and several other impressive Lodi wines tasted both at SWE and from my cellar (Turley’s zins are a favorite and a story for another day), I am already planning a Lodi visit in Spring of 2014. Given the small production of the Onesta Rosé, knocking on the winery door may be the only way to snag some – I’m soooo there.

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