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Sunday, December 27, 2009

The 2005 Le Cigare Volant: The Flying Saucer

Today's review will revolve around the wonderful if somewhat eclectic Bonny Doon Vineyard found in the wonderfully beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in northern California, just a little south of Napa and Sonoma. While I had a chance to visit this area first hand in 2007, my opportunity to visit Bonny Doon slipped from our (that's my wife and I) itinerary and I missed seeing the vineyards for myself. That said, Mr. Randall Grahm was gracious enough to send me a couple samples to peruse at my leisure, with an invitation to visit next time I'm in the area.

Many folks have a quizzical look upon their face when I talk about the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, first they are thinking where the bleep is that and second what is a AVA? Now no one has ever had the courage to ask me, "what are you, some kind of cork-dork" ? I would answer with an enthusiastic nod of agreement and say, "well you could go even further and characterize me as a wine geek, guilty as charged." Purple teeth and purple fingers at times depending on the situation, but I'll save that conversation for another time. It was funny when I mentioned Bonny Doon to someone once, they thought I was speaking of a movie, entitled "Dune".

Ah yes the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA is located just south of San Jose, California. This huge appellation holds over 350000 acres. According to "Vinogusto" it is astonishing, given the hardships (in particular the onset huge fires in 2009) of viticulture in the Santa Cruz Mountains, this appellation hosts some of North America's elite wineries with the likes of Ridge, David Bruce and Bonny Doon and I am a big fan of Byington and Testarossa as well.

So now that you have an idea of where I am talking about in regards to where this wine is from, now it's is time to bring into to focus the subject of this review the Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2005. Literally translated, "Le Cigare Volant" which is French for "The Flying Cigar" or euphemistically speaking, the flying saucer! Sci-Fi fans take note, this is a first-contact wine.

Swirl: After letting this bottle settle into to its new surroundings (Chez Eyer Wine Vault) for a month or two, I finally cracked open the stelvin closure and poured myself a glass just hour before dinner for its first evaluation. In the glass a near opaque garnet colored core, giving way to cerise colored rim. Like ZZ Top has sung, she's got legs and she know how to use them, get the picture?

SniffY-Sniff: Into the glass goes my huge half Irish nose and exploding on my god-given sensory apparatus aromas of tasty brier, black cherry and undefinable gamy note.

Slurp: After giving the wine in my glass another good swirl, it's finally time to imbibe. On the palate, is an impressive concentration, with chewy plum, currant, nice minerality, licorice and tarry notes. Although listed as a California wine, it's is made in an terroir-driven old world style and does not require any long term cellaring, since it is drinking amazingly now. But it does have the stuffing to stand up to another five years in your own wine-vault!

Varietal Composition: The Bonny Doon Vineyard 2005 Le Cigare Volant is a blend, a Cuvée if you will, from fruit sourced at a variety of long-term growers in the Central Coast and Santa Cruz Mountains. This vintage is a blend of Grenache (50%), Mourvèdre (24%), Syrah (22%), Carignane (3%), and Cinsault (1%). This wine is bottled unfiltered and has a stelvin closure.

His Book: He also sent a copy of his "new" book,
BEEN DOON SO LONG A RANDALL GRAHM VINTHOLOGY which I am enjoying immensely and will have the review of the book separately from the wine. His style of prose is both humorous and captivating, a great read thus far, stay tuned for the book review.

Alcohol and Ageing: The wines alcohol percentage weighed in at a mere 13.5% and the different wines which make up this delightful blend were aged separately no doubt and blended together before bottling. The aging process; 18 mos, 1/2 in puncheon, 1/2 in wooden upright, significant batonage.

With/without Food: This wine was a great quaff just by itself, a sure crowd-pleaser with an appropriate amount of decanting and just a wonderful wine for pairing with many different food combinations. Keep in mind this can't be said of all wines and is a high compliment to the wine maker and the growers of these grapes, well done!

Full Disclosure: Mr. Grahm (winemaker) sent a request to have this wine reviewed by the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog and I was most flattered and delighted to have the opportunity.

Where to Purchase and Price: Wine can be purchased directly from the Bonny Doon Vineyard website. This wine can also purchased online and or in their respective brick n mortar locations Woodland Hills Wine Co., Wine.com and Wine House. The prices range from $26.99 to $29.99 depending on where you shop.

My Recommendation: Drink now and drink often, this is a great wine to stock up on, but as there was a little over 1100 cases produced it's going to go fast. So run don't walk, place your order today. The 2005 Le Cigare Volant is as smooth as Jeret "Speedy" Peterson is on his skis as he catapults himself 60 feet in the air. Oh wait you don't know who that is?

Well in the coming year you're going to find out as the 2010 Winter Olympic Games are about to get started I want to wish "Speedy" and Team USA good luck! I think all of us as Americans would like to say with one voice go TEAM USA! I like this quote from Steve Fisher who Jeret Peterson quotes while he recounts his own life, "People are put on this earth to make mistakes and learn from them. Life is one big classroom." Well said, it reminds me of challenges and triumphs of Randall Grahm, but with this wine he definitely has a triumph! Until next time cheers everyone!

Other voices: "The 2005 Cigare Volant (50% Grenache and the rest Mourvedre, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault) exhibits peppery, earthy, black currant and black cherry fruit, and medium body. This spicy, hedonistic vin de plaisir should be enjoyed over the next 2-3 years. Purchasers should treat it like a French Cotes du Rhone."Given 89 points by the Wine Advocate

Gabe's View had this to say, "If somehow you’ve never had this classic California offering from Randall Grahm, this vintage is a great place to start. If I could only use one word to describe this wine, that word would be character. Le Cigare Volant 2005 is loaded with it."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Calling all Zinners, the Leonesse 2006 Vineyard Selection Galway Vineyard Zinfandel

Since the first time I encountered this wine back in February of this year I've imbibed on this wonderful at least three or four times since then and it is just perfect every time, without fail. No decanting necessary, just pour and enjoy.

In speaking to my wife about this wine over dinner, I explained that this was perhaps in my estimation this Zinfandel is the most Zin-tastic one that I've encountered this year. Now before you dismiss that statement, consider how much Zinfandel that has passed over this palate and into my gullet and many others which I've swirled, sniffed, and sipped. I've tasted many, many Zinfandel's over the years from some of the "best" producers from the likes of Lodi, Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma. So with that said I hereby pronounce that this is the very "best" Zinfandel of the year!

This Zinfandel is from the wonderful folks at Leonesse Cellars in the Temecula Valley or as the name Leonesse means the"Village of Dreams". They are really making some very good wines and in the case of the their 2006 Vineyard Selection Zinfandel, Galway Vineyard it is not just good it's meet the criteria to be called great. The tasting room is very large, but comfortable and nicely appointed. The view from the tasting is very nice, I would say it's probably the best view in the valley.

During the tasting earlier in the year, I came across a few wines I really liked, with them coming from the Vineyard Selections and Signature Selections, which have higher prices points. But the one I want to review once more with a refocused review is the Leonesse Cellars, VS 2006 Zinfandel, Galway Vineyard.

First Swirl: In the glass this wine displays as a clear, medium ruby-garnet color standing in the glass, (lacking some extraction normally found many Zinfandels) which is not a bad thing either, I believe in their effort to make a less super-ripe and jammy wine, that knocks you over the head, instead they produced a wine that's nothing short of finesse!

First Sniff: this wine exudes an effortless plethora of ripe berry aromas, with a slight smokey sage aroma in the background. Even after the wine is gone from my glass, I'm still nosing it to absorb ever last molecule of aromas that I can take in. This wine had me at first sniff.


First Sip: Blackberry, and whole plum flavors wash across the palate in a large wave of nuanced fruit and the carry through of a long, white pepper, and with lean blackberry on a crisp, but well focused finish.

Composition: 100% Zinfandel, , 2006 Galway Vineyards, aged 19 months in French and American Barriques aged in 55% French oak and 45 % American oak and is 100% estate picked fruit, according to Billy Bower, Vineyard Manager. The alcohol is 15.3 % and some of you may think oh boy big "fruit-bomb", but I'm telling you it's nothing like that. Instead you have a "layer-cake" of rich, ripe nuanced fruit so telling of what Zinfandel should be.


Other wines of note: Their 2004 Cinsaut Dessert Wine (Ruby Port Style) and 2006 Vineyard Selection Syrah, Vista Del Monte and their 2006 Merlot from the Los Caballos Vineyard all three of this wines are in a word, yum!

Wine Maker Notes: According to the wine-maker this wine, "offers intense aromas of blackberry, cinnamon and cedar. Layers of ripe blackberry and black licorice along with a soft, supple tannins, lead into a velvet like finish." Aged for 19 months in small French and American oak barrels


About the owners: According to Kathy Sullivan of Wine Trail Traveler, "As a dream of the owners, the winery was appropriately named Leonesse. In Scottish leonesse means “the village of dreams.” The two couples who own and operate Leonesse Cellars, Gary and Lana Winder with Mike and Lisa Rennie, began their dreams of owning a winery in the late 1990’s. The winery opened in 2003 and the first vintage was a Cabernet Sauvignon in 2002. Today the winery produces 30,000 cases. Tim Kramer, winemaker, prides himself on the quality of his red wines. They built the large, elegant tasting room in 2006. The restaurant opened in 2007 and is open on a seasonal basis. In 2009, the restaurant will reopen in May.


Bottom Line: A very focused, balanced and quaff-able wine sure to please any palate or guest who may drop by for dinner. What I would call a casual food friendly wine; best paired with just about any food group which may interest you.
A good value $27.00 each for wine club members, but at $36.00 for the non-member price this wine is not a QPR winner one may hope it could be. But that said it's in my opinion that this wine is worth becoming a member to get this wine at the discounted price. So if they have any of this wonderful wine left over, I would definitely get a case or two.


Building upon what I said before the focus of Leonesse Cellars and their attention to quality vs. quantity in their wine making practices are what's missing from some of the other wineries I visited in Temecula. If you are ever in the Temecula Valley wine tasting make sure you go by for a visit and be sure to tell them the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog sent ya! Until next time, Cheers everyone!

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