The impish attitude at Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz, California, is one I’ve long admired for a number of reasons, largely because there’s good wine behind all that wit and irreverence. Whether you like Bonny Doon’s brand of punniness or not (I do: they signed a recent letter to journalists with, “you give me riesling to live”), it’s worth admitting that, by bashing pretense, poking fun at tradition, putting fetching labels on the bottle, and by not charging an arm and a leg for what’s inside, they get your attention.
I’m especially intrigued by Bonny Doon’s newly released 2000 Domaine des Blagueurs (House of Jokers) Syrah-Sirrah (buy a bottle and read the back label to learn whence the full title). To make this wine, Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon’s winemaker, collaborates with winemakers in southwest France, using wine from the Pays d’Oc, which he in turn blends to his specifications.
You might wonder (well, I did) why a winemaker in California would bother to look across the pond for grapes. But Grahm feels that the Syrah grown in the Pays d’Oc is more elegant than what he finds in California (rather than forwardly fruity, think earthy, peppery, minerally, plummy, and even meaty). Interestingly, Grahm blends the Syrah with little bit of Viognier, a fragrant white wine, which seems to coax out the aromas of the red wine.
Though Syrah-Sirrah is delicious and full-bodied with a lasting finish. it won’t bonk you over the head with chunky tannins and high alcohol content. Try it with grilled steak, grilled leg of lamb, or grilled pork tenderloin with a garlicky Caribbean style rub or a dried herb crust. It’s also good with a sliver of aged Parmigiano, a handy way to finish off those last few sips. A bottle rings in at $9, but after a taste (and a glance at the winking jester on the label), you’ll probably agree that Domaine des Blagueurs tastes a lot more serious than many wines at twice the price. No joke.
For more information, visit www.bonnydoonvineyard.com or call 831-425-4518.