2 Jul 2010

Id's a Lion's Tale

AS WELL as referring to those hurtling between disparately sewn sites, the term, ‘flying winemaker’ can describe airborne ambassadors jetting to key markets. That some are so widely travelled, it’s miraculous they’ve time to tend to their wines. Throughout July, I’ll endeavour to profile one a week.
With grape expectations, I recently broke bread with Rhône Ranger, ‘Pinotphile’, philosopher and poet, Randall Grahm on a slice of US turf in South London. The mind behind Californian brand, Bonny Doon was in the capital to again court controversy. Perhaps most infamously, he once went so far as to stage a funeral for corks. Today, as a direct swipe at old world vignerons, he said of ‘the beautiful idea of terroir’ that ‘maybe it’s the last vestige of scoundrels’.
Grahm’s big idea is to become smaller, reducing his production from 450,000 cases to 22,000. The labels that remain include: Ca’del Solo Albariño, Syrah Le Pousseur, Vol des Anges and the iconic Cigare’s (now in their 25th incarnation).
Announced at lunch, Grahm’s latest project carries a whiff of legacy. The 35 hectare San Juan Battista site extends from Highway 101 and features ‘Copertino as its Qi’. The ‘serious vineyard in a liminal area’ will feature holistically farmed Pinot Noir and Italian varieties, Nebbiolo and Sagrantino. There was also mention of ‘pre-mixed’ grape vines.
Grahm supposedly imagined the terrain in a dream, including its resident lion. There, like the roving mountain mammal, chickens and goats roam free. That one was berry fed buck was mauled, Grahm calmly said: ‘it provided a little excitement.’ But he has a solution: ‘I intend to buy a really big, serious dog’.
As we sipped acacia barrel matured Roussanne with brick sized chocolate brownies and raspberries, Grahm summed his life amongst vines as ‘an uncontrolled, dilettant-ish exercise in viticultural Id...’
For more, see Grahm’s fanciful yet erudite memoir/‘vinthology’, ‘Been Doon so Long’.
Grahm’s UK importers are Fields, Morris and Verdin, who are located on a patch of SW8 recently acquired for the new US embassy