Wine for Nerds
2009 Bonny Doon Contra
Bonny Doon Vineyard is lead by a man named Randall Grahm. He is an awesome nerd, and I say that with the utmost admiration and respect. Their website calls him “particular” and says “Randall Grahm is a vitizen of the world, a champion of the strange and the heterodox, of the ugly duckling grape varietals whose very existence is threatened by the dominant Cabo and Chardocentric paradigms.” Awesome. In the wine world, he’s known for being a witty intellectual. He’s a published author who loves wordplay and writes cheeky newsletters that he calls “periodic transmissions from the mothership”. He’s a marketing genius having devised funky names for his wines and beautiful labels.
He had the courage to try something different – to try planting Rhone grapes in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the 80’s when hardly anyone else was doing it. It paid off and he came to be known as “The Rhone Ranger”, receiving national attention and awards for his untraditional wines and ways. He seems to always be on the lookout for another obscure variety, another esoteric vineyard area. Randall Grahm, you are the orange wine of the nerd world. Props.
The 2009 Contra is mostly old-vine Carignane from obscure sections of Contra Costa County. There’s also some Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Syrah blended in. It was rated one of the top 100 wines of 2010 by the SF Chronicle. I can’t do Bonny Doon’s description of this wine justice by paraphrasing so I’ll just put it here: “Contra is a somewhat contradictory flashback/forward to the straightforward, frank wines of yester- and future-year. A wine (hardly) contraindicated for gastronomy, it is above all, contrapuntal.” Amazing, right?
The first thing I get is smokiness from the Carignane, bitter cherries, some herbal notes. This is a serious wine that would go well with food. It has nice soft fruit but that’s balanced with a tough-edge of firm tannins and precise acidity. It’s not a conventional California fruit-bomb at all. So nerds – adjust your glasses, sit down to a nice meal and break open the appropriate non-contradiction: the 2009 Contra.