by Tim Hayes & John Koetzner
Bonny Doon Breaks Out
Imagine being near Soledad Prison when the searchlights
start scanning the walls, sirens are going off, and some sheets
are hanging from a window. Of course, it sounds like a typical
jail break, but what it really is, is a winery breaking the
mold of romance and tradition. In this case, one can imagine
Randall Grahm singing "Tradition" and his voice
booming over the local enophiles who tout their aging collections.
Or rather, one can imagine him singing parodies of rock classics
as he moves Bonny Doon deeper into uncharted territory with
We might step back to August 2002 and mention
that we received a package
with two bottles of wine that stunned many wine aficionados.
It was the release of the Ca' del Solo wines that bore the
names Big House Red and Big House White. The front label depicted
a prison with a searchlight. Sheets were knotted together
and were hanging from a window where the searchlight had stopped
on the building. Obviously, this wine was an escape from the
boring traditions that we had often encountered when looking
at wines for everyday consumption. To our relief and amusement,
both wines were quite sound, and in fact, the Big House Red
was mighty tasty. At a $10.00 suggested retail price, it even
put it in the realm of ordinary consumption on a daily basis.
Egads, a wine that was cheap, sound, complex and provided
levity? It was a winner.
Randall Grahm with Corkman
Now, jump ahead to spring 2003 at the Rhone Rangers tasting
where a cork effigy sat on a chair, announcing the death of
cork. Of course this was accompanied by a celebration for
the new closure that Bonny Doon had embraced with this new
line of wines, the Stelvin™ closure, or what we commonly
refer to as a screwcap. With this new commitment to the Stelvin™
closure, Bonny Doon was again making an outrageous statemennt
about the integrity of winemaking versus the romance of winemaking.
After all, a corked wine is not romantic, no matter how you
try to swallow it.
As a result, we are not only amused by Bonny Doon, but
impressed by its whimsical inspiration. Why continue on the
road most taken? Why not give into that rebellious spirit
and even challenge the status quo? Its latest foray into whimsy
arrived in the mail recently. It's the mock album lyrics for
Ch. Neuf Du Papers Rhonely Hearts Club Band. Not only does
it play with the music of a couple generations, but it laughs
at how we give so much credibility to everything in popular
culture (including wine critics), and how we might be a little
bit better off if we could just laugh at it all.
Cover of the Rhonely Hearts Club Band
A telling sign of how honest Bonny Doon is in breaking
out, it even labels the wine reviews in its literature as
"propaganda." Now that it's a winery that is "Born
to Rhone" as the lyric folder says, it's time to check
out their wines even further.
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