Tasting Room Series

Welcome to the first post in my Tasting Room Series. While I enjoy my wine-related travels and writing about them, I don’t want to overwhelm my readers with post after post about wine. As a result I have decided to dedicate a post every week or so to wine tasting events and wineries I have visited. If you would like to guest post in the Tasting Room Series, just let me know!

Last week before the Foodbuzz Festival, we headed South of San Francisco, my first time heading in that direction, to visit the home of the famed Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon Vineyard. Grahm is known for being a winemaking pioneer, experimenting, and succeeding, with Rhône varietals in California. Grahm was recently inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame and also received a 2010 James Beard Award (among others) for his book, Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology. He is also a very nice person in real life as I found out when he was pouring his wines at the Foodbuzz Festival last weekend. 

The Bonny Doon tasting room is a trip. With a large Cigare Volant, (literally flying cigar,France’s version of the flying saucer) suspended from the soaring ceiling above tasting pods and just next to a walk-through barrel, this is not your stuffy tasting room. It is a friendly place with delicious wines at really excellent values, the grape varietals a refreshing departure from the Cabs, Pinots, and Chardonnays to the North.

Le Cigare Volant

Addison was our hospitable and knowledgeable host for our tasting, and to be honest, I wasn’t really thinking about blogging during the visit. The Bonny Doon tasting room has a very laid back vibe, and we tasted lots of spectacular wines. Being that it was the first day of our vacation, I kind of just sat back and enjoyed the experience rather than trying to record tasting notes for everything. Bad blogger!


I do, however, remember the many favorites that I had that day. Since I already covered the 2009 Ca’ del Solo Muscat,2009 Ca’ del Solo Albarino, Verjus, 2009 Le Cigare Volant, 2007 Le Cigare Blanc and the Vinferno Dessert Wine in my Foodbuzz Gala Dinner Recap, I will focus on some of the other wines that are made at Bonny Doon.

Bonny Doon Tasting Menu image

2007 Syrah Le Pousseur  The first thing I noticed about this wine was its beautiful deep purple color. My teeth noticed that too, Winking smile one the hazards of being an avid wine taster! Peppery with a nice little kick, this Syrah also offered some earthy notes and just enough fruit. Syrah is quickly becoming my favorite grape, and Bonny Doon Vineyards certainly makes some of the best US-made Syrahs I have tasted.

Bonny Doon wine

2009 Contra A blend of Carignane, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Petite Syrah, Zinfandel, and Syrah, Contra is referred to as rocks and raspberries, and was one of my favorite reds at the tasting and was also poured at the Foodbuzz Festival opening night event. It is a smooth wine with lots of ripe berry flavors without being jammy or too fruity.

Bonny Doon Muscat Bonny Doon Contra
Bonny Doon Sparkling Riesling Bonny Doon Sparkline Riesling
Bonny Doon Pommeau Bonny Doon Pommeau

It was true love at first sip with the bubbly Riesling to Live. Made in the method champenoise, this sparkler is full of effervescence, delighting the entire mouth with tiny, long-lasting, celebratory bubbles.

After all of that grape goodness, there was the Pommeau.

Pommeau, a blend of apple brandy and hard apple cider, whispers Christmas and winter to me. It is one of those drinks you sip ever so slowly, and while sampling it in the tasting room, I could already picture myself drinking gently heated Pommeau while watching snowflakes fall outside the window. Bonny Doon’s website also notes that it is a refreshing summer drink, mixed with mineral water and lemon.

Throughout our tasting, Addison shared both useful and entertaining information about the winery and the wines. He also gave us ideas for food and wine pairings, and by the time we left we were wine club members.

Finding many Bonny Doon wines that we wanted for the holidays and winter, we also ordered additional wine to ship to my mother’s in NJ. . . only to find out a few days later that it may not be possible for Bonny Doon to ship to that state either Sad smile Living in MA becomes even less attractive! It would be MUCH easier to live in CA and to pick up our wine club wines in person. The verdict on the law is still out, but I have a feeling I need to either find a friend in a state that allows them to ship, to return to the winery, buy and ship the wine myself, or to pack a U-Haul, my cats, and my husband and transplant ourselves across the country. A girl can dream, right?!

Until then, if our wine doesn’t make it, I will be on the hunt for my favorite Bonny Doon wines in the greater Boston area.

Special thanks to Meg, who works for Bonny Doon Vineyards, for arranging such a wonderful visit for us. We will be back!

Have you ever visited a winery or tasting room? Do you have any favorites?

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Tags: Bonny Doon Vineyards, California, Pommeau, riesling, Syrah, tasting notes, Tasting Room, Travel, wine, wine tasting

  1. Simply Life’s avatar

    I love all your helpful tips about wine and wineries – especially in the New England area!


  2. Meg Houston Maker’s avatar

    Meghan, thanks for the lovely post! The photos and write-up really capture the spirit of our tasting room in Santa Cruz. We were thrilled to host you and your husband, and so glad you enjoyed the wines.

    It’s true that state regulations about direct shipping are a real problem for many consumers. New Hampshire, just a skip away from Boston, is a “ship-to” state, and one that also allows residents to be members of wine clubs. Meanwhile, Massachusetts supports neither, though some wine club members opt to have their wine shipped to a friend or relative in a neighboring region. (I should note that we have a great distributor in MA, so our wines are widely available in retail stores and restaurants. And Verjus, being non-alcoholic, can be shipped anywhere!)

    Hope to see you again before too long. Enjoy the wine!



  3. Lindsay Meyer’s avatar

    Next time you should come in the summer and attend a concert at Mountain Winery in Saratoga! They do about 60 shows a summer.


  4. MelissaNibbles’s avatar

    Syrah is my bf’s go to red wine. He’d probably love the Bonny Doon’s. Great tips!


  5. alicia’s avatar

    I absolutely adore when you describe wine. It’s one of the rare times that I know what someone is talking about in regard to taste, etc.


  6. Enrico’s avatar

    crazy cool looking UFO – :) – I also love the individual artwork on the labels. Clearly distignuishes varieties and a chandellier inside a giant barrel? I love the eccentric touches here… a person of that level of creativity must really have imaginitaive and creative winemaking skills. I look forward to geting a bottle or two when we have a chance to head out west next time.


  7. Kim’s avatar

    Being from California I’ve had the pleasure of wine tasting in Morgan Hill, Central Coast, and Lake County. I can agree that living in California with so many wineries when you love wine is the place to be.

    This is a wonderful review of the wines you tasted and is something I’ll have to consider next time I get close to the Bay Area. I miss going wine tasting although we do have one an hour away in Pahrump.

    Next time you’re in California here’s a few others you can try depending on region. I also included the one in Pahrump, NV about an hour northeast from Las Vegas. Enjoy!

    Central Coast/Southern

    Blair Fox Wineries (Los Olivos) http://www.blairfoxcellars.com/
    The Vineyards at Royal Oaks (Santa Barbara County) http://www.sbcountywines.com/wineries/pages/royaloaks.html

    Lake County (my mother lives in this region)

    Wildhurst Vineyards (Kelseyvillle) http://www.wildhurst.com/
    Tulip Hill Winery (Nice – pronounced like niece) http://www.tuliphillwinery.com/
    Shannon Ridge Winery (Clearlake Oaks) http://www.shannonridge.com/
    Ceago del Lago http://www.ceago.com/
    Steele Wines http://steelewines.com/

    Morgan Hill

    Guglielmo Winery http://www.guglielmowinery.com/

    Pahrump, Nevada

    Pahrump Valley Winery http://www.pahrumpwinery.com


  8. Katie’s avatar

    Great idea! I love reading your wine posts because it’s something I’m so interested in learning more about. I had taken a wine class at the BCAE and now I can just get a good wine education just from reading your blog! :)


  9. Grace’s avatar

    This looks like such a cool wine tasting experience! I love the idea of a tasting room series, lots of great tips to be shared.


  10. Terri’s avatar

    That looks like a very cool winery!


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