One of the most illustrious and inspiring American Winemakers of all time, Randall Grahm, joins the Wine Down. We talk about his evolution through the wine world, the process of founding Bonny Doon, taking it to unknown heights and following his passion.
Growing biodynamically, terroir, and his inspirations are all put on the table, along with some of his very fine wines. It is a rare opportunity to talk at length with one of the most important wine makers out there. Showcasing his humor and philosophical intellect, this talk is as balanced as what he bottles.
Randall Grahm was born in Los Angeles in 1953 and attended the prestigious University of California at Santa Cruz where he studied Liberal Arts. He returned to the University of California at Davis to complete a degree in Plant Sciences in 1979.
With his family’s assistance, Randall purchased property in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the hamlet known as Bonny Doon, intent on producing the Great American Pinot Noir. In 1989, Randall was inducted into the Who’s Who of Cooking in America by Cook’s Magazine for “lifetime achievement and leadership in the improvement and development of American cuisine” and in 1992, Ted Bowell of the Lowell Observatory in northern Arizona named the Rhoneranger asteroid in his honor. He was awarded the honor of Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year by the James Beard Foundation in 1994, and an analogous award from Bon Appétit Magazine in 1999.
Randall lectures frequently to wine societies and to technical groups and occasionally contributes quixotically sincere articles to wine journals. Since 2002 Randall Grahm has focused on the implementation of Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic principles in both vineyard and winery. In May 2007 his Ca’ del Solo Vineyard received Biodynamic® certification from the Demeter Association. Additionally, the Bonny Doon Vineyard operates the restaurant, Le Cigare Volant.
He is also the author of the widely heralded Been Doon So Long.
00:01 Welcome to the Wine Down.
00:47 Introducing Randall Grahm.
02:12 What led you to make wine in the first place?
04:27 Surviving college and terrorizing the wine glitteratti.
06:10 “One of the oddest things that have happened to me.”
07:56 How have you changed since 1984?
10:09 Synthetic closures and what works best.
10:36 Coming full circle and the inspiration for Le Cigare Volant.
11:30 Growing the right grapes in the right place.
13:37 How Le Cigare Volant got its name.
17:36 From a “small time” operation to becoming a large producer.
20:32 The righteous path of terroir–“The only wines that matter.”
22:00 Shifting his perception on vin de terroir through unlikely places.
23:14 Tasting the Methode Champenoise Sekt (German Sparkling Wine.)
24:42 The objective of planting your own vineyard to establish terroir.
25:35 Irrigation and enhancing soil and terroir with biodynamics.
29:30 The difference between different deformations of soil and their effect on terroir.
30:38 Breeding and trials to yield results.
34:17 Growing on his personal ranch and planting different fruit.
35:11 Tasting Le Cigare Blanc Reserve, and the process of making it.
39:16 Transforming the winery and the point beyond success.
40:15 People’s perception of the brand.
41:15 From pleasing other people to pleasing yourself.
43:15 Tasting Le Cigare Blanc 2008 (Normale).
44:43 Using Oak chips and understanding their benefits.
45:35 Notes on the Reserve and price points.
47:45 Getting on Twitter, expanding the brand, and where the sales come from.
49:49 Naming the wine to reflect the vineyard, and growing food for the restaurant.
51:00 The response to the restaurant.
51:33 The terroir wine list arranged by soil type.
52:38 Tasting the Syrah–a different character from new world syrah.
56:55 A few wine stories from Randall.
58:20 Words of wisdom, cheers and thanks!