Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 23rd
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Bonny Doon Vineyard

dining rieslingRiesling 2006 – Riesling to Live

Although Randall Grahm and I have met many times over the years, we had never sat down one on one and had a lengthy conversation. The occasion was to chat over dinner at Le Cigare Volant, Grahm’s newly named restaurant which used to be called Cellar Door, and to talk about wine (what else!).

We were joined by my husband, Randall’s partner Chinshu Huang and their young daughter, Amelie.

While tasting some of Bonny Doon’s impressive wines, we talked about wine and travel, including Grahm’s recent visit to Australia and various other wine-related trips he has planned for the future.

One wine that evening particularly caught my attention, a vibrant 2006 Riesling. Gorgeously playful and bubbly, it has all the nuances of fine champagne and it is, in fact, made in the traditional méthode champenoise style. Grapes for this delicious nectar were hand harvested from Grahm’s Ca’ del Solo estate vineyard close to Soledad in Monterey County, fermented to dryness in stainless steel, and aged for 30 months. No dosage (sweetener) was added to the wine so it’s crisply refreshing with a bracing minerality. Most Champagnes come with a cork, but this fabulous Riesling ($35) is bottled with a beer-cap top, and imaginatively packaged (in Bonny Doon’s avant garde style) with a purple ribbon over the cap. This is one of the best Rieslings I have ever tasted, and I am totally smitten with it. And in true Grahm tongue-in-cheek manner, it’s called Riesling to Live.

Grahm also has some interesting wines from overseas that he’s carrying in his restaurant, including a lovely 2009 Fronton De Oro from the Canary Islands—awash with minerality from the flinty soil of those volcanic isles—which was paired with imaginative food of Le Cigare Volant. Executive chef Ryan Shelton came out to greet us and to see if we were enjoying his inventive dishes. My effervescence about his cuisine almost matched that of the Riesling.

Bonny Doon Vineyard, 328 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz, 425-4518.

Passport Day: Saturday, July 21

Passport Day comes around every three months, and it’s a good opportunity to go wine tasting. This is the day when you can visit wineries belonging to the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association (SCMWA), providing you have a Passport, which will cost you $45 and can be purchased at any winery. When you visit each winery, you get your Passport stamped (it doesn’t expire)—and with more than 70 wineries belonging to SCMWA, it will take you a very long time to fill it up. Passport Day takes place four times a year on the third Saturday of January, April, July and November. Info: 685-8464, or or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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