2016 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Le Cigare Volant, Rhone Style Red Blend, California.
The richly textured and firmly tannic 2016 Le Cigare Volant is a forgotten vintage and wine, especially so since the sale of the Bonny Doon Vineyards winery and the recent re-vamp of the Le Cigare to a fresher easier to drink Cinsault influenced style, but this wine should not be overlooked, as it delivers a powerful and dense core of black and red fruits, along with spicy and meaty/savory notes as well as pretty delicate floral tones. Randall Grahm and winemaker Nicole Walsh have done a masterful job with this edition of Le Cigare, it certainly didn’t go out with a whimper, its shows layers of blackberry, racy red currant, plum and dried cherries on a full bodied palate adding grilled herbs, licorice, violetette and a touch of sweet oak in Randall’s signature classic style California Chateauneuf Rhone blend, leading with the obvious fruit, but with gripping intensity and underlying complexity. This wine is very impactful and alive in the glass with its deep garnet and ruby hue and its slow to express itself Grenache fruit, but with air it comes at you with a huge rush of pomegranate and strawberry jam. This is one of the more substantial Cigare’s I’ve ever had with flamboyant fruit and ripeness, but loads of umami and a structural spine of tannin, it is definitely a wine with flesh and bones, its alive and has a strong heart beat and blood flowing, this is good stuff. Randall who one of the first California Rhone Rangers continues to inspire today and is still a huge influence on California wine and like Robert Mondavi is one of the hall of fame vintners in the state and his Le Cigare Volant is an iconic wine, we legions of fans worldwide.

The 2016 Le Cigare Volant, which was in itself a slight change from a few prior releases, had a bit more whole cluster and a really good dose of Mourvedre in the final blends, which ended up being close to 41% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah, 14% Cinsaut. Grahm as per normal with Cigare used a vast assortment of Vineyards, and this year saw 33% Rancho Solo (Grenache), 30% Del Barba (Mourvedre), 14% Bechtold (Cinsault), 10% Lieff, 10% Shokrian and 3% Wolff all of which supplied the extra as well as the Syrah, making the wine classified as Central Coast or just California, or as Randall suggests of planet Earth! Ever the tinkerer, Grahm does all kinds of ferments and aging regiments for this wine with some of it being fermented and aged in tank, some in barrel and some in glass 5-gallon demijohns or bonbonnes, which with the lees make for excellent vessels to develop textural beauty, plus Randall is not afraid of adding toasty wood chips if need be! This 2016 is ever changing as it opens and after half an hour the stems get their groove on and give old world crunch and a bright life force that tames the expressive fruit, this certainly wasn’t expected, but very much appreciated and the wine turns even more thrilling in personality. Bonny Doon will continue to explore and focus on Rhone style wines with Grahm as the ambassador for the time being, though he will be putting more time into his amazing 10,000 Grapes Project, making thousands of new varietals from seed to make sure the future has the best material to make California truly unique and to be sure viticulture survives climate change, as well as make small lots of wine from his Popelouchum (Pop-loh-shoom) estate vineyard.
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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