2015 Boony Doon Vineyard, Le Cigare Volant, Rhone Style Red Blend, California.
When our local industry tasting group met up to taste and discuss Rhone varietals and the state of Rhone style wines in California, we could not possibly miss a chance to taste one of Randall Grahm’s Cigare Volant bottlings and in this case I pulled my last bottle of his 2015, which is drinking awesome right now as it comes into full maturity and showing an elegant array of red fruits, spice and picking up a nice potpourri of dried flowers and snappy herbs. As the wine, made from 57% Grenache, 17% Cinsaut, 16% Mourvèdre and 10% Syrah, opened up it gained richness and a deeper sense of being with black raspberry, plum, pomegranate and fresh picked strawberry fruit core settling in along with touches of wood notes, chanterelles, lavender and cinnamon spice. After sending a note to Randall to tell him this 2015 is in a good place and held its own against a few tasty Chateauneuf, he replied that, the ’15 Le Cigare Volant was the first, last and only vintage that did not contain any wine aged in upright tank(s), adding that It was a blend of used French puncheons and demijohns, the glass carboys that Randall used mainly for his rare Le Cigare Volant Réserve(s). The end of the original Le Cigare Volant line after the 2017 vintage seemed a to be a time of mourning for a very special and innovative wine, these were wines of pleasure and complexity and inspired a whole new way to think about California wine, they will be missed. I have been a long time fan of Grahm’s wines and have really enjoyed his small batch alternative wines in the last 10 years, especially his stunning white wines, which never get the attention they deserve, his Le Cigare Blanc, the Reserve Blanc and Picpoul are some of the best white wines in California.
The name “Cigare Volant”, Randall says of his iconic creation, and the term “Rhône Ranger” are arguably, in his words, quite brilliant for their vivid memorability, but they may also carry with them a certain tragic flaw or two, though he may be harder on himself than needs be and we owe his vision and risk taking a huge bit of gratitude. In the end he felt boxed in, I think and craved something new, and now after the sale of his Bonny Doon label he starting a new planting project to create 10,000 new varietals at his own Popelouchum estate in San Benito’s San Juan Bautista, as well as continuing with some heritage Rhone grapes, including the rare Grenache Gris and the ancient Serine Syrah clone. Back to the past, Randall explains, the term “Le Cigare Volant” makes reference to the crazy (but effective) ordinance adopted in 1954 in a village in Châteauneuf, which by decree prohibited the landing of UFOs in their vineyards! In fact it still is in the wine law of the region. Grahm continues that “Flying Cigars” are the French term for cylindrically shaped unidentified flying objects (UFOs), hence his play on this with his Le Cigare Volant label name and artwork. Randall adds, to help contextualize what would be an “American Rhône,” the name alludes to Châteauneuf-du-Pape in a sly, ironic way, which was his intention all along. In brand new news, Randall has just entered into a new partnership with the Gallos, of all people, to craft an interesting new line of wines using the creative genius of Grahm’s brain and the business and vineyard resources of America’s biggest family owned winery, and this unlikely pair will release their first offering, an intriguing Tibouren and Cinsault Rosé bottling under the new The Language of Yes label, it should not be missed! The 2015 Le Cigare Volant is still out there in the wild, I highly recommend chasing it down if you can, it is in a nice place right now, Bravo Randall, and good luck with your new project!
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive