Sip Great Wine While SIP(sheltered in place)


Today we are seeing winemakers and wineries rise to the challenge and offer special wines, special deals.

First up, the Napa Valley Vintners Association decided to focus on older vintages or library wines. Love it!

Here’s the announcement:

“In response to the doors of our wineries being closed, we’ve decided to open up our libraries online. Shop almost 200 NVV members as they #openthecellar and offer something rare for you. It’s a win-win-win as you support the employees and small family businesses in wine country, get a rare wine, and you don’t have to leave your couch!”

Library wines are normally held for special occasions or for club members.

So this is pretty special. Not evey wine on the list is “rare” by my definition. But 2011 Cabernets from Vineyard 29 and Paul Hobbs To Kalon are definitely rare. So too is the 08 Phelps Insignia.

Others that made my fantasy list are the 07 Pine Ridge Fortis, 09 Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc, 2010 La Sirena Cabernet and 05 La Sirena Syrah. 

In addition to specific wines, a number of wineries offer multiple wines, including Corison, Hunnicutt, Paradigm, and Juslyn. All super wineries.

So if you have the bucks, check out the list and go crazy!!!

But act fast. The offer end tomorrow.

Also, kudos to wilsonartisan wines, owner of 11 wineries, for its special offer.

“our Social Distancing Sale! We just added several new wines to this sale, so take a look.

Save 40% on select wines*. (There is even one wine in there for 60% off, don’t miss it!) Complimentary shipping on $300+ orders. If you are local, we are offering no-contact pickup on Wednesday 4/2 & Thursday 4/3 in Downtown Healdsburg at Rockpile Vineyards. This option is available in our store.”


Free shipping on $300 or more

Look for great prices from my favorites: Jaxon Keys, Rockpile Vineyards, and Greenwood Ridge.

Not to be overlooked, Bonny Doon Vineyards came up with an enticing offer.

Le Cigare Volant Vertical, 2015, 2016, 2017

2 bottles each vintage

The 2017 is made in a different style, so these 3 vintages are exciting to taste.

6 bottle vertical for $216. 20% discount

Order 12 bottles, free shipping

In the Pink

Worry no more about which wines to serve with your turkey, ham, or

whatever tasty food you offer this holiday season. We have a plan.

But you have to be willing to think out of the box. Not the Bota box or taking the easy way out by going with cheap Champagne, French Beaujolais or just plunking a red and white on the table and standing back. The last one was my old approach.

The new way, the perfect solution for this annual wine dilemma at Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations, is Rose. You heard me …that neither red nor white wine.

But not White Zinfandel or any old cheap, sweet-ish Rose, but dry, full throttle Roses made from Grenache and its Rhone siblings, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Cinsault.

This Epiphany came to me when checking out several wines from Epiphany,  Fess Parker’s brand for Grenache Rose and a bevy of other Rhones. Earlier that week, three other Rose wines completely changed my thinking about Rose as a pleasant light, summertime sipper, sometimes silly and sweetish wine. 

First was a stunning Grenache Rose from Sarah’s Vineyard, followed by Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris de Cigare, and then the Patelin Rose from Tablas Creek. Each came across as full flavored with lively fruit, touches of floral and spice with good acid balance, leading to a palate cleansing finish.

Yes, persistent and versatile enough to present itself as the best wine for family gatherings when the big bird was on the table.

Here’s a little background that might help you see the potential of these pink or salmon-pink wines. Provence and Bandol are the two French regions known for distinctive Roses. Bandol, best represented by Domaine Tempier, is made from Mourvedre. Roses from Provence vary widely but the star brand is Domaine Ott. It offers several dry roses but all rely heavily on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. I have to break it to you that both standard bearers are expensive.

While so many other Rose wines are light with varying levels of sweetness, my favorite Grenache Roses listed below have depth and complexity. Lacking both, most Pinot Noir Roses won’t hold up to the challenge of the typical holiday fare. 

Best of all, these Grenache based Roses won’t break the budget as most are well below $20 a bottle. Check the winery website or an e-commerce site for the best deal. I found both the Bonny Doon and Sobon Estate Roses nicely priced on

But look at the Rose section on the other e-commerce sites reviewed on my website, Also see The New Pink Wine,  the definitive book on the subject by Ann and Larry Walker.

Ten Wines to Change Your Thinking of Rose

2018 Sobon Estate Rose, Amador County $9.99

2018 Bonny Doon Vineyards Vin Gris de Cigare, Central Coast $13.99

2018 Chateau Routas Coteaux Varois $14.99

2017 Sarah’s Vineyard Grenache Rose, Santa Clara, $17.00

2018 Quady North GSM Rose, Rogue Valley $18.00

2018 Margerum Riviera Rose, Santa Barbara, $18.99

2018 Stolpman Vineyards Rose, Santa Barbara $18.99

2018 P’Tit Paysan Rose, Central Coast $18.99

2018 Tablas Creek Patelin Rose, Paso Robles,  $24.99

2018 Curren Vineyards Grenache Rose, Santa Barbara, $28.00

Re-Visiting An Icon: Randall Grahm

When I recently caught up with Randall Grahm, the man who created Bonny Doon Vineyard and led the charge for Rhone wines back in the late 1980s, he was focused on the changing wine market. 

The main topic was the new style of Bonny Doon’s white Le Cigare Blanc and red Le Cigare Volant, his flagship Rhone-based wines for over 30 years.  Both wines were inspired by Chateauneuf-du-Pape and other wines from the Southern Rhone Valley.

“Wine drinkers today are fickle. They don’t want eloquent style wines, they want blockbusters. They don’t want wines that need long explanations.”

Whatever the reason may be, the fact is both newly re-designed wines are excellent and, better yet, super deals.

And as he later added, “I still want to make wines that matter. Wines that are originals, not copies.”

So here are my reviews. (Spoiler alert: these wines are definitely originals.)

The 2018 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc combines Grenache Blanc with a newcomer, Vermentino. Not a well-known grape here, the latter, says Randall,”contributes good acidity and a salty tang to the blend.

The 2018 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant brings together Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah.

And it is a gorgeous red with berry fruit and a rich, smooth texture.

Using Cinsault rather than, say Mourvedre, creates a “more youthful, more approachable style.”

Best News: Both are priced at $20 a bottle, before any discounts. 

Before the day was over, we tasted another dozen wines during a visit to the Bonny Doon tasting room in Davenport. That’s a tiny coastal town about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz.

Neither flashy nor funky, the tasting room is set up for drop-ins and winery club members. 

So, if you are adventurous, love to try new wines, and are looking for a club that has it all, then consider joining. Members get 20% off the current featured club wines when signing up.

(And, full disclosure, I’m independent, not one of those influencers, reviewers, or bogus bloggers getting paid somehow to solicit new subscribers.)

Now let’s take a closer look at some of the exciting, unusual Bonny Doon wines.

First up, a 2018 Picpoul from the cool-climate Arroyo Seco region. Picpoul? It is an old, minor white grape in France and is known for being lively and a little brisk. The name literally translates as “lip stinger.”   This wine is bright and delicious. Price: $18.

A few days later when I was visiting Sarah’s Vineyard,  the owner proudly poured his version of Picpoul. So, something is going on with the lip stinger!

Back to Bonny Doon:

2018 Vin Gris de Cigare which is an interesting variation of a Rose. Dry and wonderfully spicy and fruit filled, it has great palate presence, rich texture and slightly creamy. Randall credits extra batonnage, lees stirring as the reason behind the 2018’s texture. Mostly Grenache and Grenache Blanc. $18. But as low as $13.99 at

The 2016 Vin Gris de Cigare Is again lively but with a delightfully long finish. Floral with peach.plum fruit, this is not your grandpa’s white Zinfandel! This would be an excellent Thanksgiving wine. $18.

So too would the next unusual wine:

2018 Bonny Doon Cinsault  Grown in Lodi, this is a refreshing, medium-bodied drink now red. Cinsault is often used to produce Rose wines, This is serious red. $42.

2018 Bonny Doon Grenache which is now grown in Monterey. Again, lots of ripe attractive youthful fruit in a medium bodied package. Not wood aged at all. $20. Also versatile enough for holiday fare.

Syrah, of course, is the best known Rhone grape and Bonny Doon now zeros in on cool-climate sites for this challenging grape. 

We tried 2 Syrah from 2013, the Central Coast and the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara. 

Both are deep, dark, rich and fascinating.

The Bien Nacido Syrah came across as slightly more complex, more layered as it changed in the glass. A wonderful wine for $25, a special price.

Randall Grahm was one of the first winemakers to use screw caps for all his wines. I think he began around 2000, 2001 when it was considered risky.

So it comes as no big surprise that in addition to the 50 or more wines offered in the tasting room, he also has wines in cans. The can brand is “La Bulle-Moose.”We’ll leave the story behind that name for another time.