Your Thursday wine: Bonny Doon Vin Gris Tuile

vin gris

This label also depicts “the flying cigar” beaming down a red light on a vineyard — the illustration for Randall Grahm’s flagship wine, Le Cigare Volant.

WHEN EVEN Randall Grahm, founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard, admits a wine is not for everyone, you know it has to be different as you will find with the Vin Gris Tuilé. The irreverent/brilliant maverick winemaker’s most famous wine has to be Le Cigare Volant, the “flying cigar,” a Rhone blend grown in California with a label that mocked some tipsy Frenchmen who feared an alien spacecraft (the French called them flying cigars) might land in their vineyards and steal their grapes. That wine first came out in the early 1980s. The wine reviewed below will never make Grahm more famous than he already is, but it certainly testifies to his tenacity to take winemaking to the edge. In this case, to make a “brick” wine, a vin tuilé, like they do in the South of France that mellows and grows in complexity by being exposed to the sun and elements for nine months outside — in glass carboys. I suggest you serve it in small glasses and enjoy as an aperitif and conversation-starter. As Grahm said in an email to me: It’s for adventurous tasters.”

Bonny Doon Vin Gris Tuilé Santa Cruz, California 2013, $20: First off, you may think this wine has a problem because it’s cloudy, but you’ll soon find it doesn’t taste problematic. As Grahm explains, it wasn’t something he aimed for but it’s not filtered and that’s what happens. The flavors grow on you — they suggest a sherry character, a nuttiness with a slightly tart edge to it. Think white grapefruit — the way it used to taste from Florida. There also is a subtle taste of curry. It has a distinctive savory character, which suggests to me it’s best served as an aperitif. Yes, it’s different, but quite pleasant and easy-drinking. It’s a blend of mainly Grenache and Mourvèdre with Roussanne, Cinsaut, Carignane and Grenache Blanc. It copies a style of wine in Provence called vin tuilé or “brick” wine because of the pale orange/pink color. Randall Grahm duplicated it at his Santa Cruz winery by placing a number of glass carboys filled with the wine outside for nine months to absord the solar radiation, which he says results in the savory character. He tells the story on the back label.

Availability: This wine is still so new it’s not on the Bonny Doon web site, but it will be sold exclusively online. A tasting room associate expected it to be a “DEWN” wine selection — Grahm’s wine club known as the Distinctive Esoteric Wine Network, which you can sign up for at the web site.

You can reach Sandra Silfven at