Le Cigare Blanc, ‘Reserve’, Bonny Doon Vineyards [WOOD BOX]
“The Cigare Réserves are also like Benjamin Button, getting younger as they get older” – Randall Grahm
Winemaking, like life, is a bit of a dream. One imagined (some years ago) that one might produce a sort of hommage to Châneauneuf-du-Pape, a Rhônish-style blend in California, and somehow, miraculously, the wine materialized in this terrestrial sphere; it has been, in balance, a more or less viable, ongoing proposition. Over the years, I’ve had my ups and doons with the southern Rhône’s most well known appellation. In general, I’ve not been so crazy about its escalating levels of over-extraction and ripeness, seemingly in commercial call and response to its most avid Marylandian partisan. With the exception of the redoubtable Château Rayas, I find that I can, at this juncture, largely take or leave C-du-P. But, possibly more to the point, I’ve come to realize that everything in my winemaking world has really been a displacement of my deep, secret desire to produce pinot noir, or more accurately, red Burgundy.
The idea of “raising” the wine in glass demijohns was also a bit of a fever dream, occasioned in part by the many hours I spent in deep contemplation of the mysteries of redox chemistry; there was something dream-like (à la Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan) about the many hours driving around southern France with Patrick Ducournau, deep thinker about oxygen and wine (and inventor of microbullage, or micro-oxygenation). I’ve already written quite a bit about the nature of the esoteric élevage en bonbonne—bâtonage magnetique, etc., the opportunity for the wine to digest a substantial volume of yeast lees, and the extraordinary texture and savoriness this protocol engenders.
The ’09 Cigare Volant Réserve is, to my palate, the most elegant and complete Cigare we have produced to date; it is literally a dream, and dare I say, a very strange synthesis of the sensibilities of southern Rhône and Burgundy. It also contravenes one of the cardinal dicta I’ve established with respect to the style of the wine—that it predominantly be composed of grenache (or alternately, mourvèdre), but never, ever, syrah. (Syrah is or certainly can be, the loud-mouthed drunk at the party, whose presence, i.e. varietal character, is just so ubiquitous, it just takes over the whole show. Cigare Volant should really be an ensemble performance with grenache – humbly and respectfully – leading the quartet.)But this is not an ordinary wine, and all bets are off. What is most noteworthy about the wine is its amazing silky texture, savoriness and infinite length. One finds many of the flavor elements typically associated with Cigare, most dominantly that of Montmorency cherry, but there is also a wonderful suggestion of sarsaparilla, licorice, juniper and menthol, and of course the wonderful earthy notes of truffle. But it is (I believe) the extraordinary contribution of the lees as liaison, acting as the perfect host or hostess at a cocktail party, keeping all of the elements in graceful play.
Blend: 30% syrah, 28% grenache, 22% mourvèdre, 20% cinsault
Appellation: Central Coast
Serving Temp: 58º F
Alcohol by Volume: 13.4%
TA: 6.0 g/L
Cellaring: Drinkable upon release (September 2013), 10-15 years ageability
Production: 465 cases