The looks and the ambience of the place reminds me of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young classic of the early Seventies.

            Our house is a very very very fine house

            With two cats in the yard

            Life used to be so hard

            Now everything’s easy ‘cause of you.

Randall’s eccentricity and the courage of his conviction shows in his demeanor and the pride in his going “solo” against the wind in the wines he chooses to make. Bonny Doon wines are hand crafted and produced with tender loving care. The philosophy and the character of those wines is  apparent in their creative labels illustrated with unusual, if not controversial images of Alcatraz prison, a flying saucer beaming up above a Chateauneuf-du-Pape vineyard, a portrait of Marcell Proust, and in the contents of those bottles described by the RG himself, sounding scholarly with a tongue in cheek humorous twist. Here is how he describes Le Sophiste: Sophism: from Gk. sophistes sage (def): A spacious argument for displaying ingenuity in reasoning or for deceiving someone. And then throws in some Italian just for the fun of it. Like on the label of Moscato del Solo; stampatore o’dell.  incisore c. casa. DOONOMINAZIONE DI ORGINE CONTROLLATA 1993. DA SERVIRE FRESCO.

●●●

My first awareness of California came when I met Ann (Stevens) at Positano restaurant in Munich. I became instant friends with Ann and her husband Mark. It was because of them that three years later I ended up moving to Santa Barbara, California.  And it was them who first introduced me to California wines and what has now become known as California cuisine.

Mark introduced me to the Fetzer Zinfandel, which was so good, but a bottle cost $3.50. A hefty sum in the early Seventies. We decide to buy a case instead, for $36.00. Certainly the first of many we would continue to acquire and consume.  Little did I know, twenty years later I would  be sitting in Hopland in Mendocino County with Ken Boek – the Master Gardener at Fetzer Valley Oaks Food & Wine Center, who would introduce us to the basics of making of the wines. True to its creed of from earth to the table, Fetzer has committed itself to the organic farming. As Jimmy Fetzer, the oldest of the eight Fetzer children and the winemaker tells it: the first step in making wine is growing grapes.

Fetzer is the largest mainstream winery in Mendocino County. The business no longer belongs to the family – though they still till the land and make their wines. Personally heart breaking for me is that under the corporate umbrella of Brown Foreman, Fetzer family too has succumbed to the terror of the two Cs, and they no longer make the Zin that introduced me to good American wines. Apparently Zinfandel is an extremely low yielding grape. Another reason Cabernet Sauvignon claims competitive advantage. Small comfort that there is still a strand that bind us. Jimmy Fetzer, is married to one of our own: September 1974 Playmate Kristine Hanson. At the time of publication, a student of communications at California State University in Sacramento and working part time as a black jack dealer at Harrah’s Casino in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. We run into jeans clad Jimmy at Boonville’s Pinot Noir tasting. He is soft spoken, tall and handsome, a proud wine maker who is equally as proud of his beautiful centerfold wife; she looks sexier now than when she appeared in Playboy more than twenty years earlier.

●●●

Pages: 1 2 3 4