Archives for category: California Wines

Haresh Shah

The People, The Pride, The Passion And The Philosophy Of Making California Wines

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His desk is huge and cluttered and we’re face-to-face with an unkempt and eccentric looking vintner wearing the wine stained sweatshirt bearing the logo of one of his creations, Le Sophiste.  With shoulder length long black hair, he looks like a cross between Tom Jones and Abbe HoffmanBonny Doon‘s President for Life and the founder, Randall Graham is known in the industry as the Rhône Ranger as in the Lone Ranger, a.k.a Crazy Randall, because of his refusing to succumb to what he calls the terror of Cabernets and Chardonnays. Instead, he devotes his energy and resources to growing  exclusively the Rhône varietals such as Grenache, Mourvedre, Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier, Cinsault and Syrah. His response to the industry’s perception of himself: when your foes believe that you are insane, you have a great technical advantage.

Life is too short to keep drinking the same wines, Graham philosophizes, I have a soft spot for ugly duckling grape verities, he adds with a wry smile. Randall studied philosophy at the University of California in Davis, prior to getting into the making of wines in 1983.  Realizing hat he wasn’t a good philosopher, he decided to blend his love of philosophy with that of wines he would make.

He believes wines need certain raison d’etre, and he has made Bonny Doon’s mission to make wines that complement California’s emerging fusion cuisine, which is closer to the Mediterranean and south of the border than it is to the American meat and potatoes.

His is a loft office in what once must have been a barn. I see a cat scurrying in the background and also a couple of young women busily hurrying back and forth across the hall carrying stack of papers. The cackle of the wood burning fire place makes you fell warm and cozy on this cold, gray and rainy day

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Haresh Shah

Of Pinot Noir And The Burlaping in Boonville

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The year is 1995 and talking of California wines to the Europeans is somewhat of a joke like the early transistor radios made in Japan were to everyone. Never mind that almost twenty years earlier on the day of America’s Bicentennial on July 4, 1976, the world’s wine experts were asked in a blind tasting to compare six California Cabernets and Chardonnays along with as many of Bordeaux and Burgundies and to everyone’s horror and American wine makers’  delight, California’s best stood shoulder to shoulder with the French on everyone’s scorecards, putting them instantly on the world map.

While the wine professionals of  Europe took a note of it, the wine consumers of the Continent remained oblivious to even their existence. Frustrated, California’s vintners decided, the time had come to make the world aware of the lush Napa Valley and its wines that were growing by leaps and bounds off the northern California Coast.

As a part of the broader push, California Wine Institute has invited the Dutch edition of Playboy to experience California’s wine country in all its glory, including its rapidly emerging cuisine and enjoy their steadily growing warm hospitality industry, in hopes that Playboy would take the message to its upscale demographics in Holland.

The editor-in-chief Jan Heemskerk himself takes upon the project and picks me to accompany him and assigns me to write a major piece for his edition. Not because by any dint of imagination I am a connoisseur or even an expert of wines, but because he thinks of me as someone who knows his wines, especially the ones from California.

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