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Fanciful Name, Serious Wine
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Oct 18, 2011
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Bonny Doon Vineyard, Central Coast (California) “Le Cigare Volant” 2007 ($35):  I write this review cognizant of the fact that a few readers probably know more than I do about the wine and winery in question.  Oh, of course I know and admire Randall Grahm, the irrepressible, creative, brilliant, obsessed Bonny Doon “Winemaker and President-for-Life,” and I delight in his writings, from back-labels to newsletters to website to book.  Over the years, I have enjoyed many of his wines.  But not being a particular devotee of wines from France’s Southern Rhône Valley and the California wines inspired by that region, I don’t follow these wines with the diligence that others might.  Where the 2007 iteration ranks in the galaxy of Le Cigare Volant vintages, which date back 23 vintages, I can’t tell you.  I can tell you that this 2007 is a wine well worth drinking.

Le Cigare Volant translates as “the flying cigar” and the name spoofs the 1954 decree by the Southern Rhône village of Châteauneuf du Pape to forbid flying saucers from landing there.  The blend of Le Cigare Volant is similar to a typical Châteauneuf du Pape red wine -- the most famous wine of the southern Rhône Valley -- in combining Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault grapes.  The 2007 Le Cigare Volant has 72 percent Grenache, 32 percent Syrah, and 4 percent each of Mourvedre and Cinsault

The first thing that struck me about this 2007 wine was how fresh the aromas and flavors are.  So many of the Grenache-based blends from California that I have tasted have tired aromas and flavors of baked fruit or ripe, stewed fruit, or dried fruits.  But here I find aromas of fresh, vibrant dark plums and fresh red berries, with savory top notes of herbs.  Ripe, not overripe.  Clean, not cooked.  Some toasty oak aromas are secondary to the fruitiness.

In your mouth, the wine enters smooth as silk, a dry wine (not dry-ish), full-bodied but not overpowering.  The wine has real depth, a characteristic that’s increasingly uncommon in red wines today.  The wine’s tannins are fine-grained and they bring an extra dimension to the wine without making it any less silky or sensuous.  The wine’s refreshing acidity brings an impression of juiciness and contributes to that depth of flavor.

Randall Grahm describes this wine as a stylistic anomaly in that the 2007 season gave a more powerful, structured wine than usual, and his aging regiment therefore varied from his norm.  Typically, he uses a combination of medium and large oak containers (500 liter puncheons, mostly used previously, and 10,000 liter uprights) to age Le Cigare Volant.  But in 2007, he used the puncheons for 65 percent of the wine.  The oak influence might therefore be greater than in some other vintages, but it is nonetheless a very subtle influence.  To my taste, the oak has contributed to that freshness of fruit and youthfulness in the wine, that I like so much.

Although it is already four years old, this is obviously a youthful wine that can develop and become more complex for several years -- certainly 5 to 8 years, and probably 10 to 15 years.  Randall recommends decanting it for aeration. I would also suggest that you use a large glass to give the wine plenty of opportunity to develop from aeration.

91 Points