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Randall Grahm is the Bonny Doon Vineyard founder and winemaker. My long time good friend, wine buddy and Underground Associate Editor, Ed Lazarus, introduced me to Randall in the 1970s. Randall was searching for property to plant Pinot Noir in the Santa Cruz Mountains and we went with him to visit some properties. Later I would found The Underground Wineletter (with Ed Lazarus joining me as west coast associate editor) in 1979 (To read some early issues of The Underground Wineletter and Retrospective Reviews of those issues click here [3]). Randall did purchase a property in the Santa Cruz Mountains and planted Pinot Noir, but soon abandoned that project and in 1983 founded Bonny Doon Vineyard where he was soon recognized as one of the original “Rhone Rangers” (the name is a pun on “The Lone Ranger”). This eventually led to other endeavors and then back to a more defined focus in 2006. Since that time the entire effort is directed at making high quality wines with minimal intervention. (To read more about Randall and Bonny Doon Vineyard wines and its history click here [4]).

Since 1984 Le Cigare Volant has been the Bonny Doon flagship red wine and since 2003 there has been a Le Cigare Blanc. In recent years a Vin Gris Cigare also has rounded out the line up. Here is the Le Cigare Volant history:
The term “Le Cigare Volant” makes reference to the crazy (but effective) ordinance adopted in 1954 in a village in Châteauneuf, which by decree prohibited the landing of UFOs in their vineyards. (“Flying cigars” being the French term for cylindrically shaped unidentified flying objects.)  To help contextualize what would be an “American Rhône,” the name alludes to Châteauneuf-du-Pape in a sly, ironic way….

The Le Cigare wines from Bonny Doon have always been consistently really good. But the Le Cigare Volant has needed considerable time in the bottle to show its stuff. Below is my tasting note on the 1985 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant from a grand tasting of old Bonny Doon wines just over a year ago:

The 1985 vintage is the second year of production for Le Cigare Volant with 1450 cases produced. At over 30 years of age is a great tribute to Randall’s foresight. It is a blend of 77% Grenache, 18% Syrah, and 5% Mourvèdre and is stunning. The wine has a deep color with an amber edge and a lovely perfume redolent of berry fruit accented by cedary and faintly exotic nuances. It is rounded, full, and supple with great balance and flavor. On the palate plum fruit and cedar are very much in evidence with faint hints of orange zest and spice tinges. This wine is certainly now at a peak, but should any bottles remain I have no doubt that they will drink beautifully for many years into the future.

(To read my article on two dinners that Randall and I organized here in Santa Barbara just over a year ago with tasting notes on many old Bonny Doon wines that came directly from Bonny Doon click here [5]).

But now Randall has decided to re-launch Le Cigar Volant and Le Cigare Blanc. Here is the background story as told by Randall:

I have gone on at some excruciating and hand-wringing length about the much anticipated change in winemaking style of Le Cigare Volant with the most recent release of the selfsame starship wine.  But, what’s doon is doon, and we are now just thrilled to be releasing the 2018 vintage, which is a pure unadulterated joy to consume.  The new Cigare comes with the additional clarifying(!) nomenclature, “Cuvée Oumuamua,”  (which means “scout” in Hawaiian) and a rather stellar new adaption of the classic Cigare package.  The wine’s new label has taken a special personal meaning for me. Whereas the red tractor beam depicted on the old Cigare Volant package carried with it a mysterious if perhaps slightly ominous association, the new beam from the spaceship seems to make a very different statement.  The Cigare, in its benign wisdom, is shining a clarifying, and revivifying light on what had been a somewhat sepia-toned reality.  The Cigare has landed in the very nick of time, to bring a sort of much-needed revitalization to our planet, and by metaphoric extension to the Cigare brand itself, to BDV in all of its far-flung vinous adventurism.

The ’18 Le Cigare Blanc has also undergone its own stylistic make-over.  Replacing the Roussanne in the blend is Vermentino, aka Rolle, aka Pigato etc, also representing a tectonic shift in the style.  While Cigare Blanc has traditionally been a blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, we’ve cut out the Roussanne and replaced it with Vermentino.  Vermentino might not have the gravitas of Roussanne, but grown in our warm and dry climes, I’ve found Roussanne to often be quite ponderous, and we are seeking elegance (and intelligence) above all.  With the white, as with the red, we are looking for a style of wine that is approachable earlier, with a fresher and leaner style. We produced only 267 cases of the ‘18 Le Cigare Blanc, but it is a stylistic harbinger of LCBs of the future. 

We have been producing Le Cigare Volant continuously since 1984 and Cigare Blanc since 2003.  The style has evolved over the years, and I am terribly proud of the wines that we have produced. But the economics of holding the wine for years before release were unfortunately unsustainable.  The new vintage of Cigare, wherein the Mourvèdre component has been replaced by the elegant and fragrant Cinsault, imparts a greater earlier accessibility to the wine and a unique haunting redolence.  The SRP of both the Cigare Volant and Le Cigare Blanc is $20.  We very optimistically produced 11,500 cases of the ‘18 Le Cigare Volant and have great expectations for its success. 



So now the dynamic duo of new wines are launched and they are a resounding success. They have intensity, complexity and balance. And, they are absolutely delicious right now, but I suspect they will also age gracefully for anyone who can resist drinking them now. Kudos to Randall! With this new launch he once again has taken Bonny Doon to new heights. Don’t miss these wines! They are really special.  And at at $20 per bottle the wines are also a great bargain.

2018 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant “Cuvée Oumuamua”
This wine has a deep red color and a stunning perfume showing a myriad of red fruits with subtle hints of cedar and licorice and a foresty undertone. Loaded with very pure red fruit flavors the wine is beautifully balanced and complex with just a tinge of cedar and a faint floral, foresty, spice nuance. It is light in the context of being very easy to drink and is also very elegant, harmonious, complex, and flavorful. In short, this Le Cigare Volant is irresistibly delicious and an absolute pleasure to drink. And, talk about food friendly. This is a red wine that is a great complement to a wide variety of foods from meat and vegetables from the grill to salads, pastas, pizza and cheese. And this red wine is especially good if served with a very slight chill. Bravo!  The combination of flavor, finesse, balance, and complexity is really magical – Extraordinary.       $20       Best Buy

2018 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc “Cuvée Oumuamua” 
Pale yellow in color this wine has a great perfume that is complex and faintly exotic with an underlying floral citrus tinge and just a hint of flintiness. On the palate it is crisp and bright and yet is beautifully balanced with finesse and complex flavor nuances of peach, melon, and citrus showing a faint exotic tinge. Again, this Le Cigare Blanc  is a wine that is very food friendly and can be enjoyed with a wide variety of lighter foods. Bravo again! This is very distinctive white wine that has it all – Extraordinary.       $20       Best Buy