Based in Santa Cruz, Bonny Doon Vineyard has a not so surprising history of idealism and innovation. Founded in the bucolic hamlet of Bonny Doon in 1983 by Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon Vineyard is known for its strikingly original wines made from lesser-known (though no less “noble”) grape varieties. Bonny Doon Vineyard made its mark on the world of wine with pioneering work in the exploration of Rhône varieties, innovative production techniques (the first to popularize screwcaps for premium wines; to utilize microbullage in California, etc) and very imaginative marketing.

Since the adoption of biodynamic farming practices in 2004 and in 2006, the radical slimming down of both product portfolio and overall case production (with a concomitant greater degree of focus and attention to detail), the wines of Bonny Doon Vineyard have evinced a more complex expression of varietal character, a more noticeable sense of organization and a greater degree of life-force.

Bonny Doon has always innovated and experimented, sometimes to a fault. The exciting One-off labels, tangential projects, and quirky experiments weren't always good for the business side of the enterprise. So it wasn't entirely a shock to learn that Randall has brought in new majority partners in an effort to re-focus on the part he does best: sourcing great fruit from great vineyards and making distinctive, soulful wines. His partners, WarRoom Ventures, love Bonny Doon for what it was and is-a Rhone variety pioneer in California. They are excited to help to make it succeed like that. Randall remains a partner in the winery, and his longtime production manager, Nicole Walsh has also decided to stay by Bonny Doon's side. Bonny Doon has returned to its roots as a producer of Rhone-inspired wines, making wine that the show the inspiration of the originals from France, while naturally expressing the terroir of the California vineyards that Bonny Doon partners with.

REGION California
APPELLATION(S) Arroyo Grande, Monterey, San Benito
WINEMAKER Randall Grahm

Since selling off the larger brands in 2010, the focus of the winery has been to spend far more time working with vineyards in improving their practices, as well as on making wines with a much lighter touch – using indigenous yeast whenever possible. Recently, Randall has purchased an extraordinary property in San Juan Bautista, which he calls Popelouchum, (the Mutsun word for “paradise,”) where he is profoundly intent on producing singular wines expressive of place. There are also very grand plans afoot to plant a dry-farmed Estate Cigare vineyard.

Also, since early 2004, they have adopted Biodynamic viticulture and biodynamic practices in as many vineyards as practicable. Because fairly esoteric grape varieties are preferred, it has not always been possible to find growers of these varieties who are equally passionate about Biodynamic practice. The Doon team believes this practice gives them the best opportunity to produce the most distinctive and interesting, and in a word, the most vibrant wines possible.

The winery typically allows for a pre-fermentation cold soak of 5-10 days and makes microscopic observation that the indigenous yeast species is appropriate for the conduct of a clean and complete fermentation. The technique of pied de cuve is utilized, whereby they pre-harvest a portion of the grapes and allow them to “go wild”, and then inoculate the main batch with this starter culture. Punchdowns are done in the open-top tanks and for more robust, rustic varieties, the technique known as délestage, or rack-and-return, is applied.

Long cuvaisons are the norm at Bonny Doon. These are typically on the order of thirty days and thirty nights, sometimes longer and ideally with warm temperatures. The team also selectively practices microbullage, or micro-oxygenation of the wine, post-fermentation, to help give additional structure to the wine. Assembling the blends happens as early in the life of the wine as possible; conversely, the team attempts to delay the completion of malolactic fermentation until spring (allowing the bottling of much lower levels of total SO2). Bonny Doon eschews smaller wooden cooperage as much as possible, and primarily age the red wines in a mixture of well-conditioned 500-liter puncheons and 10,000-liter upright wood tanks. Once reposing in cask, the wine is touched as little as possible. The red wines are seldom fined and filtered.

"My Journey to Terroir"
Terroir Review
- Randall Grahm, 2018-06-03
"A Vintner’s Quest to Create a Truly American Wine"
The New Yorker
- Adam Gopnik, 2018-05-21
'10,000 vines for a new Grahm Cru'
The World Of Fine Wines
- David Williams, 2015-12-31