Quirky vintner leads the way to wise changes


Randall Grahm, founder and “President-for-Life” of Bonny Doon Vineyard in California’s Central Coast region, is known for his sometimes quirky, even eccentric approach to winemaking and marketing. Even our hostess at a recent winetasting there said as much. But he has a way of embracing smart changes to the winemaking process—changes that others may soon be following.

The latest is the listing of ingredients on wine labels. Beginning in January, all back labels will “include the wine components, such as grapes and the preservative sulfur dioxide, as well as products used during winemaking, such as yeast,” according to Wine Spectator magazine. It’s believed that this will be the first major U.S. vineyard to do so.

The first new labels will appear on two wines to be released this coming March, the 2007 Ca’ del Solo Vineyard Albariño and Muscat.

The big dealness of this decision is not just about letting buyers know what’s in the wine we’re drinking. It’s about vineyards thinking twice about what they put in their wines. When the FDA finally grew a pair and decided to require the listing of trans fats on ingredient lists, the food industry woke up and started finding a way to remove these evil fats from their foods. In fact, the words zero trans fats suddenly became a powerful marketing tool. The more wineries start listing ingredients on their labels, the more they’ll start trying to reduce the length of those ingredient lists—and to rid them of less than desirable ingredients.

For Bonny Doon, green is beautiful. In another move that took three years to achieve, it was announced in June that Bonny Doon Vineyard received Biodynamic® certification from the Demeter Association for its 125-acre estate Ca’ del Solo vineyard. According to a report on environmentalist website World-Wire, “This strict three-year process eliminates all chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, fumigants and GMOs from the vineyard. Instead, traditional green vineyard practices such as composting, manuring and the use of biodynamic preps, sprays and teas are employed to achieve a healthy level of soil and crop fertility in the growing environment.”

Grahm’s long-term goal is to produce only 100% estate grown, biodynamic wine at Bonny Doon. And while many wineries are beginning to embrace biodynamic practices, Bonny Doon is one of the larger producers to be doing so, producing some 35,000 cases a year. Besides making some great wines his own way, Grahm is making some good decisions about the process. I’m betting smart vineyards are already starting to follow suit.

One Response to “Quirky vintner leads the way to wise changes”

  1. Beyond organic: Biodynamic wines « WTF? Random food for thought. Says:

    […] Beyond organic: Biodynamic wines When we were in California last November, we visited the Bonny Doon Vineyard in California’s Central Coast region. I later wrote about its quirky owner Randall Grahm leading the way in introducing biodynamic growing practices in producing his wines. […]

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