Cheap Wine That Doesn't Suck
You gotta love a winemaker like Randall Grahm. He named one of his finest wines Le Cigare Volante ("The Flying Cigar") to commemorate Rhone Valley vintners who in 1954 had a law passed that would prohibit flying saucers from cruising over or landing near their vineyards.
One of his best-selling wines is Cardinal Zin, with a Ralph Steadman-like illustration of a particularly depraved-looking Catholic cardinal on the label. Another hot seller is the Big House series--red, white and pink--named for the winery's down-street neighbor, Soledad State Prison.
But what you really gotta love about Randall Grahm is his willingness to swim against the tide, to call a spade a goddamn shovel. When most California winemakers were planting chardonnay practically in freeway medians to fulfill exploding demand, Grahm was preaching planting lesser-known varietals like charbono, grenache and tempranillo in out-of-the-way appellations that suited them best.
When 14 and 15-percent alcohol wines with more oak than Sherwood Forest became the norm, Grahm was producing lower-alcohol wines that actually tasted of their grapes and "terroir," the semi-mystical French word that means wines that taste of where they were born. Grahm sold off the Cardinal Zin and Big House labels a couple years back, but they're still being made according to his philosophy.
Take the 2008 Big House Pink. It's a blend of eight grapes--charbono, tenet, barbera and sangiovese among them--that tastes as if you stuffed all of them in your mouth with a squeeze of orange and lemon juices to balance all that fruit. It's a big sucker for a rose, which means it can hang with habaneros, chill with chilies, go for it with garlic and big, bold flavors. It will cost you about $10 and you don't even need a corkscrew. Just unscrew the cap and pour.
Randall Grahm wasn't much for ceremony either.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.
More RESTAURANTS News
- Vegan Author Victoria Moran to Speak at Friday's EarthSave Dinner
Tue., March 22, 8 p.m.
Tue., March 22, 8 p.m.
- Fort Lauderdale's Keg on Sixth to Become Riverside Market South
- Let Food Be Your Medicine at Dosha Ayurveda Cafe & Juice Bar