Randall Grahm has long been known as one of the most curious, iconoclastic, even heroic winemakers around. And so why would we figure he would change when he opened a restaurant? Grahm's new project, called Le Cigare Volant after his first landmark wine, is located on the property of his winery, Bonny Doon Vineyard, just outside Santa Cruz.
Formerly called "The Cellar Door," it re-opened re-dubbed April 1. Make of that date what you will. Ryan Shelton is the chef, and by all accounts it's pretty danged good. But what really makes it something different is -- no surprise -- the wine list. Grahm is a freak about soil. He calls himself a "terroirist" (and even a "vinarchist").
The wine list at Le Cigare Volant is arranged not by "red" and "white," or even by "light" and "heavy" but according to what kind of dirt the grapes' vines grew in. "Gravel" wines, for example, tend to produce wines that have a quality of "dustiness," Grahm says (those familiar with his writings will instantly recognize that he said a whole lot more than that). From that category he recommends a Bordeaux Superieur, a Bourguiel and a Pomerol.
Volcanic soils, Grahm says, produce wines that "possess perhaps the strongest expression of 'minerality.' They are often wines with a preternaturally great life-force, or resistance to oxidation, and will generally require lots of air before they open up." That's more in the nature of a Grahm quote. Oh, yes, there is a footnote too. The wines are a Fiano di Avellino, an Aglianico del Vulture, an Etna Rosso, and a Tinto Malpais from the Canary Islands.
Wine lists are usually fascinating reading only for wine geeks. This one is something special.
328 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz, (831) 425-6771.
-- Russ Parsons
Photo: Randall Grahm. Credit Bonny Doon Vineyard