Provençal Pairings: Wine with Food

Pink Wine of the Earth

by David Scott Allen

Winery: Bonny Doon
Cuvée: Vin Gris de Cigare
Appellation: Central Coast, California
Type: Rosé
Vintage: 2019
Grape Varieties:  79% Grenache Noir, 5% Grenache Gris, 5% Grenache Blanc, 5% Vermentino, 3% Cinsault, 1.5% Picpoul, 1.5% Clairette Blanche
Alcohol: 13.5%
Average Retail Price: U.S. $13

Pink wine of the earth. That is what Randall Grahm calls his rosé. Its official name is Vin Gris de Cigare.  The reference to “cigare,” a French term for flying saucer, is a nod to the 1954 law in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation which outlawed flying saucers from flying over the vineyards. Vin Gris typically refers to a very, very light rosé wine that results from next-to no maceration time compared to the traditional rosé methods (but this rosé certainly has color!).

Seven grapes come “to the table” to create this wine; together, they make a unique and delicious rosé. But I am getting ahead of myself…

I chose this wine because Grahm is a member of the “Rhône Rangers,” an elite group of winemakers, predominantly in California, who produce wines made with varietals from the Rhône Valley. This wine gets great reviews and is very reasonably priced — and easily found throughout the U.S. That said, the 2019 vintage is pretty much gone, but 2020 is out there ready to be uncorked… er, unscrewed.

I bought half a case of the wine through Garagiste, an online merchant of curated wines, so I was able to open a bottle or two to taste test before pairing. It does not have the typical aromas or flavor profile most often associated rosés (especially those from Provence). It isn’t really fruit forward and the acidity is fairly high. Immediately I thought of seafood and cream for the pairing and, with a few other touches came up with a Scallop and Lobster Ragoût served in puff pastry boxes. For the recipe, visit Cocoa & Lavender.

When I look at this blend of grapes, I am quite astonished, as they are truly not what I would expect in a rosé… there are only two red grapes among a total of seven grapes.  But that is Grahm all the way. Every wine he produces is a curveball of sorts, but they are always good. I accidentally met him once, long ago before I knew who he was. I was in his old tasting room in the hills above Santa Cruz. All I remember thinking is, “Quirky dude.” But who am I to talk? I’m sure people say that about me all the time.

The color is a beautiful salmon pink – a bit more orangey than most. There is strong citrus on the nose, mostly white grapefruit. With first tastes, I found caramel, strawberry, and lemon, with a touch of anise on the finish. With food, I tasted toasted bread (almost burnt toast), softer citrus (clementine), and red fruits (strawberries, red currant). Such an unusual blend of flavors and aromas, but it really worked well.

I find this much more a food wine, though it can stand alone. I simply think I got more out of it with food than without. I also tested it with an insalata caprese but found that pairing much less satisfying — perhaps the tomato was distracting. All in all, this is a really nice wine, especially for the price point.

The other night, we watched the movie, “My Cousin Vinny”. In the scene when they first arrive in the Deep South, Vinny, played by Joe Pesci, gets out to examine the tires to see why they are making a noise. He’s wearing a black leather jacket, black shirt, black jeans, and black zip up boots. Marisa Tomei gets out of the car to see what’s going on, and he tells her to get back in the car because she, in similar attire, sticks out. Her response? “Oh, yeah, you blend.” While, in truth, neither of them blended.  No one would say that about Randall Grahm. He blends. (His wines, at least!)

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  1. A Birthday Box – Cocoa & Lavender

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