Le Cigare Volant
Dining Reviews

Bonny Doon Vineyard’s Le Cigare Volant Gets Dramatic Makeover

Plus Downtown Santa Cruz Fall Wine Walk on Nov. 11

Randal Graham of Bonny Doon Vineyard has built Le Cigare Volant into one of the most recognizable local blends, which is in for a dramatic makeover this year. PHOTO: JULES HOLDSWORTH

By the time you read this, you’ll be recovering from the annual sugar shock that accompanies all things Halloween. You’ll need to start thinking ahead, to a time where wine trumps candy. And I’ve got just the thing for you.

The annual and ridiculously enjoyable Downtown Santa Cruz Fall Wine Walk, which will fill Santa Cruz with lots of folks in high spirits on Sunday, Nov. 11. The idea is inviting, the concept is simple. You, the participant, stop by Soif Wine Bar & Restaurant on Walnut Avenue and register ($40).

You will then receive a pass, a glass and a map of the pouring locations. Then you set off for an afternoon visiting downtown merchants, where winery reps await to pour you a glass of their wine. Yes, it’s that easy. Soif’s co-founder and reigning proprietor Patrice Boyle explains the fine points. “Because our licensing does not allow us to participate the way other retailers can,” she told us, “we are the starting off, collect-your-glass-and-map place. Our retail shop will be open, but the restaurant is closed on Sunday.”

The Wine Walk will feature about a dozen wineries, set up in retail spots around downtown. Wineries include Muns Vineyard, Bargetto, Burrell School Winery, Bonny Doon Winery, Roudon-Smith, Wrights Station, Pelican Ranch, and Random Ridge, among others. Once participants have their glasses, they “head off on their own crawl around town.”

Let’s review: Nov. 11, 2-5 p.m. Registration opens at 1:30 p.m. on the day of the event, and closes at 3:30 p.m., $35 adv/$40 on-site. “This has become a very popular event,” Boyle notes. “It often sells out.” A word to the wise. downtownsantacruz.com.

Very New Wine

And while we’re at it: Purists will be thrilled to know that the gala party for Beaujolais Nouveau—first wine of the season—takes place once again at Soif, from 5-7 p.m. on the third Thursday of November. This is a major party. $15. soifwine.com.

New Cigare

Is there no end to this man’s marketing genius? I speak, of course, of Randall Grahm, uber winemaker and founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard, an establishment that made its name and empire based on the 1984 release of the infamous Le Cigare Volant—a memorable elixir of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre (GSM).

Well, after 30 years of the Cigare, Grahm has announced a major change of style. This paradigm shift is being enacted in order to appeal to younger wine drinkers, those for whom the entire concept of letting a vintage age is unthinkable. In the Twitter era aging can amount to a matter of days. Even hours.

Ergo, the new 2018 incarnation of Le Cigare Volant, scheduled for release in June 2019, is composed of a whopping 75 percent of Cinsault and 25 percent Syrah. (No Grenache!) The original Cigare was built for longevity and usually had a price tag to match. The longer it takes to get a bottle of wine to market, the more costly the product. Which is why for a generation raised on social media, there’s beer. Eight days, versus five years. You can do that math.

The ever clever Grahm is thus reasoning that he can offer a more affordable wine by speeding up the drinkability. Makes sense to me. Now to the marketing genius. Since forever more the Cigare will be a non-GSM creature, it would be wonderful to have some of the original, yes? Bonny Doon Vineyard now offers a six-pack or 12-pack or six vintages of Le Cigare Volant (2012-2017) for half price. That’s six bottles of Rhone-style elegance for $125! I’ll see you up at the Davenport tasting room! bonnydoonvineyard.com.

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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