It might look like Bambi Meets Godzilla, or it might appear to be a very smart and lucrative venture. We’ll see. But what it is, is a surprising new collaboration between the ultimate maverick winemaker Randall Grahm and the larger-than-life mega-wine brand Gallo. Bonny Doon Vineyard founder Grahm’s latest project hooks him up with the Gallo Family in an arena close to his heart: the grapes of Rhône. In fact, Gallo already has a vineyard in Edna Valley growing Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. Coincidence?
“The recent joint venture between E&J Gallo and myself with the unlikely name, ‘The Language of Yes,’ is proving to be a very useful vehicle to allow us each to do what we do best,” Grahm told me by email last week. “To play with Rhône grapes and avail myself of the impressive Gallo research facility, and for Gallo, of course, to sell wine, something they are particularly good at doing. I am particularly thrilled that we have begun with the release of an extremely obscure Provençal grape variety, Tibouren, which I personally believe has infinite potential on our shores for elegance and intelligence.”
Grahm’s private little Eden in San Juan Bautista, Popelouchum, is an estate laboratory filled with viticultural experiments in capturing our region’s unique terroir. There, Grahm is grafting onto drought-resistant rootstock (grown from seed), some oddball grape varieties in hopes of producing heretofore unimaginable wines.
Back to the Gallo alliance.
“The project that we are jointly working on is in many ways a research project—one that would be essentially impossible for me to undertake entirely by myself,” Grahm said. Of course, it wouldn’t have an ordinary logo or some obvious name. The name for the initial wines to come from the new venture, The Language of Yes is based upon the Provençal dialect of Occitan, the Langue d’Oc (Stay with me). RG has explained that the term for the provincial language was exactly right to brand the wines based upon that South-of-France region, i.e., Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah. The Language of Yes seems poetic, a very “Grahm” antidote for the, uh, discomforting times in which we all find ourselves.
“If all goes well,” he tells me, “the RG/Gallo alliance will allow me some unique opportunities, not the least of which is financial, to play in a very cordial arena. It’s not necessarily familiar or always comfortable to work in such a highly structured environment, but the trade-off seems worth it. If I play my cards right, I’m hopeful I can avail myself of Gallo’s extremely powerful research capability to better illuminate vinous truth and hopefully produce wines that are in fact unique.”
It might just work. Fans of Grahm’s circuitous career, from Flying Cigar to New World vine whisperer, are spellbound by this latest chapter. Some are even dumbstruck. As Randall reminds us: “There’s enough ordinary wine in the world already.” Amen to that. Follow the progress of the Language of Yes vitiventure at languageofyeswine.com.
Small Non-Trivia: The excellent salad at Avanti, created to accompany the unctuous duck confit appetizer, is a salad of fresh corn right off the cob, tossed with bits of dry-farmed tomato and fresh basil and olive oil. True summer flavors. Nectarines. Right now. The best ones I’ve tasted this week are the white nectarines from Shoppers—tart, tangy, sweet, juicy and perfect.