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Bonny Doon Wine Dinner at El Barzon

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It’s always exciting to hear about a wine dinner featuring selections from one of our favorite producers being held at one of the hottest restaurants in town, especially when the total tab for the event is only $39. That’s just what took place at El Barzon, the critically acclaimed Mexican-Italian eatery in Detroit’s southwest side, last Thursday, January 28th, when six wines from Bonny Doon Vineyards were paired with six courses from their excellent menu. We’ve expressed our appreciation for Randall Grahm’s wines on more than one occasion, and Kim and I had dined at El Barzon just a few months ago, so we made our reservations as soon as we caught wind of the happenings.

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The dinner was the brain child of our friend and colleague Putnam Weekley, who serves as wine manager at El Barzon. Putnam planned in conjunction with Elisa Weber-Saintin of Little Guy Wine Company in Ann Arbor, who now distributes Bonny Doon in southeastern Michigan, and Chef-owner Norberto Garita, tasting together to select just the right dishes to match with each wine. We tasted four of the six wines last June, but enjoying them with Chef Garita’s cuisine cast them in a completely new light.

We joined our friends Master Sommelier Claudia Tyagi, Michelle DeHayes of AHD Vintners, Michelle’s mother Mary and Sommelier Michelle Nyland for the festivities and Putnam poured us a taste of the following wine to get us started, telling us that Randall had sent it for the tasting.

2001 Bonny Doon California Le Cigare Volant, 34% Grenache, 33% Syrah, 27% Mourvedre, 2% Carignane, 2% Cinsault, 6% Viognier, 13.5% alc.: Clean, dark color, and leathery on the nose in a pleasant way, and much the same on the palate, to a point; Claudia adds an impression of “tobacco, aptly named.” Unfortunately, this particular bottle is a bit hot and dried out; Michelle described it as “a little baked.” Not really bad, but more likely an off bottle. Find this wine

Our first wine of the scheduled lineup was one that we didn’t try last June, and it was matched with El Barzon’s Pico de Gallo, corn salsa with fresh tortilla chips. (Prices listed are regular retail at participating outlets, including Western Market in Ferndale, Holiday Market in Royal Oak, and Everyday Wines in Ann Arbor, unless otherwise noted.)

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2008 Bonny Doon Monterey Muscat Ca’ Del Solo Estate Vineyard, 12.5% alc., 1% RS, $21.00: Pale in color, and exuding effusively floral, classic Muscat aromatics of honey suckle and orange blossom that’s just so pretty! Much drier on the palate than the nose would lead one to expect, medium bodied, with excellent acids and nice length. A lovely wine that Claudia characterizes as “like silk, charming and delicate.” Find this wine

Bonny Doon’s take on Spain’s signature dry white is a classic match with Frito Misto El Barzon, fried calamari and shrimp with mixed hot peppers.

2008 Bonny Doon Monterey Albarino Ca’ Del Solo Estate Vineyard, 75% Albarino, 21% Loureiro, 4% Treixadura, 12.8% alc., $23.00: Pale to medium color, with subtly floral and mineral on the nose, followed by grapefruit-lemon-citrus and mineral flavors; medium bodied, with excellent acids and good balance and intensity. Bone dry without being austere, the citrus character carries this right along. Claudia adds an impression of “lime blossom.” Find this wine

You probably can’t find a better match for Strozzapreti Norcina (homemade twisted pasta with sausage ragu) than good Sangiovese, and Bonny Doon’s certainly fits the bill.

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2006 Bonny Doon San Benito Sangiovese, 77% Sangiovese, 16% Freisa, 6% Syrah, 1% Grenache, 14.2% alc., $17: Showing clean, dark color, and offering earthy dried cherry, blackberry and leather flavors and aromas; full bodied, well structured and nicely balanced, with the requisite acids usually associated with this variety, this should age effortlessly for at least a few years, but why wait? Find this wine

What better match for Pipian (mole verde on chicken breast) than a nice rosé?

2008 Bonny Doon California Vin Gris De Cigare “Rosé‚ Wine of the Earth,” 58% Grenache, 18% Cinsault, 10% Roussanne, 7% Mourvedre, 4% Syrah, 3% Grenache Blanc, 13.6% alc., $18.00: Restrained rather than intense, this delicate pale peach pink colored wine seems a bit weak after the preceding selections, but comes alive when sipped with the Pipian, with its under-ripe strawberry and subtle mineral flavors. Find this wine

The other Bonny Doon wine that we didn’t try last June, this Syrah, was served to good measure with Tacos de Lengua (beef tongue tacos with cilantro, onion and homemade salsa). Clean, dark color, full bodied, yet sleek and more resembling northern Rhône than so many of the blowsy Californian Syrahs that are out there. Dry, but not too earthy, with flavors and aromas of dark plum shaded with hints of black olive and smoke, and it has the structure to age at least 5 years. One taster paid compliments with the descriptors “elegant and meaty.” Find this wine

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2005 Bonny Doon Central Coast Syrah Le Pousseur, 13% alc., $20.00:

Chile en Nogada (chile poblano filled with beef, pork, apple, peach and pear, topped with pecan cream sauce and pomegranate seeds) was next on the menu, and it paired beautifully with the following wine.

2007 Bonny Doon Arroyo Seco Le Cigare Blanc Beeswax Vineyard, 64% Roussanne, 34% Grenache Blanc, 14.6% alc., $25.00: Clean pale to medium color; fresh and lovely, with mineral, white tree fruit and a hint of lanolin in flavor and aroma. Medium full bodied, and very smooth and elegant, yet kept moving right along with deceptively good acids. Michelle detected a note of celery seed, while Claudia mentioned an impression of daikon, adding that “It’s so concentrated in a good way!” Find this wine

The final course was Barbacoa de Chivo, or braised goat, and what better wine to pair it with than Le Cigare Volant?

2004 Bonny Doon California Le Cigare Volant, 38% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre, 8% Carignane, 7% Cinsault, 13.5% alc., $38.00: A superb Left Coast approximation of Chateauneuf du Pape, this shows clean dark color and offers earthy plum and berry shaded with some leather and a hint of tobacco. Smooth, full bodied and well structured, it’s more Franco than Cal in style and while drinking well already, should give pleasure for several years down the road. Find this wine

Finally, we were treated to a short pour of one of Bonny Doon’s Dessert wines, and it was all that this taster need to top off this delightful evening.

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2008 Bonny Doon Arroyo Seco Vinferno Beeswax Vineyard, 49% Roussanne, 51% Grenache Blanc, 13.7% alc., $20.00 at the winery: Showing clean, medium color and exuding a lovely floral nose, this is all about apricot, honey and roses; sweet, but not over the top and a little unctuous and oily in texture. Nicely balanced, with good acidity and quite delicious. There was no botrytis this vintage, so the grapes were dried on straw mats for three weeks. Find this wine

In the end, it was a marvelous night of fine food and wine. Putnam did a terrific job in putting it all together, and both El Barzon and Bonny Doon Vineyards are deserving of far greater recognition for the very good things that they are doing, and hopefully, this testimonial can play some small part in spreading the word.

Reporting from Day-twah,

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