Bonny Doon Vineyards was started in the Santa Cruz Mountains by Randall Graham in 1983 after he completed his degree in Plant Sciences at the University of California at Davis. Although his initial passion/obsession was to create the “Great American Pinot Noir,” he quickly gained notoriety for his pioneering use of Rhône varietals in California. The original Bonny Doon Estate Vineyard was planted to Syrah, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier and in 1986 he released the inaugural (1984) vintage of “Le Cigare Volant,” his iconic blend modeled after the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
In the late 1980s, Bonny Doon made another pioneering move and planted its “Ca’ del Solo” vineyard in Monterey County to Italian varietals. After the Santa Cruz Mountains estate vineyards were destroyed by Pierce’s disease in 1994, Bonny Doon began a program of purchasing fruit from various growers in California, Oregon, and Europe; developed several wildly popular brands; and expanded rapidly – at its peak producing somewhere in the range of 450,000 cases.
Starting in 2006, Randall decided he needed to move Bonny Doon in a new direction in an attempt to become more congruent with his deepest ideals. He sold Bonny Doon’s biggest brands as well as the winery and tasting room. The winery has relocated to SantaCruz, and Randall has begun acquiring various parcels of land that he believes can be dry-farmed and give him the potential to produce true a true vin de terroir.
Randall Graham is variously described as a genius, wine’s bad boy, compulsive punster, dreamer, provocateur and the Willy Wonka of the wine world. We find him also to be generous, endlessly interesting, totally original and a good friend. And, while he has already accomplished great things in his life, he is now beginning his greatest adventure, drawing together his discovery of biodynamic farming practices, his commitment to the demystification of winemaking and to transparent business practices, particularly in the realm of ingredient labeling.