Beauty and the Beast: Two Bonny Doon Single Vineyard Syrahs


I picked up the Jespersen Syrah after a recent trip to Bonny Doon with my wife Emily. I had one a few months back and hadn’t exactly been overwhelmed by it but it tasted spectacular in the tasting room so I thought I’d give it another chance. I’m glad I did.

The Jespersen Syrah is Randall’s most cool-climate Syrah. Like many of his Syrahs on first opening there’s a lot of primary fruit. This one also had a pleasant funk on the nose but I’ve learned that Bonny Doon Syrahs need some time to breathe in order to develop their secondary cool-climate Syrah characteristics. After some time open, this wine has those flavors in spades, aromas of salty licorice and tobacco with some fresh strawberry or raspberry aromas in the background. Those fresh fruit aromas carry over onto the mid-palate with nice acidity and lift, the tannins are reminiscent of a St. Joseph wine because they aren’t overwhelming or harsh. Great stuff. The wine comes in at a cool 12.7% alcohol level.


The 2009 Syrah “Chequera” (17% Viognier)

The Chequera is not as elegant a wine, in fact it’s kind of a tannic beast at this point. There’s a lot of pomegranate and blackberry on the nose, also some earthiness and a lot of minerality. It’s a big wine but somewhat restrained because of its relatively low alcohol level (13.7%). It’s hard to believe that this wine is from Paso because of its fresh fruit flavors but wow it’s tannic. I can only imagine what the Syrah was like without the addition of the Viognier which may have tempered the tannins a bit. It’s a drying wine that’s reminiscent of some of the Petaluma gap wines I’ve had. Sort of an in-between warm and cool-climate Syrah with its huge mid-palate on present tannins. I like it but it’s a wine that begs for bold food. This is not a Syrah that you could enjoy with chicken. It’s a Syrah that kind of fits the stereotype of big and meaty dishes like barbecued ribs. I enjoy it but it’s not as much “up my alley” as the Jespersen.

Randall Graham continues to impress me with these single vineyard Syrahs. Just take my advice and open them at least an hour before drinking or, even better, let them breathe overnight.

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