Footnotes to Sub-terroir Rhônesick Blues

The reader may know or be able to infer that I live a somewhat convoluted, self-referential life; that is to say, many of my personal points of reference seem to exist in the realm of vinous and the arcane (generally both). Eliot footnoted The Wasteland; why not to footnote a Bob Dylan song parody about some of the more obscure aspects of winemaking chez Doon?

There is not one particular reason why I have undertaken to produce the Rhônesick Blues video,1 apart from the fact that it a) seemed to be a fun thing to do, and 2) it might bring a little more attention to the wine and the brand itself; something, I’m afraid, that it is a bit of a necessity these days. I am quite sensitive, perhaps to the point of the slightly pathological, to being branded a “marketer,” or worse yet, a “marketeer,”2 but the truth is that unless you enjoy the rare luxury of having a legion of others stentoriously trumpeting the virtues of your wines, you must in some way essay to reveal those wines to their world and speak to their overarching significance. Like it or not, you are then squarely in the realm of marketing. Yes, I’ll say it one last time and then lay this painful business to rest: Admittedly, we have in the past been far too focused on marketing and not enough on the quality of the wines themselves. But that has changed. Dramatically. Please don’t take me at my word; try the wines and come to your own conclusions.

The Sub-terroir3 Rhônesick Blues parody really tries to get at the existential angst of one sincerely seeking to improve the quality of his wines. I am always hearing a cacophony of opinionated voices, second thoughts (should I have added 30 instead of 40 ppm of SO2?), mixed with the subtle intuitions and inspirations I am hoping to find. One tries to reconcile the absurdity of the current state of the wine business with the anguished cries of one’s aesthetic conscience. I recommend consuming the ’05 Le Cigare Volant whilst contemplating these footnotes and/or thinking about the wonder of it all.

Sub-terroir Rhônesick Blues

J. Locke’s4 in the cold cave
Drinking down the old Chave5
I’m on the crushpad
Thinking about the Advocate6
The man in the lab coat
Reporting on a horsy note7
Final review’s just now set
Says we’ve got some bad brett,
Sees filtration as a safety net.8
Look out grahm
You’re gonna get slammed
God knows why
But Cigare’s never gonna fly.9
Make wine a better way
Looking for a new trend10
Winegeek blogging up a blue streak,
Still likes wines for real men11
Wants a score of one ten
You only got an eighty-point blend.12

Girl from the raw bar
Said she wants some terroir
200% good wood w/ extra char13
Spaceship wines won’t fly far.

I’ve been told that many say
Wine is closed on a “leaf day”14
Gotta rack it anyway
Watch out for mounting V.A.
Look out grahm
Don’t matter point scores a sham.
Don’t take gulps or big sips
No untoasted oak chips15
Watch those immature grape pips16
And riding illicit spaceships.
Better stay away from those
That carry ‘round kinked wine hose
Watch that residual xylose17
Make sure the bottle’s got a clean nose
You don’t need a Spectator
To know for sure your wine blows.18

Wine’s sick, wine’s well,19
Darkly colored as an inkwell
Wholesale business gone to hell, hard to tell
If anything will ever sell20
Try hard, get ****ed
Hang around the wine bars, carouse
Drink Big House, get soused21
Find informed water if you dowse.22
Look out, grahm
Your wine aint got ‘nuff raspberry jam23
But “Speculative” thinkers, wine boors
Hard-core trophy drinkers
Hang around the cellar door24
Girl by the Jacuzzi flow-form25
Just looking how to stay warm
No need for saigner bleeders26
Watch your pH meters27

Ah, get scored, get bored
Bad hair, County Fair, fruit bomb-scare
Alcohol too high, sugar pill aint Beaune-dry28
Try to be an Ex-Spectorator “Best Buy”
Please Jim, please Bob,29 Samsonite clonal grapevine30
Don’t you cross-filter, don’t fine31
Six years of Davis
And they put you on the bottling line.
Look out grahm
Are you a lion or a lamb?32
Better punchdown a warm cap
Go to Berserkeley, get a case of Clape,33
Learn to love the screwcap
Avoid whole clusters w/ the green sap34
No use for designer yeast
Wine must pair well w/ roast beast
The must pump don’t work
Cause: Too much grape-crap in the air-trap.35

Watch video of the Rhônesick Blues recording session. Professional footage of the recording session and finished music video coming soon.

  1. Freud pointed out that all of our actions are “over-determined,” i.e. a conflux of mixed motives; this was known by Shakespeare (“Two natures beat within my breast.”) and the ancient Greeks as well. []
  2. Contemplate the irony of “marketing” one’s gravitas as well as publically proclaiming one’s indifference to public attention or approbation. []
  3. This – the manifest non-expression of terroir in our wines – is the greatest source of anguish in my winemaking life. []
  4. John Locke was a long-time collaborator at Bonny Doon, my Doppelgänger, and still dear friend. []
  5. This might have in fact happened at one point or another. I was fortunate enough to have purchased a number of bottles of Chave from Kermit back when prices were not quite so stratospheric. []
  6. This would of course be The Wine Advocate (Parker’s Journal), not The Advocate, but I like the ambiguity. []
  7. A horsy note in a wine is generally prima facie evidence of a Brettanomyces infection. []
  8. If you sterile filter a wine, you can pretty much stop the Brett situation from getting worse, but there is some cost to the wine itself. []
  9. OK, this is a bit of self-deprecation and may well be misconstrued. In fact, we (that is all of us) must insure that Cigare flies high. Recent vintages of Cigare have been just great, each one seemingly better than the last. []
  10. A little irony here: I’m not at all looking for a new trend. I’m really just trying to figure out how to make the best possible wine which can be made and that will somehow express some real distinction. []
  11. The wine blogosphere, at least the most influential sectors of it, is still largely dominated by wine drinkers, who esteem power and concentration above all. Manly wines for manly winedrinkers. (Joel Peterson captured this perfectly in his apothegm, “No Wimpy Wines!” []
  12. The shame of not quite measuring up. []
  13. One of the indications of a wine-world of decadent wretched excess was the brief fascination a few years back with the utilization of “200%” new wood, i.e. the passage of a wine in new oak barrels, followed by racking into yet another set of virgin barrels. This practice would certainly, perhaps divinely, signify that a winery owner had too much money for his/her own good. []
  14. In the biodynamic practice, specifically in the utilization of the biodynamic calendar, it is believed that plants (and other organisms) on earth change with a sort of periodicity in response to the celestial bodies. On a given day, one part of the plant (the leaves vs. the roots for example) may be more energetically active and one can gear one’s farming practice to take advantage of this fact – irrigating (if one must) on a “root day” will give you better water uptake than on a “flower day,” for example. The wine itself seems also to change based on this astronomical calendar (though also of course sensitive to many other factors, such as lunar cycle and changes in barometric pressure.) It has been my own experience that wines do not present as well on “leaf days,” compared to say, “fruit days.” Just one more bit of evidence of the world as “one great blooming, buzzing confusion,” in the words of William James. []
  15. We have experimented in the use of untoasted oak chips in our wines with generally benign results. They seem to help stabilize the color in the wine without adding much discernible oak character. I have been rethinking the use of chips in our premium wines, largely out of aesthetic considerations, and we’ve largely eliminated the practice with the ’09 vintage. []
  16. The quality of a wine’s tannins comes largely from the grape seeds and a determination of the seed’s ripeness is absolutely crucial in producing a wine with a reasonably silky tannic structure. []
  17. Xylose is a wood sugar, primarily derived from new oak barrels, unfermentable by Saccharomyces, but a potential nutritional source to spoilage yeast. For this reason, somewhat counterintuitively, Brett is often a bigger problem with new barrels than with old. []
  18. This was a bit gratuitous on my part and sorry for the rude language. But, yes, you really don’t need the Spectator (or anyone else) to tell you whether or not you should be happy with your wine. While it is of economic necessity to ultimately sell your wine at something like a reasonable profit, your job as a winemaker really is to please yourself. []
  19. I have gone on at great length elsewhere on wine’s enormous seeming mutability. Wine (and its consumers) are always in a state of Heraclitean flux. []
  20. Don’t get me started on this. Selling wine in the wholesale market these days really is murder. []
  21. I don’t drink much Big House these days for obvious reasons, but love the rhyme with “get soused.” []
  22. There is the belief among some that water, owing to its unique electro-magnetic properties is potentially the carrier of all sorts of information on an energetic level, retaining a kind of “memory” of a solute that had once touched it but is no longer physically present. Water that is carrying specific energetic information is called “informed water.” There have been a number of experiments proposed to validate this phenomenon, none of which have been scientifically conclusive. []
  23. Duh. Of course it doesn’t. We eschew crazy ripeness levels and selected yeast strains that accentuate the jammy character in wine. []
  24. This is patently false. We don’t seem to get too many trophy wine drinkers hanging around our “Cellar Door.” []
  25. If you come to visit us at our “Cellar Door,” you will observe a rather beautiful flow-form water feature – a sculptural form that emulates the eddying motion of natural watercourses – which, while not even remotely Jacuzzi-like, does produce rather hypnotically beautiful figure-eight forms. []
  26. In previous years, we were somewhat reliant on the technique of saigner, or the bleeding off of juice from our red tanks prior to fermentation to attain sufficient concentration in our red wines. With better management of our vineyards, we are far less reliant on this practice. []
  27. I like the spoof on Dylan’s “parking meters.” We do watch the pHs in our wines, but try not to be slavishly devoted to formulaic parameters. []
  28. At the end of fermentation, we do want to make sure that our wines go to complete dryness, making them a lot more stable microbiologically. []
  29. This would be Mr. Laube and Mr. Parker respectively, but I no longer wish to slavishly essay to please them. []
  30. It is conceivable that a vine or two has entered this country via luggage. The point is that winemakers will risk confiscatory fines in the attempt to arrive at superior planting material, and by extension, superior wines. []
  31. In a perfect world, there would be no need to filter or fine one’s wine. We don’t fine our wines but in some instances if there are major microbiological issues, we will filter, reluctantly. We’re working hard to get in front of microbiological issues before they become problematic. []
  32. Darn good question. []
  33. The brilliant wines of Auguste Clape are available at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants in Berkeley. []
  34. The lunar rhythms will have a bearing on the degree of sap that exists in the stems of grapes, an important consideration if one is using a significant fraction of undestemmed fruit in the fermenter. []
  35. I’m quite pleased that we were not compelled to use our must pump at all this vintage and have been able to handle our grapes in a much gentler fashion. []

7 Responses to “Footnotes to Sub-terroir Rhônesick Blues”

  1. [...] a toast to William Blake, and a nod to Randall Grahm, master of the wine-poetic parody) Published [...]

  2. [...] my favorite creative moments at Bonny Doon are shown below.  The first is a recording session of Sub-terroir Rhônesick Blues taken with my iPhone at a studio down the street (that some business is conducted on the basis of [...]

  3. Ron says:

    Very creative. Hard to believe I only just saw the original Bob Dylan video for the first time a few months ago on YouTube. Killer contribution here, nicely done, and not too self-referential.

  4. [...] a toast to William Blake, and a nod to Randall Grahm, master of the wine-poetic parody) This entry was posted in Spain, cabernet sauvignon, tasting and [...]

  5. [...] glass to expand and spread its wings. We would all do well to do the same. Watch new video! “Sub-terroir Rhônesick Blues music video with footnotes“ blog post and on YouTube. Purchase Le Cigare Blanc in the Bonny Doon Vineyard store. It [...]

  6. [...] Graham takes on winemaking, critics and designer yeast in his own Dylan-style video. Visit the Been Doon So Long site for full lyrics and copious [...]

  7. [...] post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written – Footnotes to Sub-terroir Rhônesick Blues Lord knows the Deadly Sins usually have an open invitation to the revolving door that is my home, [...]

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