Bonny Doon Vineyard was founded in 1983 by renowned winemaker Randall Grahm. Randall’s start in the wine industry was not what you might expect for someone with his reputation and talent: he worked at the Wine Merchant in Beverly Hills, sweeping floors. It was here that he got to taste great French wines, and the experience ignited an obsession with wine. He earned a degree in plant sciences from UC Davis in 1979, as well as a reputation for being a Pinot Noir fanatic.
With his family’s assistance, Randall purchased property in the Santa Cruz Mountains, in a small hamlet called Bonny Boon. His original intention was to produce the ‘Great American Pinot Noir’, but he soon discovered the potential of Rhône varieties in the area. Bonny Doon’s first release was the 1984 Le Cigare Volant, a homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, that continues to be the flagship brand for the winery. Randell has remained a champion of Rhône grapes ever since, even appearing in a 1989 Wine Spectator as “The Rhône Ranger.”
Bonny Doon has a long history of innovation: they were the first to popularize Rhône grapes in California, the first to work with cryo-extraction with Vins de Glacière, the first to use microbullage in California, the first to popularize premium wines with screwcaps, and also the first to embrace total transparency with its wine ingredient labeling initiative.
Once Bonny Doon became the 28th largest winery in the United States, Randell decided to pull back on expansion. In 2010 he sold off his larger brands to focus on working his vineyards and improving practices, utilizing a lighter touch (such as using indigenous yeast) whenever possible and limiting vinous cosmetics. Since early 2004, Bonny Doon has adopted and encouraged Biodynamic viticulture and practices whenever possible, as they believe this gives the best opportunity to produce distinctive, interesting and vibrant wines. They believe in producing wines the ‘old-fangled’ way with “minimum adornment and special FX; wines moderate in alcohol, not over-ripe or over-extracted and emphatically made with minimal use of new oak”. Bonny Doon’s commitment to communicating better with the soil and environment evolves into the essence of terroir, where the grower, farm, and vine are linked in an intimate relationship, working on the same team to express all working components of grape growing and wine making into a glass of Bonny Doon.