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Grahm to focus on aromatics

Published:  23 July, 2008

Randall Grahm of California producer Bonny Doon is to start producing Grner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc and Riesling in large quantities from next year.

Grahm is building a winery costing several million dollars in West Richland in the Columbia Valley of eastern Washington, scheduled to be finished in September.

The big advantage of the new grapes is that they aren't Chardonnay,' said Grahm. I don't think there's anything new that can be added to knowledge of Chardonnay. Chenin is one of the great misunderstood varietals. It has fabulous fruit and acidity, with fantastic botrytis potential.'

As for Riesling, Grahm says the US market has changed dramatically with regard to the way it perceives Riesling. I was mistaken in saying that the American public would never go for it. There is vast potential for this varietal.'

Most of the vines in Washington State will be trellised in the old-fashioned pergola style, not the more common guyot arrangement This high-training system allows for shade, which, says Grahm, creates the crucial Old World-style floral notes and acidity. Most people think it's down to temperature. But what actually stops the New World from making great aromatic whites is the piercing light. Too much sun thickens the skins which reduces the aromatics.'

The winery will produce 100,000 cases, which Grahm intends to increase to 300,000 within four years. He also plans to plant another 60 hectares of Rhne varietals at his Bonny Doon property, and to release a botrytis-affected Roussane dessert wine. He intends to end the practice of buying in fruit from other growers at Bonny Doon, making the operation in California fully estate grown and 100% biodynamic.

At present, his grapes are 65% biodynamic, and soon to be certified. Grahm said that in general he is slimming down lines'. Having sold off Cardinal Zin, he will end production of his framboise wine, Old Telegram, and Le Blageur wines.