2009 Bonny Doon Vinho Grinho

Growing Portuguese Grapes in Monterey County

I like Portuguese wine.

I like Randall Grahm.

So it’s no surprise that I like this wine. I don’t love it, not yet, but there’s so much to like about it, I’m still pretty excited.

By now, chances are you know the tale. Maybe you’ve even heard me tell it. The tale of the Rhone Ranger, Randall Grahm, who twenty-some odd years ago starting really going to town growing Rhone varieties in California, which had been dominated by the noble species of Bordeaux and Burgundy to that point.

But now, everybody’s growing grenache and syrah. OK, maybe not everybody, but still, the two grapes—especially syrah—are incredibly easy to find in California wine now. Randall doesn’t seem the type to do much laurels-resting, so where’s he headed next?


I don’t know of anyone in California—and please, please correct me if I’m wrong—making wine that is over 50% loureiro. Besides Bonny Doon, that is.

At 56% loureiro and 44% alvarinho (I use albarino’s Portuguese spelling here for obvious reasons), Bonny Doon’s Vinho Grinho (VEEN-yo GREEN-yo) is California’s first attempt1 at Portugal’s venerable Vinho Verde white wine. The grapes hail from BD’s Ca' del Solo estate vineyards in Monterey County.

And it’s pretty damn good. It will kind of depend on what you’re looking for in a white, of course, but this was something I enjoyed, and my wife actually kind of raved about.

The wine is almost clear, light yellow in the glass. Kind of sauv blancish if you’ve never seen a Vinho Verde before, and kind of Vinho Verdesque if you have. The nose features pine and green herbs, but not heavy, very light in the air.

The wine is actually a bit fuller-bodied than I expected, but I would still characterize it as “light-to-medium” bodied. Minty herbs that reflect the aromas on the nose are greeted by a pleasant green apple note on the palate. The wine is not particularly acidic, and finishes pretty short, but it’s not meant to be big or bombastic.

I hope this is an example of things to come for California winemaking, just as Randall’s adoption of the south of France was in the 1980s. The world could use more wine from Portuguese grapes.

Verdict: 86/100

  1. again, that I know of

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