A grape to call our own

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Yes, that’s whatit looks like. A UFO is beaming down on this Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2011 wine label. Matt Kettmann, editor at the Santa Barbara Independent and Wine Enthusiast came in to give the backstory on this eccentric wine, and the creative winemaker who aspires to develop California’s own grape varietals.

The wine was created by Randall Grahm, who recently sold his Big House Winery brand to buy property in San Juan Bautista, CA and begin a new venture.

“He’s saying he wants to plant 10,000 varietals,” says Kettmann, who recently visited Grahm at his property. “There are only 3,000 or so in the world, so he’s going to plant every varietal he can get his hands on, everything from Grenache to Merlot to some crazy Greek varietals you’ve never heard, and then try to cross them with each other.”

Bonny DoonHis property yields itself to such experimentation, with various types of soil and a location that sits between the hotness of Santa Clara valley and the coolness of the Monterey Bay area.

But the question remains: does California really need its own varietal? Is it not good enough that lots of old world grapes, like Pinot and Chardonnay, do well here?

Kettmann asked Grahm the same question, and received one back. “Why would we want to just come up with the best facsimile of an old world grape,” he was asked in retort. “Wouldn’t we want to do something for ourselves?”

Grahm is working with the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis to do just that. Although many doubt his success, others commend his trailblazing attitude.

“Randall is known as being this crazy character, but when you actually meet him in person he sounds like the most sane individual there is,” says Kettmann. “Sometimes I think doing important things requires a creative mind.”

Matt Kettmann catches up with us every Wednesday morning and afternoon on 88.7 FM in Santa Barbara. You can hear his past segments on food and wine here.

Music by Dawg Yawp.