In an uncharacteristic move, the wine world unbuttoned itself a bit recently. Said world is normally populated by a surfeit of folk in $100 watered-silk Italian neckties who do not speak so much as intone celestial sentiments like â€˜Great wine is made in the vineyardâ€™ moments before treating their juice to industrial yeasts, multiple fermentations and 100% or even 200% new French oak. Nevertheless, the wine world relaxed long enough to induct Bonny Doon founder and President-for-Life Randall Grahm (thatâ€™s him at right, guffawing maniacally) into the Vintners Hall Of Fame.
The official excuse, per the Culinary Institute of America, was â€˜significant contributions to the wine industry.â€™ Chiefest among them should be his relentless, highly literate wit and humor; his outrageous puns and eternal unstuffiness. Not one to settle for cheap wisecracks or desperate puns (e.g. Goats do Roam), Grahm in his nooseletter and elsewhere would produce chapter-length hilarities inspired by literature classic (e.g. The Vinferno) and contemporary (A Perfect Day for Barberafish).
Much of the nooseletterâ€™s unruly genius is preserved in Grahmâ€™s Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology (University of California Press, $35). Itâ€™s full of wit and wickedness (â€œThe Heartbreak of Wine Geekdom; Ten Ways to Know Youâ€™ve Met a Real Wine Geekâ€is one of my favorites); it also has subtle notes of tobacco and Gravenstein apples, and an abundance of long-chain tannins. It â€˜pairs wellâ€™ (ick!) with Le Cigare Volant or any other of Grahmâ€™s Rhone-variety wines. Or his Caâ€™ del Solo Sangiovese or Dolcetto or, come to think of it, anything else he makes. Grahm was shall we say somewhat sobered by the event, saying â€˜I am of course tremendously proud and gratified by this honor. But in candor, this really does mean that I have to at last buckle down and get to work.â€™ The mood passed, though, as he quickly added â€˜Work? Work!! (to paraphrase Maynard G. Krebs).â€™
Fellow inductees included Andy Beckstoffer, Zelma Long and (posthumously) Al Brounstein and Leon D. Adams, wine historian and author of The Wines of America. Not inducted: Barrique Obama, the failed herald of â€œchange,â€ fell two votes shy because his Chardonnays are still so woody they could be used to kill vampires. Fellow hopeful Puncheon Judy fared worse. The producer of Motley Cru (â€˜made from any grapes from anywhereâ€™) had offended the Academy before, as did the wineâ€™s alias (One-Buck Chuck) and the exclusive marketing deal with Interstate rest stops. Insiders hint, however, that her late-night cable-TV ads, complete with an 800 number an â€˜act now and weâ€™ll double the offerâ€™ come-on, were at last too much for the judges, who responded with a lifetime ban.
Photo: Alex Krause