Book Review: Been Doon So Long

By John ~ June 4th, 2010.

I need to tell you right up front that you have to be somewhat of a different sort of wine geek to even understand what author Randall Grahm is saying most of the time. But if you like wine and literature and enjoy parodies, this is your book. By the way, Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology recently received a James Beard Award, so it must have hit their hot button.

I’m a little ambivalent about the book. It contains a wealth of information, but it is mostly a collection of writings from the famous Bonny Doon Newsletter.

As you may know, Randall Grahm was the founder, owner, and winemaker of Bonny Doon Vineyard. He started out to make the great American Pinot Noir and instead ended up becoming known as one of the pioneers of Rhone varietal wines in California. Mostly, Grahm is famous for his marketing prowess and unique Bonny Doon labels. While the Bonny Doon Newsletter I mentioned earlier was intended to aid the wine trade in promoting and selling his wine, such as the famous “Big House” brand, the newsletter became more of a platform for educating and sharing Grahm’s point of view on wine and life.

It is obvious in the book that Grahm is very opinionated on a number of subjects. In addition to his passionate views on terroir, Grahm leads the charge in advocating the screw cap over the cork as a bottle closure, pans California Chardonnay unmercifully, calls Napa Valley an adult theme park, and criticizes the popularity of point scores for wine while admitting that maybe part of the reason is that he hasn’t always taken winemaking as seriously as marketing and his own scores haven’t been all that high.

As Grahm has grown older, he has reconsidered his priorities and made some big changes in both his business and personal life. No doubt, a young daughter and a health scare have caused him to refocus his energy. In 2006, he sold two of his large brands, reconstituted the Riesling-focused Pacific Rim brand, and committed himself to really making distinctive wines. I get the feeling that he has some regrets about his previous emphasis on scale of production, and now wants only to make honest wines that represent the place they come from; in other words, wines that express their terroir.

This book is not for everyone, but on balance I liked it. If any of the highlights above have peaked your interest or you’d like to learn more about Randall Grahm, then pick up a copy today.

Have you already read Been Doon So Long? If so, please leave a comment and let us know what you thought of it.


Full Disclosure: We received this book as a review copy.

Filed under: American Wine, California Wine, Wine Books

Reader's Comments

  1. Stevie | June 4th, 2010 at 8:11 am

    I haven’t read the book but I’ve been to the winery. It was fun but I wasn’t soo keen on the wines. You don’t make the book sound much better. Good to know.

  2. Rick | June 4th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I’m happy to see Randal Graham focus on his wines now as he is a talented guy, so now he can prove to himself he can make a top grade wine. I stopped by the winery a long time ago and it was obvious it was all about the show, yes marketing, kiss the ring, as I thought the wines had no structure or fineness in my opinion. I tried them a couple of times later at tasting events but never purchased a bottle.

    With quotes about Randal and his beliefs regarding Napa, I have been calling Napa Disneyland for 8+ years after seeing it in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. California has to many other great areas to explore for wine tasters. I’m with him on most Chardonnays but there are some nice ones in CA. Randal was right on point for screw caps but in my opinion screw caps are suited for whites and all drinkers but not for quality reds whereas glass closures work very well.

    Thanks for you article John,………Rick

  3. John | June 4th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks for visiting us. I hope I saved you some time.

    I agree with your thoughts on Randal and his wines in the past. Just as you, I hope he is more focused on making good wine today. Thanks for your other comments. Glad you liked the post.