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Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology [Hardcover]

Hugh Johnson , Randall Grahm

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Book Description

27 Nov 2009
This eclectic collection at last brings to a wide audience the irreverent, zany voice of Randall Grahm, visionary California winemaker and founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard. An iconoclastic send-up of the wine industry and a celebration of unsung grape varieties, the book features, among other things, Grahm's hilarious literary parodies - Joyce, Kafka, Pynchon, Salinger, and others - together with song lyrics, other snarky satires, poems, lectures, and more. Subtle undertones of gravitas with faint suggestions of earnestness lie beneath the humor, however, as Grahm passionately addresses the state of wine today: Where in wine does 'greatness' truly repose? How might true originality in New World wines be found? Do New World winemakers have the integrity and courage to unreservedly embrace terroir? This trove includes a very personal take on "Dante's Inferno" (Grahm's own vision of Wine Hell) and a collection of tunes from the rock opera "Born to Rhone". Other pieces offer a fascinating glimpse into the history of the Rhone Ranger wine movement and of Bonny Doon itself, told through the story of its adventurous wine labels. "Been Doon So Long" is a highly entertaining journey to find the 'truth of all things that may be found in the unlikely medium of a wineglass'.

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"There's witness to one of California's most magnetizing winemakers coming to terms with his more mature self." San Francisco Chronicle 20091018 "Sharp, irreverent musings on wine-everything from literary spoofs to serious essays. All are assembled here." Food & Wine 20091101 "I know of no other compendium of wine lit so erudite, witty, and straightforward as Grahm's remarkable book. " -- John Mariani Bloomberg News 20091115 "Brilliantly observed and beautifully rendered." New York Times 20091118 "A most entertaining course in oenology and an honest portrayal of one man's search for true originality and terroir." Fine Cooking 20100301 "Like a fine diamond. Every time you look at it from a different angle, you find a brilliant side you haven't seen before." California Grapevine 20100101 "Gorgeous volume...Packed with some of his best work." Wine & Spirits Magazine 20091201

About the Author

Randall Grahm's writing appears in the World of Fine Wine magazine. He has been inducted into Who's Who of Cooking in America and named Wine & Spirits Professional of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The one and only... 13 Oct 2009
By Chambolle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you have been a subscriber to the Bonny Doon newsletter, you're familiar with Randall Grahm's over the top punnery for wine geeks. Only Mr. Grahm would pen a satire titled "Reductio ad Sulfatum, or A Penny for Your Thoughts," riffing on reductive winemaking and replete with footnotes like this: "The use of copper sulfate (the active ingredient in Tidy Bowl) is the most common treatment for persistent reductive aromas in wines. In biodynamic practice, this highly effective treatment is, alas, strictly forbidden."

There is an entire chapter of verse entitled "Posey Galore," which includes such masterworks as "Howlbarino," by "Alain Gainesberger" and the lyrics to "Monster Grenache," to be sung to the tune of "The Monster Mash." I mean, where else would you find a line like "The guests included Henri Bone-eau, Michel Cryptoutier, Marcel Gui-goul and his fils"?

Like I said, you've got to be a particularly peculiar sort of wine geek to get off on Grahm's shtick -- but if a parody entitled "'B' by Thomas Puncheon" sounds intriguing, this is your book.

Incidentally, "Been Doon So Long" recently received a James Beard Award. Sounds like the book was right up their alley.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect gift for your wine, or literature, loving friend(s). 8 Feb 2010
By John M. Cesano - Published on Amazon.com
Randall Grahm is the owner and Winemaker of Bonny Doon Vineyard. Randall Grahm and Bonny Doon are nearly synonymous, so inextricably are the two linked for wine lovers. Randall Grahm became well known as one of the pioneers of Rhone varietal wines in California (Cinsault, Grenache, Mouvedre, Marsanne, Roussane, Viognier), and was at least equally well known for his mold breakingly unique wine labels (Chuck House, Ralph Steadman). Grahm found additional substantial success with relatively obscure Italian varietals.

Fortunately for anyone who loves wine, literature, and wine literature, Randall Grahm is also famous for his marketing prowess, which included his writings in a Bonny Doon Newsletter. While the Bonny Doon Newsletter was intended to aid the mercantile, to promote and sell the wine, the Newsletter became more ambitious, educating and sharing Grahm's point of view.

Randall Grahm's writings for the Newsletter were not limited to mere articles alone, or pre-blog blog entries in print medium; they included brilliantly executed parodies of notable literary works including Don Quixote, Catcher in the Rye, and A Clockwork Orange. Couched inside of each parody, Grahm commented on notions Doon-ian, and often poked fun and sometimes derision at a host of subjects enological or viticultural satirically. Grahm also parodied literary poets like Ginsberg in poesy, and popular song lyrics - including Have a Cigar from Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.

Been Doon So Long is a collection of these writings from the newsletter, as well as articles, speeches and essays. Sure to please his many fans, and educate a legion of new ones, Randall Grahm has also written a wonderful review on the history of his many wine labels.

The quality of literary playfulness, genius, makes this work of literary parody a great literary work in its own right.

In the book's center, at its core, is the book's masterwork, a parody of Dante's Divine Comedy. In Da Vino Commedia: The Vinferno, over nearly 60 pages with beautiful illustrations by Alex Gross, Grahm tells the tale of being taken "doon" through the nine circles of wine hell. After pointing out the sins of the industry in fullness, Grahm writes of being made to face his own sins and a desire to save himself from mortal zin, um sin.

As Grahm has grown older, he has grown wiser, and Grahm has reconsidered his priorities. A young daughter Amelie and a health scare have caused Grahm to focus his energy; his spiritual path has seen him divest himself of over 2/3rds of his labels and decrease his case production to less than 10% of Doon's previous output. He writes with passion about wanting to make honest wines that represent the place they come from, that have Terroir.

In an effort to achieve his goal of producing wines with Terroir, Randall Grahm is moving his wine operations from Santa Cruz to San Juan Bautista to grow grapes in the limestone rich soil, perhaps from seed, without irrigation or trellising, dry farmed and head grown; he wants to make Rhone and Italian varietals , wild and profoundly original, complex and emotionally resonant of the land itself.

In addition to Randall Grahm's passionate views on Terroir, Grahm opines on the superiority of a screw cap to a cork as a bottle closure, the general banality of California Chardonnay, the adult theme park that is the Napa Valley with its focus on lifestyle instead of life, and his abhorrence of point scores for wine (they are fixed, reductionist while wine is living, ever changing).

Randall Grahm's incredible grasp of the esoteric, his depth of wine knowledge, his passion for grape growing, his literary bent, and sheer talent brought together in Been Doon So Long caused me to feel unadulterated awe as I read his words, to shake my head in admiration (and a touch of NV) at his writing skill. More than once, reading in a public place, as I came upon a particularly naughty passage, I burst out in laughter causing those around me to seek the cause.

Randall Grahm fights the fights, going against the grain, doing things the hard way, in an effort to make something special. I have always loved that he makes un-boring wines. Doing things Grahm's way has meant having to write messages on an inflatable pig - or the Doonian equivalent. Newsletters, Radio, interviews, meet the winemaker dinners, anything and everything in service of educating a public unfamiliar with Bonny Doon's unfamiliar wines. I like wine with a message. Grahm's wines are message laden beverages - communicating unusual varietals, unique techniques used to produce them, visually artistic labels, and the wealth of information printed on them ; similarly his book is filled with messages, sometimes stuffed into satire, and further wrapped in the cloak of parody, or song, or poesy. Delectable, complex, textured, dense and filling.

Been Doon So Long, A Randall Grahm Vinthology is not Wine For Dummies; but if you have someone in your life who loves wine or literature, or in a perfect world loves both, this book would make an incredible gift that will be appreciated greatly.

I read over 100 wine books while working as a wine seller and marketer, while working for wine book publisher the Wine Appreciation Guild, and as a consumer and lover of wine. Simply put; I have never enjoyed a book on wine as much as I enjoyed Randall Grahm's Been Doon So Long.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that has transformed how I think about wine 1 Jan 2010
By Thad Westhusing - Published on Amazon.com
Like a captivating wine, Been Doon So Long is a book that encourages one to read, reflect, and then read again. And like any great cellar, this is a book that offers a variety of writings from various periods of Grahm's life as a winemaker, enabling the reader to be selective as to what is ultimately consumed. I approached Grahm's book with the initial impulse to consume it cover-to-cover, only to find myself reading and returning to various sections of the book that resonated most with me.

Of particular interest were the pieces organized under the section, "Earnest Speeches and Sober Essays". Here, I discovered insights into the true meaning of terroir; how we Americans suffer from an immature wine culture; the merits of originality and minerality; and most importantly, how wine reaches deep into our states of mind, body, and soul. Grahm's writings, especially the essay, "A Meditation on Terroir: The Return", helped connect the dots for me, providing the context my consciousness needed to better understand and appreciate wine in a more profound and meaningful way.

Besides connecting dots, Grahm's candid reflections on his multi-decade journey crafting and marketing wine helped me better understand the person behind the Bonny Doon labels. Until reading this book, my impression of Grahm was primarily that of an innovative (lest we forget witty) marketer as well as an astute businessman, with the additional thought that he had the wherewithal of making decent wine at scale.

I had no frame of reference on his soul, nor did I understand the transformation that was occurring in Grahm as a winemaker thru the 90's and into the next decade, when he decided to part ways with the larger parts of his business and focus solely on a few select vins de terroir. I found it interesting to read Grahm's narrative of his journey while reflecting on my own experience with wine. In a very compelling way, Been Doon So Long helped me understand what was driving my palate's thirst for vins de terroir.

As a result of reading Been Doon So Long, a door has been opened and a new path discovered that will alter the wines I seek, collect, and open at my table in the months ahead.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great representation of Randall's personality 20 July 2010
By Dan S. Higgins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I will start by saying Bonny Doon wine, and brand, was one of the reasons I became so interested in wine. Randall is a hell of a marketing man and his wines at one time were quite good. Old Telegraham was one of my favorites. Those days seem to be over with Randall selling most of the brand and buying property in San Juan Bautista to grow Rhone varietals. Anyway the first third of this book is Randall explaining how he and his cohorts came up with the ideas for their labels with the lower third of a lot of the pages containing digressions in smaller print. That's annoying. The second third of the book is simply the reprinting of newsletters he would send to to people on his mailing list. These for me were written in a style and vernacular that I simply couldn't comprehend. Also annoying. I did not make it to the last third of the book. If you are looking for the history of the Bonny Doon Winery this is not it. If it weren't for the fantastic artwork throughout I would have rated this two stars. As I write this review I realize Been Doon So Long fits perfectly into Randall's grand scheme (I mean that in the best way) of marketing.
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