A dinner in honor of celebrated winemaker Randall Grahm

It’s not every day that I get to cook for someone as special as Randall Grahm, the self-proclaimed “founder, winemaker, terroirist-vinarchist and prez-for-life” of Bonny Doon Vineyard.

Randall was in New York to attend the James Beard Award ceremonies last Sunday evening. We had planned the dinner with some of our most famous acquaintances for the evening before the 1st of May, Saturday the 1st.

The dinner idea first came to me a few months ago; I began planning the menu. Randall Grahm is known for his vins of Terroir, which is why I wanted the cuisine to reflect the Terroir as well. I created an inventory of the spring vegetables I could discover on the Union Square Greenmarket, and using that list, I began making a menu that would be seasonal and perfect with Randall Grahm’s wines.

The only problem was that I was still determining what Randall would decide to serve that night. But, I still went to work knowing that some of Bonny Doon’s most famous varieties would be on the menu: Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault Mourvedre Roussane, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc.

If one is passionate about something, it’s simple to be in awe. I am a huge fan of wine from Randall Grahm. It’s no wonder that the recipes were almost invented themselves.

It was only just a few weeks before evening that Randall sent me a selection of wine he was planning to serve – 14 wines, to be exact. It could be a single thing: we could serve wine flights for almost every course. One week later, I was given the box. My hands began to shake when I opened it and uncovered the bottles. The first I pulled out came from the year 1985 Claret. “Dear God,” I thought, “We are going to be tasting Randall’s journey as a winemaker.”

The evening could not have been better: the conversation was intense, lively, often hilarious, and always thrilling. The wine flowed. Randall added glasses to the table for each course and served even more exquisite wines. The food never stopped coming, and every time I brought a new dish to the table, my guests would ask: “Viviane, what have we been eating?” …?” The conversation will soon became lively as we sipped out of the glasses that were getting stacked in front of us until at the time the party was over each guest was in the company of their unique Stonehenge crystal.

We tasted several very old and very young wines, including popular Bonny Doon varietals, and less well-known wines like Randall’s Pinot Meunier (in both white and red). Each wine Randall offered was a treat with its own distinct flavor and had a story to be told.

“Leave everything as is on the table” I said to everyone, as the night was drawing to a close. “I want to take photos as soon as I wake up.”

This is exactly the way I went about it. As I lay my eyes on the table the next day I could hear the click of glasses, and the echoing laughter.

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