Disregard the rumors that winemaker Randall Grahm is slowing down. Even after selling ownership in his wine company Bonny Doon last year, Grahm has continued making the wines while dreaming up his next big project. Now, he’s formed an unexpected alliance with E. J. Gallo to produce a collection of California Central Coast wines called The Language of Yes.
“The project that we are jointly working on is in many ways a research project—the quest to make truly original wines in the New World—and one that would be essentially impossible for me to undertake entirely by myself,” Grahm told Wine Spectator.
Grahm said the team at Gallo has encouraged him to follow his passion and curiosity wherever it leads. “I am particularly fond of the fact that the business end of the business is no longer within my bailiwick,” he said. “Having access to some of the resources of Gallo has enabled a number of things that would not have happened nearly as quickly or perhaps ever. I’m hoping that the work can be slightly deeper and more soulful. And fun!”
A Randall Grahm project wouldn’t be complete without some quirkiness. Grahm says he and label designer Chuck House searched through Provençal dictionaries, trying to find precisely the proper term to capture the spirit of what they were trying to represent with the wines, which are made primarily from Rhône grape varieties. (Provençal is a dialect of Occitan, aka Lenga d’Oc, traditionally spoken by people in Catalonia and much of Southern France, including Provence and the Southern Rhône valley.)
“It suddenly became clear that a term for the language itself [Lenga d’Oc or The Language of Yes] was the term we were looking for. It goes without saying that in these very divisive times, the Language of Yes is one we would all do well to learn,” he added.
Gallo has been putting together an impressive collection of premium brands—and people behind the brands—recently. “There aren’t many Randall Grahms in the world–when we have the opportunity to work with this level of talent and original thinking, we jump at the opportunity,” said Joseph C. Gallo, vice president and general manager of Gallo’s Luxury Wine Group.
Gallo adds that he and his team value when vintners who have earned tremendous success on their own, such as Grahm, place their trust in the company. “We can bring forward the vision of some of the most interesting and creative people in wine,” he said.
Grahm and Gallo will release three wines this year, starting with a rosé made from Tibouren and Cinsault grapes in August, followed by a Grenache and a Syrah from Santa Maria Valley’s Rancho Real Vineyard in October.
A Rhône-dedicated label is new for Gallo’s portfolio, but Gallo and Grahm are looking forward to sharing their work. “Collaborating with Randall is a unique opportunity to showcase his–and our–best work,” said Gallo.