Are you going to S.F.? If so, don’t bring me back any wine under $20 bucks*
“All the leaves are brown…and the sky is grey. I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day….”
Typical cold, drizzly, sun-goes-down-at-4pm-in-London-late November afternoon and I was walking to the Hoxton in Shoreditch for the Wine Institute of California’s first official bloggers meetup. We were the guinea pigs of the evening. The Wine Institute of California were unleashing their California benchmark wines on us and the UK.
“I’d be safe and warm…. If I was in LA…”
My English friends ask me all the time why California wines don’t make it over here. Is it because of the cost? Is it because of taxes? Is it because California, like Australia has flooded the market with cheap and cheerful (I’m talking about you white zin) wine? Is it because we don’t export the truly good wines and British consumers don’t have the exposure to well made and enjoyable California wines?
“Stopped off at a church, I saw along the way….Well, I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray….”
The benchmark wines were on tasting to show that California can do mid-level (£8 – £15) wines. For a native Californian, all the usual suspects were there: Beringer, Gallo, Fetzer, Kendall-Jackson, Bonterra and a few lesser known (on this side of the pond labels) as well. Most of these wines I steer clear of when I’m home. Why? Well, they’re just not very exciting. Middle of the road, safe, predictable, supermarket wines. They could be from Australia, Chile, anywhere in CA. There was nothing special about most of them except that they were from California. Which is a shame as I know that there are plenty of very good mid-priced wines coming out of CA but nothing ever reaches these shores. Is it because of price? Possibly. A decent bottle of wine costs around $20 in the States but translated here, once you get past shipping, taxes, etc, it’s more like £20 per bottle. $20 will get you a decent, interesting bottle of wine back home but in the UK £20 better be more than a decent wine.
“You know the preacher likes the cold…He knows I’m gonna stay…”
I went through the tasting not expecting any surprises but I did encounter one in the rosé section of all things! Not a white zin but a lovely dry offering from Fetzer. A big supermarket brand back home, Fetzer had broken out of the sickly sweet white zin ghetto and produced a palate pleasing spicy rosé. What a relief. The FetzerValley Oaks Syrah rosé had an intense fruity nose which lead me to believe initially that it would be a sugar bomb but no, dry, raspberry tea-like flavours with a hint of peppery spice on the finish. I wasn’t the only one liking it. At the end of the evening I was lucky enough to snag it from under the nose of kristainlondon. This one is a steal at £5.95.
The Bonterra Viognier 2007 was also winning converts. My fellow blogger Wine90 was there and here are her notes :
Mid straw yellow. A really intriguing wine on the nose producing notes that make for a strange mix. Peach and lime intermingle along a tropical sugary theme with the lime flavours coming to the fore on the palate, strong finish, strong acidity making this wine a real QPR doozy.
Considering it is an organic viognier, I thought it was good value at £10 a pop.
The best wine was the last. An ’05 Petite Sirah from EOS in Paso Robles. Petite syrah is one of those uniquely California varietals that much like zinfandel has found it’s home in CA. Petite sirah is a French immigrant and goes by the name of Durif over there but in CA, it’s P.S. The ’05 had a bit of time to mellow and was smooth and silky on the palate. A nose brimming with ripe raspberries, blackberries, and black pepper notes. More of the same swishing around my mouth and a fabulous mocha coffee finish to it. Nicely balanced wine, a pleasure to drink and retailing for around £13 online.
If only all the wines we tried that night we’re of this quality. But the price point is a sticking point. This one checked out at £13 not exactly a bargain but worth it. California wines, worth it but sadly not many of note here. Guess I’ll have to wait til my next trip home, until then I’ll be…..
“California dreamin’ …on such a winter’s day….” (“California Dreamin” by The Mamas and The Papas)
*Post Title courtesy of my good friend, the always amusing and entertaining wine blogger, Wine90