Speed dating California wine….

A couple of months ago I went to a tasting, here in London, of what was being marketed as California ‘benchmark’ wines which left me mightly unimpressed. I just knew California vintners could do better having sampled many on my trips home so I was excited when the Sonoma county Vintners invited me to Goodman Steakhouse in Mayfair for a Winemakers Speed-dating event.  First of all Goodman Steakhouse is a quality place and I knew their wine list so I thought if they’re having it at Goodman, the wines gotta be good. And so they were. We weren’t speed dating the winemakers, we were speed dating their wines. 8 hectic minutes to sip, taste, swirl and spit as well as get as much info from the winemakers as possible. 8 minutes might seem like a long time of one to one contact but the first two wines makers I sat down with, we had barely finished introductions let alone getting around to the wine before the bell rang *DING* and it was time to move on! There were 4 winemakers and their wines scattered around the smaller dining room of Goodman. Jim Pedroncelli, Proprietor and Director of Sales and Marketing at Pedroncelli showing off his 2007 Mother Clone Zinfandel, Rod Berglund President and Wine Maker at Joseph Swan Vineyards with his 2005 Zinfandel and 2007 Pinot Noir, followed by Jeff Stewart Vice President Winemaker at Buena Vista with a 2007 Chardonnay and 2007 Pinot Noir and finally Tom Hinde, President and CEO of Flowers Winery with their 2008 Chardonnay and 2007 Pinot Noir. Sonoma Valley specializes in the cool climate varietals chardonnay and pinot noir but also grows the more traditional sauvignon blanc and zinfandel further inland. The range of microclimates and zones varies from the cool Sonoma coast to the rolling hillsides of the Russian River Valley to hilltop estates overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I found the wines to be brilliant examples of the best that California can do. Now THIS is what...

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Simi 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon and a Goodman Burger

Amongst my foodie friends there is a subset of them who are obsessed with finding the perfect burger. Like one that, let’s be honest, you can only really get in the States. A good, old-fashioned, tasty and cheap burger. Cheap being the operative word. So far, I haven’t found one that compares to what you can get back home but I did have a very tasty (and pricy) burger the other night with a group of food bloggers at Goodman Steakhouse in Mayfair. This being Mayfair, we were treated to a starter of wagyu carpaccio with shaved parmesan. Definitely not something you’d find on the menu at In-n-Out. After that we settled in to wait for our burgers. And what a burger, only the top cuts going into this sucker. It certainly was very good but it should be at £12 a pop. The Chef came out to talk us through the burger and he disclosed that the secret to such flavourful burgers was chopped onions. I knew it! That’s just what my mom puts in her minced beef when she’s making burgers for the grill. Perusing the wine menu looking for a wine match (well, we were dining in Mayfair), I spied a bottle of ’02 Simi Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley for only £40. I was suspicious as to why it was so reasonable but ordered it anyway, thinking if it was bad, I could always tell the foodies they just didn’t know what California wine tastes like! What a lovely wine it was. Very aromatic, berries, leather and many savoury aromas floating around, mingled with spicy, saddle shop notes and even a few whispers of licorice. Swilling it around, it was soft and velvety, full of red and blackberries, again the leather and spice integrated in there with a dark chocolate finish. I really enjoyed this wine, very well balanced and a real steal! I spoke to the manager later and he told me that the wine had fallen into their hands as...

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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...

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Elvis is in the building (or at least his wines are)

I always forget how much I love Elvis Presley’s music until I hear it, then it instantly transports me back to my childhood. My parents weren’t huge Elvis fans but my dad did like to pop in a cassette tape every now and then on road trips. Well, Elvis is back and here in the UK! Well, not entirely true, Elvis wines are trying to break into the UK wine market. Yup, an entrepreneurial Swede by the name of Dan Samson has already brought “The King”  to Sweden and the Netherlands. Dan has teamed up with Signature Wines  and their Graceland Cellars range to help bring Elvis to the masses again. Actually, it’s like the Marilyn Merlot brand of wine. Neither Marilyn nor Elvis have anything to do with the wine but their visages peer out at you and if it makes your nearest and dearest Elvis fan happy, what’s the harm? The Winesleuth (me)  had the chance to speak with Dan at the recent California Wine Trade Show here in London, watch the video to see what he had to say about Elvis in the building… I have to admit, I was rather dubious when I saw the wines but on tasting them all my doubts vanished. These were not just gimmick wines but also well made wines. I sampled the Jailhouse Rock Merlot and the Blue Suede Shoes Chardonnay. Both were approachable, easy drinking wines. The  merlot was soft and fruity but had a bit of structure to it and the chardonnay, while it did have oak on it, was not too oaky and had some nice ripe tropical fruit on the nose and palate. The wines have won numerous awards in the States at various competitions so the quality is certainly there. They’re not yet available in the UK but Dan believes that they’ll retail for around £8 – £10, reasonable for a Califoria wine in Europe. The grapes are sourced from the Santa Rosa Valley, in Northern California, near Sonoma Valley and all...

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Delicato Family Vineyards

A couple of weeks ago I went to the annual California wine trade tasting in Victoria to see what my fellow Californians were bringing over to the UK. I was expecting lots of Gallo and Echo Falls but actually, there was some great stuff on show. Cakebread Vineyards, Parraduxx, Shafer, Grgich,Hills, Boony Doon, just to name a very few. Some high quality stuff looking to either get a foothold or increase their presence here in the UK. I had the chance to speak to Elizabeth Rice from Delicato Family Vineyards, a winery which sources their grapes from Lodi and Monterey,California. Here she is telling us about the exciting new wines that they’re looking to introduce or already import to the UK. [viddler id=3d14590&w=437&h=333] Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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The Winesleuth and Wine90 checking out the chards…

The Winesleuth (me, Denise) has joined forces with the always entertaining UK wineblogger,  Wine90 (Sarah Newton), for occasional forays into the world of video blogging or vlogs as they’re commonly known. So I called up Sarah and invited her over with a wine of her choice, something to compare and contrast with my white Burgundy. Sarah usually blogs about Italian wines but for our maiden voyage into vlogs, she chose something to go along with the chardonnay theme, an ’05 Californian chard, the ’05 Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnnay from Santa Maria Valley (£18), which she picked up from one of my favourite wineshops, Wines of the World in Earlsfield. Oddbins has been slowly releasing a trickle of wines to the shops and this little gem arrived the other day.   An ’05 white Burgundy from Domaine Martin, the Senaillet, a Macon-Villages, 1oo% chard, a fantabulous mouthful that has found it’s way onto our shores and currently at the reduced price of £6.99 Now this should be an interesting comparison…it’s a tad long but we were delighted and amused….(I can’t believe she’s never heard of creamsicles!) [viddler id=243d96ad&w=437&h=370] Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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