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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The wines of Virginia at the ’09 LIWF w/video

I know it may seem like I’ve been banging on about English wine, English vodka, the English, etc., but I am living here, in England. I have however, not forgotten about my country…”My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…”…ahem, um…now where was I? Oh, yeah…anyway, we all know about California wine, the wines of Oregon and Washington and New York’s cool climate offerings but what about Virginia’s wines? Yup, you heard me right, the wines of Virginia. The Jamestown settlers were the first to try and cultivate wines but without much success. Even T.J. (Thomas Jefferson, our third president) back in the day, brought over cuttings from France to his estate in Monticello in the hopes of producing fine wine but to no avail despite his efforts over 30 years. Until recently grapegrowing and wine making in Virginia were pretty much a quixotic affair. I remember going to a vineyard about 8 years ago and it was an “interesting” experience. Since then however, Virginia wineries have made improvements in leaps and bounds and now are known for producing aromatic, creamy viogniers and fragrant, full cabernet francs. There are now over 140 vineyards in Virginia and only California, New York, Oregon and Washington have more wineries. If you want to know more of the history, click here. I met the folks from New Horizons Wines, Christopher Parker and his colleague Judy at the ’09 London International Wine Fair. I had a chance to try the Veritas Viognier ’07 and have a chat with Judy… Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Valdivieso Fireworks

Alcohol and a river cruise? Seeing as I’m somewhat prone to seasickness, I was a bit hesitant but since it was on the River Thames, I thought, what the hell. Valdivieso Wines of Chile and Bibendum joined up to host a cruise down the Thames for Guy Fawkes Day this week and what a cruise! Valdivieso was founded in 1879 and the first wines they produced were sparkling wines, so it was onlyfitting that we started off the night with their Extra brut. As we boarded the Silver Sturgeon at the Savoy Pier we were greeted by trays of the Valdivieso Firecracker, a cocktail of brandy, fresh morello cherries, cinnamon liquor and Valdivieso Extra Brut sparkling wine. Fantastic! It   was so easy to down a couple of those before dinner. Valdivieso were showcasing their Reserve wines for us and we sampled the Reserve Sauvignon Blanc ’06, Reserve Viognier ’07, Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ’06 and the Reserve Syrah ’05. Notice how they prefer to call it Syrah as opposed to Shiraz. The whites were superb. I found the Reserve Sauvignon blanc ’06 to have plenty of tropical fruits on the nose and palate as well as a lovely herbaceousness to it, with a well rounded, almost silky body but with a crispiness to it that didn’t let me down at dinner. The Reserve Viognier ’07 was also well done. A fabulous floral nose, quite aromatic on a full bodied but not oily wine. The winemakers produced a well balanced wine with the ability to cleanse the palate while at the same time not losing any of the fruit characteristics of the varietal.  Both of these wines were great on their own but they really rose to the occasion with the fish pie served for dinner. The reds were no less impressive, although I thought the Reserve Syrah 05 was the standout of the evening. Chile is really beginning to make a name for itself with syrah and based on this liquid elixir, I can see why. A wonderfully spicy nose up front, typical black pepper notes...

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