The Wine Merchant California Collection 2017

 

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The Wine Merchant California Collection 2017

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THE WINE MERCHANT. CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2017

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CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2017 Independent merchants have never had so much access to such brilliant California wines. UK importers are bringing in a wider range of blends and varietals that not only epitomise what consumers have always loved about the Golden State, but a new approach too. Californian producers are crafting wines with unprecedented freshness, vivacity and elegance. The Wine Merchant’s editorial team invited suppliers to put forward their best Californian wines aimed at independents and sampled them in the company of six leading specialists. They were Ed Wells of HarperWells in Norwich; Julia Michael of The Wine Tasting Shop in Balham; Carlos Blanco of Blanco & Gomez in Chelsea; Paola Tich of Park + Bridge in Acton; Dafydd Morris of Cheers in Swansea; and Ben Carfagnini of Friarwood in Fulham. We tasted 150 wines. Here are our top 50, which we’ve grouped together by importer. All prices quoted are recommended retail prices provided by suppliers. THE WINE MERCHANT. Published by Graham Holter Ltd in association with the California Wine Institute www.winemerchantmag.com www.discovercaliforniawines.co.uk Front page picture: © MaciejBledowski/stockadobe.com

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AWARD WINNING PORTFOLIO -FEATURING- MOOBUZZ ● JACKHAMMER ● BROC CELLARS KUTCH WINES ● VIANO VINEYARDS ● SANDHI ● PIEDRASASSI For more information please email: magnavai.janjo@robersonwine.com T: 020 7381 7088

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CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2017 4

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A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY When the British wine trade talks about the big European wine giants – France, Italy, Spain – we don’t as a rule resort to sweeping statements. We know that France has its grands crus as well as its villages and much that is deeply ordinaire; we know that Italy produces Prosecco, Pinot Grigio and Barolo; and we know that Rías Baixas or Rioja has very little in common with Manzanilla. There’s room enough in our conception of all these wine cultures to encompass myriad different styles, regions, grape varieties, approaches and terroirs. When we start talking about California, however, we automatically slip into the generic, the stereotypical. California is all about big wines at big prices or big brands for big retailers. Bigness is all. Or, to use the strange phraseology of the president the Californians didn’t vote for, California does wine bigly. Which is true, to an extent. But then it’s no less true – to an extent – of France, Italy and Spain, each of which has its fair share of oaked-up Parker-pleasers and marketing-led supermarket bottom feeders. So, some 41 years after a certain Parisbased tasting organised by Stephen Spurrier helped put the state on the worldwide wine map, isn’t it time we treated California with a little more nuance, a little more subtlety? CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2017 5

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The sheer scale of California wine certainly points to an industry with plenty of space for diverse interpretations of what it means to make wine. According to the latest statistics published by the Wine Institute of California, California is by far the biggest wine producer in the USA, accounting, in 2015, for some 638 million litres out of the USA’s total 768 million litres. If it were a country, it would be the fourth biggest wine producer in the world. More to the point, production is now shared by some 5,900 growers, and 4,600 wineries, many of them small-scale, figures that have risen every year since 1965, when the state’s modern-day industry began properly to take shape after the ravages of Prohibition and WWII. Those producers ply their trade across an area just over three-quarters the size of France, with grapes grown in 46 of the state’s 55 counties, in 138 AVAs, covering multiple climates, elevations, expositions and soil types, and using an ever-broadening palette of more than 110 grape varieties. That this mature, dynamic, diverse producer is still subject to crude caricature on this side of the pond is one of the wine world’s more enduring injustices. But things are changing. As you’ll see in the pages of this supplement, California has some of the world’s most refined cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It can do quirky, natural wines as well as expansively fruited Cabernet and can make Syrah à la Northern Rhône or Grenache à la Southern Rhône, while the variety of its Zinfandels (whether rich and powerful, Italianate or Beaujolais-like), is in a world of its own. All of which suggests that a sweeping statement is justified for once: right now it seems to me that California has never been better placed to serve the UK’s independent trade. CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2017 6 David Williams

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chuck cramer

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chuck cramer 90 pts Napa Valley. CaVe aged To perfeCTioN. ru t h e r f o r d h i l l . c o m exclusively distributed by

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top seleAcRtioGnUABLY THE BEST AMERICAN WHITE WINE FOR THE PRICE -WINE ENTHUSIAST

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"There was a lot of variety at the tasting and everything was showing well. "The Chardonnays were showing particularly well. The old style, where there is subtle oak and good acidity ... for my personal taste, the ones that showed best were those. They are making really juicy, forward, punchy wines." BEN CARFAGNINI CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2017 12

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THE FEDERALIST VISIONARY ZINFANDEL DRY CREEK VALLEY 2014 THE COMPOSITE DRINKS CO £27.99 Described by one judge as “the best Zin of the day for me”, The Federalist Zinfandel is a classy classic take on the great American grape from a site, Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, that is wellsuited to the variety thanks to its pronounced afternoon heat and very cool evenings. With a “nice label, beautiful colour, ripe berries, oak and spice, it’s great value for money”, the judges said. THE WINE MERCHANT. RUTHERFORD HILL CHARDONNAY NAPA VALLEY 2014 THE WINE TREASURY £26.75 Using fruit taken from the cooler southern end of the Napa Valley, this handpicked Chardonnay has been aged on its lees for eight months in French oak, 25% of which was new. Wearing its 14.5% alcohol lightly, it’s a “solid Napa style”, the judges said, “intense without being full-on, with a lovely nose, rich but so elegant.” CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2017 13

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RUTHERFORD HILL MERLOT NAPA VALLEY 2013 THE WINE TREASURY £31 A Right Bank Bordeaux-style blend with Merlot leading the way at 79% joined by 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and a dash of Malbec and Syrah, with the assemblage aged for 16 months in French oak. The judges warmed to the rich fruit and excellent balance, enjoying the “strawberry, plum, lovely ripe characteristics, plus good acidity and good, well-integrated tannins”. RUTHERFORD HILL BARREL SELECT NAPA VALLEY 2014 THE WINE TREASURY £34.50 A fine Merlot-led blend (which also includes a little Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) from a top producer based in Napa’s famed Rutherford AVA. With lots of ripe and alluring cherry and red and black berry fruit to the fore, it was the balance that won over the judges, “the nice oak, great tannins, and lovely acidity” making for a wine that is “very easy to drink”. CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2017 14 CA'MOMI ZINFANDEL 2015 ELLIS OF RICHMOND £15.99 Italy meets California here, not only in the variety (Zinfandel aka Primitivo) but in the three Italians that founded the Ca’Momi winery in 2006 and who still run it a decade later. The mix of fine, ripe Napa Valley fruit and a European approach leads, in this case, to one of the best value wines in the list: a Zin with “cocoa-chocolate appeal and cranberry fruit that is very sellable”.

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PETER FRANUS LAKE COUNTY RED HILLS RHONE BLEND 2012 ABS WINE AGENCIES £29.25 From a vineyard planted at 3,000ft above sea level on the top of Cobb Mountain a few miles east of Sonoma and 12 miles north of Napa’s Calistoga, a complex blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre in the Southern Rhône style with plenty of Californian character. “Lovely bright colour,” the judges said. “Floral nose which offers instant appeal. Silky smooth texture but with serious power.” PETER FRANUS NAPA VALLEY ZINFANDEL 2013 ABS WINE AGENCIES £32.25 Using organic fruit from one of the most respected growers in the top-rated Rutherford area of Napa Valley, Zinfandel expert Peter Franus (he made his first wine from the variety in 1981) crafts a style that stands out from the crowd with its “great colour and acidity and fruit quality”, the judges said. “It’s expensive, but if only all £30 Zins were this good. Fantastic.” THE WINE MERCHANT. RUTH LEWANDOWSKI NAOMI GRENACHE GRIS, GIBSON RANCH, MCDOWELL VALLEY, MENDOCINO COUNTY 2015 LES CAVES DE PYRENE £29.99 Something a little different: centenarian vines of the “fuchsia-coloured” Grenache Gris are used to make a white wine, with the juice separated from the skins after being whole-cluster pressed and then fermented with native yeast in concrete eggs. “Like a salt baked apple pie,” the judges said. “New Cali with a big nod to dry Vouvray. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I find it quite delightful.” CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2017 15

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