California stars

I’m thinking of moving to LA and becoming a Disney baddie. I’ve been told that I’ve got the voice for it. In preparation for this, I’m trying to develop a taste for Californian wines. This is difficult as most of them are either expensive, not available in Britain or expensive & not available in Britain. On a trip to Californian wine country in 2009, I found that the wines I liked best – favourites were Tablas Creek in Paso Robles and Unti in Sonoma – were those made from Southern French and Italian varieties. With this in mind I decided to only try Southern grapes* at the recent California tasting in London.

Here are a couple of stars:

Wind Gap ‘Orra’ GMC 2009 – a blend of Grenache, Cornoise and Mouvedre. This was a lovely pale red/ orange colour. It tasted spicy with a strong flavour of herbs. One would be tempted to use the word ‘garrique’ to describe it. Only the touch of sweetness let me know that we’re weren’t in the Southern Rhone.

Birichino Grenache 2010 – smells of raspberries with a touch of smoke. The palate is firm with very bright clean fruit, dry with not a trace of jam.  My kind of wine.

I liked these wines for their poise and general deliciousness. Most of the wines I tried, however, were far too ripe, extracted, alcoholic and oaky for my tastes. The same three words came up again and again, sweet, oak and jam. Arguably, this is the Californian style – they do have all that sunshine so grapes will be riper – and I’ll have to get used to it but it’s a style that obliterates all nuance of place or vintage. These monsters are designed – designed being the operative word – to impress, not to sip with food. The better wines have the balance of the old world models but with a brightness of fruit as if they’re in technicolor. I want more like these.

Now a word on price. These wines are expensive, £15-20 and neither of them are widely available in this country. They’re at least a third more than the equivalent Rhone wines. I hope being a Disney baddie pays well.

* I did ignore my rules a few times to try some amazing and expensive Pinot Noirs from Au Bon Climat in Santa Barbera and Hanzell in Sonoma.

About Henry

I’m a drinks writer. My day job is features editor at the Master of Malt blog. I also contribute to BBC Good Food, the Spectator and others. You can read some of my work here. I’ve done a bit of radio, given some talks and written a couple of books (Empire of Booze, The Home Bar and the forthcoming Cocktail Dictionary).
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2 Responses to California stars

  1. Pingback: Pursuing balance in California | Henry's World of Booze

  2. Pingback: Competitive wine knowledge | Henry's World of Booze

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