A "generic" tasting put on by the Wine Institute of California in London. I made a particular point of tasting Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and some more "off-beat" white wine varietals for California. An indication of retail prices is given in pounds sterling (£5GBP=$7.50US). There is an index of agents who
handle these wines in the UK at the foot of the page. The tasting was not blind.
Peter Michael Winery Belle Cote Chardonnay - £20+
These wines will actually retail at over £50. This has a fine nose, with luscious, honeyed nuances to fat, peachy fruit. On the palate loads of power and oomph, with striking depth of fruit and good length. Very good indeed.
Peter Michael Winery La Carriere Chardonnay - £20+
A touch more lean minerality about this (which works well), with a good quality of ripe orchard fruit. Terrific verve onto the palate, with great concentration and a streak of citrus and mineral acidity cutting through packed, ripe fruit. Excellent.
Williams Selyem Hirsch Chardonnay 1999 - £20+
Sweet oak dominates with mint humbuggy character. Lots of caramel and toast too. The palate has a sweet, fudge-like sub-text, but there is a weight of ripe, sweet, forward fruit and huge concentration. Lots of juicy, palate-filling textured fruit dramatically cut-through with fine acidity. A huge wine, but mighty impressive. Excellent/outstanding.
Gary Farrell Russian River Chardonnay 1999 - £20+
Nice vegetal, rich, overripe character with sweet oak and pear fruit. Impressive quality and concentration on the palate, with more pear fruit and a cool, melony quality. Good acidity. Very good indeed.
Martinelli Charles Ranch Chardonnay 1998 - £20+
Big, full, cabbagy nose of overripe fruit. Background oak. A little more restrained than some on the palate, with svelte, savoury fruit and good length. Very good/very good indeed.
Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay - £20+
Bags of toasty French oak. Fat, buttery and honyed, with butterscotch character. On the palate good weight and gorgeous depth of orange and nectarine fruit. Hints of green fig and powerful character which is rounded yet supported by good acidity. Very good indeed/excellent.
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Riesling 1999 - £7 - £10
Nice petrolly nose with waxy lime fruit. Lovely waxy sweetness of fruit on the attack. This is tasty and balanced, and quite full, though the acidity is a little raw and unintegrated. Very good.
Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Riesling 2001 - £10 - £15
Lurid pink synthetic cork and capsule. Sweet floral notes dominate, with lemon sherbet and lime aromas. Dry and savoury palate. Plenty of juicy fruit, and much better definition, with crisp acidity and a long, pure finish. Very good indeed.
Montevina Pinot Grigio 2001 - £7 - £10
Huge, sweet, confectionery nose with flowers and candy - perhaps a touch too confected, with notes of love-hearts and jasmine. The palate is dry and flavourful, with hints of straw and lemon fruit. Dry finish. Very good.
Seghesio Pinot Grigio 2000 - £10 - £15
Adds a peachy depth of fruit that is downy and soft, to floral and subtle lemon aromas. dry, savoury palate with medium body and quite a powerful concentration. Good balance. Very good indeed.
Wente Reliz Creek Pinot Noir 1998 - £10 - £15
Nose is rather fiercely oaky, with not enough fruit to overcome big vanillin aromas. It comes good on the palate, where a silky texture supports plenty of fine, warming, earth and berry fruit and firm tannins. Good weight, and a bit of oaky spice in the finish. Very good.
It was nice to run into winemaker Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat again, as I had spent a very enjoyable day with him in California a few years ago (read the report here).
Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir 2000 £15 - £20
This has a nice, bright, forward nose that is fragrant with cherry and confectionery notes, and an undertow of soft, strawberry fruit. Lots of sweetness of fruit on the palate; really quite sumptuous. Easy drinking and delicious, with good balance. Very good indeed.
Au Bon Climat Le Bauge Pinot Noir 1999 - £20+
More animal nose with a fine earthy quality; lots of damp forest-floor and sweet fruit. On the palate this is very fine, with good acidity and savoury balance. Very good indeed
Au Bon Climat Rosemary & Rincon Pinot Noir 1999 - £20+
Lovely sense of minerality shines through here, with fine cherry fruit and toasty oak nuances. Silky on the palate with lots of finesse. Charming, ripe, sweet fruit that is soft and creamy, with ripe tannins and lovely balance. Excellent.
Au Bon Climat Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir 1999 - £20+
Sweet, fragrant, quite "sauvage" nose with cherry, strawberry and notes of caramel and minty oak. Lots of berries and sweet, spicy fruit packs the palate, with silky texture and lovely ripeness of tannins and fruit. Good length, and excellent.
Williams Selyem Hirsch Pinot Noir 1999 - £20+
Rich, deep berries and fudge. Warm and inviting. The palate is terrifically sweet, and solidly packed with concentrated berry fruit, yet it is composed and complex, with a tight, mineral focus and a long finish. Excellent/outstanding.
Williams Selyem Pinot Noir 1999 - £20+
Big, sweet and impressive again, with fruity elements on the nose edged with that caramel fudge and hints of floral character. Toasty warmth on the palate with tobacco and woodsmoke over ripe berry fruit. Good, crisp cherry acidity adds an edge. Good length. Excellent.
Gary Farrell Russian River Pinot Noir 1999 - £20+
Smoky, sweet, red cherry and schisty nuances on the nose. Quite floral. Good fruit on the palate, with medium-body, very fine, crisp fruit quality and good finesse. Balanced and quite elegant. Very good indeed.
Martinelli Reserve Pinot Noir 1998 - £20+
Nice nose that is quite ripe and alluring. Tangy, crisp fruit and acidity on the palate, with big tannins drying the mouth and quite a firm character. Given that it is already four years old, I wonder if it has enough fruit to overcome the tannins and extraction? Very good.
Miner Family Gary's Vineyard Pinot Noir 1999 - £20+
Sweet, silky, new oak and tobacco nose. There is plenty of crisply-defined cherry fruit on the palate with briary notes into the finish and lovely length and balance. Very good indeed.
Babcock Vineyards Mount Caramel Pinot Noir 2000 - £20+
Earthy and deep, with plummy fruit and berries, but lots of schist and earth, briar and woodsmoke, Very complex nose. Savoury and full on the palate, this has plenty of fruit but terrific poise, with oak filling in the finish. Good quality here and excellent.
Yorkville Cellars Petit Verdot 2001 - £10 - £15
Massive, deep, spicebox aromatics brimming with clove and deep, ripe, berry fruit. Sumptuous. Enjoyably deep and dark on the palate too, with dusty blue/black berry fruit and big, dry tannins. A big, powerhouse wine which lacks a little finesse, but is muscular and impressive. Very good indeed.