Preaching to the Converted?
It’s been an age since I was last in California smelling the sunshine on the vines, and I’ve got to admit that like most first loves I often feel nostalgic, so I was pleased to be invited to this event in the East End of London.
I’ve scanned the list of exhibitors and I’m feeling a frisson of excitement at what potential there might be arriving in my glass.
To get to the venue, my route takes me up Hanbury Road which, if my criminal memory serves me correctly, was one of the locations for the Jack the Ripper murders. Thankfully, there is no air of menace or threat, only alternative lifestyles, enticing food stalls and shops that draw the eye.
The venue is quite easy to locate, and not too much of a walk. I reach there and at first it all seems a little spartan. I wonder if there is actually a tasting going on. Thankfully, there is and as I look about I see a plethora of pouring stations that lead me to believe that this might be quite a promising time.
I’m welcomed in, and before I can protest, I’m included in a special tasting that will reveal the nuances of Californian wines (like I need any enticing with this!) and while I wait for my time to come, I wander the venue sampling a variety of interesting Whites and Rosés that make me miss a Californian wine trip more than anything.
What I love about this tasting is the sheer welcoming attitude of everybody involved, and it’s so easy to fall into conversations with fellow travellers about wines enjoyed, visits made and what has been happening since you last saw friends. The bonhomie flows, but does the wine?
Five of the best
Les Noisetiers 2020
I remember the first time I had a Kistler Chardonnay and have been a fan ever since. It was in a wine cellar just off the Las Vegas Strip and I was trying a flight of Californian's finest at the time. They had all been great until I put a glass of this to my lips and I realised that is was simply awesome!
While this vintage wasn't quite in the same class, it wasn't far off and things might have changed at Kistler since I first tasted their wines, but they certainly lead the way when it comes to modern Californian Chardonnay. The pungent nose mixes hay and baking apples on a citrus base that is lightly touched by oak.
In the mouth you get cream on apple tart with baking spices spices lying in wait for the weary taster. There's a freshness that cuts through the nutty wood taste. Heaven, I'm in heaven!
6 out of 7
Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
In the last few years Steve Matthiasson has become something of a guru winemaker and his advice is sought by a range of people who want his magical touch when it comes to producing wines that excite. Are his own offerings worth a dip?
I breathed in the aromas and was rewarded by a beautiful mixture of dark and red fruit, black pepper and a pleasant liquorice nose that certainly maintained my interest.
Lift the glass to taste and you are given an inky, bold dark fruit that mixes blackberry and spice.
If this man is a guru, I'm going to visit his wine temple the next time I visit Napa!
6 out of 7
If you've followed Winefullness Magazine for a few years you'll have read an article I wrote about a visit to Sutter Home/Trinchero. I loved their generosity with time and the humour that bonds the company (it would be easy to lose that as one grows huge). I was given a bottle of this as a present, and as of yet I have left it to quietly sleep. Here was the chance to see what's gently snoozing.
Huge lovely blackcurrant aromas lead the race to attract your attention, and then I'm getting mint, fig, leather and earth among a heap of scents.
The wine I tasted had a beautifully evocative perfume with violets. There's tastes of cedar, tons of black fruit, vanilla leather and boysenberry. The tannins are pronounced but not too intrusive and on the whole this has a lot of balance for such a young wine.
6 out of 7
Pinot noir 2020
I've always been aware of Shug (well not when I was a baby as that would have been worrying) since I first crossed the pond. I think this has more to do with the short, almost oenomatopoeic quality of the name. I seem to remember tasting one a few years ago, enjoying it but not raving about what was in the glass. Have things changed?
Firstly, as I lift the glass to inspect, their a beautifully evocative colour that makes you want to know more. So let's dive in!
On the nose I'm getting some lovely red fruit (raspberries, strawberry and redcurrants). Now there are plums and vanilla coming through on the nose, and lastly there's a shake of white pepper.
Take a sip and you'll find lots of red fruit fighting for attention and it's as though the range is taking an individual bow before handing over to the next talent. In between I'm enjoying a mouthfeel that feel like red cherries being gently hugged!
6 out of 7
What a tremendously interesting name. Once again I've been aware of it since my first visit, but my tasting experience comes from a few years ago and though it was enjoyable I've not thought about chasing to the winery for more.
This has a powerful nose from a distance. The sort that brings on a look of smug satisfaction at what you are the proud possessor of. This is a lovely Merlot with the odours of green stalks, blackberries and plum dancing together before a spot of blackcurrant jam barges in.
The taste is dark fruit, (plums and blackberry take a bow). A longer appreciation reveals cedar, forest, bramble. leather and a spicy get out.
This wine is so cheeky I'm expecting it to pull its tongue out!
6 out of 7
It was so good to meet up with wines that were like old friends. They welcomed, laid out the hello mat and provided enough familiarity and warmth that I'm missing them already and cannot wait to see them again.
There were a few new acquaintances I made and these were great to see and you can bet that next time I'm in California one or two of these will be making their way to the top of my 'must visit' list.