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THE WINE MERCHANT.

CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2018 THE WINE MERCHANT |

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Top 50 Californian Wines Winners! Ca’ Momi, Napa Valley

Founded in 2006, Ca’ Momi Napa Valley is run by three Italians. Dario De Conti, Valentina Guolo-Migotto and Stefano Migotto. From the winery and vineyards in Carneros, and featuring hand-selected fruit from across the Napa Valley, Ca’ Momi wines represent the best of both worlds. Napa Valley fruit carefully crafted by the heritage and obsessive care of Old World winemaking.

Buy 11 bottles get 1 free Bianco di Napa 2014 12 x 75cl £113.98

Long Barn, Fior di Sole, California Fior di Sole are based within Napa valley and create premium wines from the Napa Valley, Sonoma, North Coast and California appellations. They produce all of the wine in their state-of-the-art winery and bottling facility in Napa.

Buy 11 bottles get 1 free Pinot Noir 2015 12 x 75cl £87.98 *prices quoted Duty Paid Delivered ex VAT. Promotion valid until 31st March 2018. 2

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In January 2018 The Wine Merchant magazine teamed up with the California Wine Institute to invite suppliers to put some of their most interesting Californian wines before a panel of independent wine merchants. This panel included David Porter of Lea & Sandeman in London; Penny Champion of Champion Wines in Chislehurst, Kent; Max Jewell of Priory Wines in Lymington, Hampshire; Dich Oatley of The General Wine Company in Hampshire; Justin Knock MW of Philglas & Swiggot in London; Jack Overbury of The Tasting House in Reading; and Stuart McCloskey of Z&B Vintners in Kent. The panel was chaired by David Williams, wine critic for The Observer and a regular contributor to The Wine Merchant. Just over 100 wines were tasted and discussed. In this supplement we present the 50 that most impressed our judges, categorised according to style, together with importer details and the recommended retail price.

THE WINE MERCHANT. Published by Graham Holter Ltd in association with the California Wine Institute www.winemerchantmag.com www.discovercaliforniawines.co.uk CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2018 THE WINE MERCHANT |

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licking through the descriptions of the names behind the wines featured over the next few pages, a theme begins to emerge: like snowflakes, no two producers of California are alike. On one page you’ll find a long-running family estate that began its adventure in wine in the 1880s and is credited as the ultimate source of the most widely used Chardonnay clone in the USA. A few pages later, there’s a husband-and-wife duo who started out as recently 2013 but, thanks to their reliance on some of the oldest vines in Mendocino and the Santa Cruz Mountains, are, in their way, just as committed to history. Elsewhere, there are “winegrowers” working solely with fruit grown in their own estates appearing alongside accomplished vintners who prefer the flexibility that comes with sourcing from wherever they can find the best grapes each vintage. On other pages, brands owned by some of the world’s largest and most successful wine companies appear next to wines where the production runs to no more than a few barrels each vintage.

and Viognier, as well as Italian and Alsacestyle blends. But even within the more established Californian varietal names – such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and the increasingly prominent Pinot Noir – there are various sub-categories or genres of style. To borrow from the judges’ comments on the particularly protean variety that still dominates fine white wine in the state: there are Chardonnays that look to Meursault, Chardonnays that look to Chablis and Chardonnays that are “classic California”. We all know what is meant by that last of that trio of styles. But the range of regions featured here suggests it’s high time we started thinking about the state’s wines a little differently. From Lodi to Napa, and from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Sonoma Coast, California is a terroir-lover’s playground. More than ever, producers are looking to reflect those different, special places. And, like the people behind them, no two California Collection wines are alike.

Given the diversity of people and philosophies behind the wines, it’s no surprise that the wines themselves evade formulaic description. Indeed, the single most striking feature of both this, the second California Collection put together by The Wine Merchant in association with the California Wine Institute, and last year’s inaugural choice of 50, is how well they reflect the sheer diversity of wine now emerging from the state. That’s true at the very basic level of varietal mix. Over the next few pages you’ll find outstanding single-varietal Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Riesling CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2018 THE WINE MERCHANT |

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JACK OVERBURY THE TASTING HOUSE, READING There’s a really nice fresh new approach to wine in California. I’ve been blown away by skin-contact Rieslings and things like that. The biodynamic styles of Cabernet Franc I’ve had recently from California are really interesting. They are still really bright, racy and fresh, but they have that real balsamic, savoury, gamey flavour coming through as well. There’s less saturation of American oak and it’s more about proper terroir expression. My favourite of the day was a Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend – one of Roberson’s wines – my favourite by a mile. There are a lot of producers in Napa who, since the Judgement of Paris, are really obsessed with making a Cabernet that is better than Bordeaux, but you don’t necessarily want that. I like the fact that the New World isn’t bound by tradition. I want to try something that I’ve never tried before. I think California is definitely bringing out some interesting producers at the moment and there has definitely been a shift towards not only organic but biodynamic forms of farming. You don’t see existing winemakers suddenly switching to biodynamic farming because it would completely change their style of wine, so it tends to be the young guns that bring the biodynamic wines in and they are the ones I’m keeping my eye on.

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TATOMER STEINHUGEL RIESLING SANTA BARBARA 2016 £23, ROBERSON WINE Former sommelier Graham Tatomer’s love of Riesling became an obsession that took him to Austria’s Wachau and involved a stint as assistant winemaker at Emmerich Knoll, before setting up on his own using old-vine fruit from various plots in Santa Barbara in 2006. This cuvée is taken from a single, biodynamic vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands and is, the judges said, “beautiful!” With “lychee, bay leaf, juicy clementine and ripe melon, it’s rounded, approachable and long”.

DOMAINE CARNEROS SPARKLING BRUT

HUNT & HARVEST SAUVIGNON BLANC

CARNEROS 2011 £28.55, HATCH MANSFIELD Founded by Claude Taittinger as a stateside home for high-quality, traditional-method fizz in the late 1970s, the sparkling wines of Domaine Carneros are now firmly established as Californian classics of the genre. Made entirely from estate-grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and aged for more than three years on its lees, the Sparkling Brut is filled with “fresh green apple and toasty brioche, with good texture weight and depth”, the judges said. “Good fun!”

NAPA VALLEY 2016 £20, ROBERSON WINE “Classic” Napa varietal wines from some of the region’s best sites is the raison d’être of Hunt & Harvest, the latest project from the people that brought you Long Meadow Ranch. It’s a philosophy that is well-represented by this Sauvignon Blanc, which, the judges said, has “a good balance of herbal, green, elderflower and nettley notes, with ripe red apple and mango. The palate is poised and expressive with plenty of apple and lemon-zest acidity. Very well made.”

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SANFORD CHARDONNAY

MARIMAR ESTATE ACERO CHARDONNAY

SANTA RITA HILLS 2015 £35, TERLATO WINES Sanford Winery was a pioneer of cool-climate California viticulture, planting its first Santa Barbara vineyard in 1971. All its experience counts in this barrel-fermented Chardonnay, made exclusively from fruit grown from Sanford’s two vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills. “Bright, mineral, zesty, slightly flinty, it’s focused and clean with plenty of layered, textured tangerine fruit … it has the brightness of Mâcon, but it’s layered and smoky like a Mersault,” the judges said.

RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY 2016 £30.99, FELLS The Californian branch of the Torres family continues to excel, with Marimar’s project synonymous with high-quality Sonoma Pinot Noir and Chardonnay since the 1980s. The Acero, from the Don Miguel Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, is fermented in stainless steel and sees no new oak. The result, according to the judges, is a “very impressive” Chardonnay that is “clean and focused” but with a “weighty palate of fresh clementine with subtle sweet spice. Layered, sinuous and long.”

WENTE VINEYARDS ESTATE GROWN MORNING FOG CHARDONNAY LIVERMORE VALLEY 2016 £15.49, FELLS Few names are more embedded in the history of California wine than Wente. The family business started out in the 1880s, and has since lent its name to the most widely planted Chardonnay clone in the state. Their mastery of the variety is exemplified by a wine that has always been among the best-value examples around, with the judges praising the latest vintage as “clean, mineral, focused, with wellintegrated oak and hints of smokiness”. 8

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STAG’S LEAP WINE CELLARS KARIA CHARDONNAY NAPA VALLEY 2016 £32, SAINTE MICHELLE WINE ESTATES A winery that helped put California on the global fine wine map with its Judgement of Paris-winning Cabernet has always been a fine exponent of Napa Chardonnay, too. Taking its name from the Greek word for elegant, the Karia is 70% barrel fermented, and offers, according to the judges, an “expressive palate that is very Napa: rich and weighty with white peach and super length. It’s excellent, but needs two to four years to open up.”

LIQUID FARM WHITE HILL CHARDONNAY

TREFETHEN ESTATE CHARDONNAY

SANTA RITA HILLS 2015 £45.10, FLINT WINES The team behind Liquid Farm initially set out to make one Chardonnay from the four barrels they produced in Santa Rita Hills in their first vintage in 2009. But the very different character of their two vineyard plots convinced them to make two cuvées, with White Hill, then as now, the more Chablis-esque of the pair. “USA meets Burgundy,” the judges said of a wine made in a “tight, reserved” style. “There’s a lovely texture of minerals, crushed rocks – and excellent length.”

OAK KNOLL DISTRICT 2016 £33.99, DANIEL LAMBERT WINES Another winery with a long track record in making top-quality Chardonnay, Trefethen’s Estate Chardonnay was named the World’s Best Chardonnay by Gault Millau magazine back in 1979. Some 40 years on, the quality of the source material from a vineyard in Napa’s Oak Knoll district still shines through in what the judges called a “delicious, zippy, stunning wine with a lively textured palate of lemon zest and minerals” and “excellent balance of fruit and oak”.

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PENNY CHAMPION CHAMPION WINES, CHISLEHURST, KENT

Californian wines are brilliant! I’m a massive fan and we pride ourselves on our Californian range – we hold 12 reds and six whites and we’re looking to extend the whites. I took in a couple of whites from this tasting. Californian Chardonnays are fantastic and I think they are underrated. Their fullness and richness is so unlike Australian and so unlike French. A lot of people really want that big rich style in a Chardonnay. Generally they were all really well balanced, with not too much oak. I think the style is still the same as I remember with big, bold and beautiful Cabernets … and Zinfandel the same. Our customers love that big, full-bodied style. They love it packed with fruit with some subtle oak and a massive amount of alcohol – some people expect that from California – for Cabernet in particular. There’s nothing like going to the actual place the wine comes from. Equally if we could get a winemaker in here to do some tastings, that would be something.

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GUENOC CALIFORNIA CHARDONNAY 2016 £13.99, BERKMANN WINE CELLARS Founded by free-spirited actress-turned-vintner Lillie Langtry in 1888, Guenoc, which takes its name from the eponymous valley some 60 miles north of San Francisco, makes fresh, affordable wines from sites across California, with the Chardonnay, in the judges’ view, summing up the approach. “Fresh and lively, it’s a little shy on the nose, but it all comes together on the palate, where there is a nice balance of fruit, oak and acidity. Excellent value.”

HOPE FAMILY LIBERTY SCHOOL CHARDONNAY

FAILLA SONOMA COAST CHARDONNAY

CENTRAL COAST 2016 £20.75, AWIN BARRATT SIEGEL The Hope Family has become a significant name in the California wine industry ever since arriving in Paso Robles in search of pastures new in the late 1970s, first as growers, and, in more recent years, as producers of estate wines bottled under five different labels. The “custardy, vanilla-ry, poised” Liberty School Chardonnay, with its “great length”, was, in the words of one of our independent judges, “great value. It’s a perfect fit for the £10 to £20 slot … I would definitely stock it.”

2014 £40, FLINT WINES French-trained vintner Ehren Jordan’s Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah from coolclimate sites have made him one of the stars of California’s In Pursuit of Balance movement, with his Failla label becoming synonymous with the state’s more elegant side. “This is a lovely wine,” the judges said of this, one of eight Chardonnays made by the estate. “Dried pear and citrus, great length and texture, lots of concentration, polished … great balance between old and new styles.”

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~ THREE OF THE TOP 50 WINES ~ featured in this issue 2016 Chardonnay | 2014 Malbec | 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon 12

Trefethen wines available through Daniel Lambert Wines 1656 661010 | www.daniellambertwines.co.uk | @DanielLambert29

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DE LOACH RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY CHARDONNAY 2015 £23.99, LIBERTY WINES It’s now 15 years since Cecil and Christine De Loach sold this long-established premium producer to Burgundy’s Jean-Claude Boisset. That’s enough time for the French firm’s influence to really come through in the range of Russian River wines – not least the fine estate Chardonnay. “With lovely light pineapple fruit, this has a delightful texture and shape – it’s California style but measured,” the judges said. “Great acidity, clean lines, but lots of fruit and flavour.”

JOURNEYMAN CHARDONNAY

SEAVIEW BENOVIA CHARDONNAY

RUSSIAN RIVER, 2013 £45.99, LIBERTY WINES Although he has now sold the family winery – one of the biggest names in California wine – Pete Seghesio continues to make wine, albeit in tiny quantities, under his Journeyman label, using Chardonnay fruit produced by his favourite growers in the Russian River. Impressive wines, too. “Classic Chardonnay nose, good weight and intense middle palate,” the judges said. “Ripe, soft, peachy fruit, with good acidity that keeps the wine flowing. Some spiced apple and a nice finish.”

SONOMA COUNTY 2013 £39.99, THE VINEYARD CELLARS “We have a foot in the Old World and a foot in the New World. We strive for elegance with a sense of place.” So says Benovia co-owner and winemaker Mike Sullivan about the wines he makes from his three estate vineyards, and partner growers in Russian River and along the Sonoma Coast. The judges agreed, enjoying “the line of restraining acidity that counters the impressive heft of nicely ripe fruit” in a Chardonnay with “nice energy and flow”.

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FERRARI-CARANO TRE TERRE CHARDONNAY

CAMBRIA TEPUSQUET VINEYARD VIOGNIER

SONOMA COUNTY 2013 £26, THE VINEYARD CELLARS From a base in Dry Creek Valley, Don and Rhonda Carano have 19 estate vineyards in four AVAs, and have built up a reputation for consistent quality since starting out in the mid-1980s. That’s thanks to wines such as their reliable Tré Terre Chardonnay, the latest vintage of which impressed the judges with its “lighter, brighter feel and flow. The oak is well managed, it’s nice and sleek, and it has good gingery pep. Good and Californian!”

SANTA MARIA VALLEY 2015 £18.99, FELLS The Jackson family is California wine royalty, and the Cambria operation, run by Barbara Banke (who built the Jackson brand with late husband Jess Jackson) and Jess’s daughters, Katie and Julia Jackson, carries on the good work on the family estate in the Santa Maria Valley. Their Viognier has “nice richness, without being flabby or at all overbearing”, the judges said. “Good zippy peach and juicy with the oak almost imperceptible: a very pleasant surprise!”

MOOBUZZ CHARDONNAY MONTEREY COUNTY 2015 £17, ROBERSON WINE Fourth-generation wine producer August Sebastiani has made the most of his family’s connections to source the Monterey County fruit for his funkily packaged Moobuzz range of wines – so named as a play on the phrase “land of milk and honey”. With 30% aged in oak, the Chardonnay (there’s also a Pinot) is “excellent value”, the judges said, balancing “bright fresh acidity and exotic fruit with some oak sweetness in a wine that would sell well”.

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AU BON CLIMAT PINOT GRIS/PINOT BLANC

ROBERT MONDAVI WINERY NAPA FUMÉ BLANC

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY 2016 £21.90, FIELDS MORRIS & VERDIN Jim Clendenen is one of California’s most respected winemakers: a man who has not been afraid to plough his own furrow with seriously elegant, cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir since starting out in 1982. Here he turns his attention from Burgundy to Alsace for inspiration, with gorgeous results. “Perfumed, lifted, floral, peachy … on the palate there are touches of lychee and jasmine. Wonderful acidity, great drinkability,” said the judges. “This is something genuinely different, good value and interesting.”

2016 £16.99, CONSTELLATION Robert Mondavi had his eyes firmly set on France when he made the first vintage of a wine that would go on to give its name to a style of Sauvignon Blanc in California. The name is Loire, the winemaking technique – barrelfermentation – is Graves, but the style remains a true Napa original. “Lemony, spicy, pithy, soft and attractive – great style,” the judges said. “It has perfectly ripe lemon fruit, no greenness or herbaceousness. And good value, too.”

CA MOMI BIANCO DE NAPA 2014 £14.60, RICHMOND WINE AGENCIES Ca Momi was founded in Napa Valley by three Italian winemakers – Dario De Conti, Valentina Guolo-Migotto and Stefano Migotto – in 2006, and soon earned a reputation for making wines with a certain Italian character from ripe Napa fruit. Here an unusual blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Viognier makes for an “easy-drinking” white with a “pretty, delicate nose that is floral and aromatic and a rounded, creamy palate”, the judges said. “Nice wine.”

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DAVID PORTER LEA & SANDEMAN, LONDON I thoroughly enjoyed the tasting – I thought it was a really interesting showcase. My overriding impressions were that often the more restrained styles of Pinot and Chardonnay are really successful and refreshing – a move away from being too big and bold – and there were some really exceptional Pinot Noirs: not jammy but not too lightweight. When the Chardonnays had some Californian identity, that is when they worked best for me. The Zinfandels, where they are inherently Californian, are more interesting for me to taste – retaining their sense of place without being overwhelmingly big and broad for this market. It struck me that there were quite a few well priced wines, which surprised me. I was expecting many of them, having tasted them, to be more expensive. Historically Californian wines have often seemed quite expensive in this market, but that seems to have been addressed. They do seem to be making wines that will work here. Actually it’s the middle ground for our customers, between £15 and £25, where people are happy to spend, as long as they get a sense of place. They are happy to experiment with Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast and Chardonnays from Sonoma, or even Napa. But it’s about that middle ground in price: nothing too expensive, niche and culty … and nothing too mainstream and mass produced.

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LONG BARN PINOT NOIR 2015 £12.80, RICHMOND WINE AGENCIES Based in Napa Valley, where the company has its own winery and bottling facility, Fior di Sole is a custom wine producer that makes premium brands on a project basis from fruit it sources from across California. In the case of this neatly packaged Pinot, that’s a recipe for “very good value, with creamy strawberry and vanilla, good fruit and length”, the judges said. “Different from a Kiwi Pinot at the same price point, and great when chilled.”

MEIOMI PINOT NOIR 2016 £19.99, CONSTELLATION Respected winemaker Melissa Stackhouse gets to work with fruit from three coastal California regions for her range of cool-climate wines – Sonoma Coast, Monterey and Santa Barbara. All three make the final blend for the estate Pinot Noir, with Monterey taking the lion’s share, and the whole aged in 100% French oak. “This is all about juicy sweet fruit and a touch of oaky sweetness,” the judges said. “It’s excellent value for a real crowd pleaser.”

PATZ & HALL SONOMA COAST PINOT NOIR 2015 £55, SAINTE MICHELLE WINE ESTATES Founded in 1988 by four friends – Donald Patz, James Hall, Anne Moses and Heather Patz – Patz and Hall has gone on to establish itself as one of California’s leading names for fine singlevineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sourced from some of the best growers in the state. For the Sonoma Coast Pinot, careful oak ageing leads to what the judges called a “complex, stunning wine, with a lovely balance of fruit and acidity and great length”.

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LUTUM LA RINCONADA VINEYARD PINOT NOIR SANTA RITA HILLS 2014 £55, FLINT WINES A collaboration between the entrepreneur, Bill Price (owner of Classic Wines and Price Family Vineyards), and the winemaker, Gavin Chanin, Lutum is all about small-batch Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from some of the best vineyards in the state’s cool-climate hotspots. For our judges, the pair’s Pinot from the fog-cooled La Rinconanda vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills AVA delivered a “really grown-up Pinot Noir with fantastic balance, fruit and real complexity. A proper wine; excellent winemaking.”

VARNER LOS ALAMOS PINOT NOIR SANTA BARBARA 2014 £28.60, FLINT WINES The Varner brothers, Jim and Bob, have always looked to Burgundy for the inspiration for their range of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Though they were forced to move on from the vineyards they’d developed for more than 30 years in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the influence is still apparent from the wines they’re making in their Los Alomos vineyard in Santa Barbara. “Pale and gentle, with a real lightness of touch. This is very nice, light, cool-climate Pinot,” the judges said.

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JUSTIN KNOCK MW PHILGLAS & SWIGGOT, LONDON CO-DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA WINE INSTITUTE UK & IRELAND California Chardonnay occupies a unique place in the market – even though there are some more elegant styles coming out, the classic style is now almost impossible to find elsewhere and a whole load of people still love it. The quality of the Pinots has been particularly good …. the Sonoma Coast has probably been the most exciting area. Santa Rita Hills and Santa Barbara are making some really good stuff as well. California Pinot is now very good value compared to Burgundy. You can get some seriously good California Pinots between £40 and £70. The 2014 vintage was particularly good. We find the classic Napa Cabs do quite well at £50 to £70 and knock the socks off Cabernets from anywhere else at that price. You know they’re going to be extremely consistent and people love their generosity. You almost never find greenness. There’s increasingly more choice in the UK with California and it’s nice to see some good-value stuff coming out of Monterey and the Santa Lucia Highlands.

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DE LOACH RUSSIAN RIVER PINOT NOIR 2015 £25.99, LIBERTY WINES The second wine from the De Loach estate in this year’s Top 50, and, like the Chardonnay, it shows how owner Jean-Claude Boisset has managed to bring all their Burgundian expertise to bear on quality California fruit. “Good impact; it’s somehow sturdy but with nice shape and brightness,” the judges said. “Ripe fruit but measured, with nice energy and flow, but enough matter and great balance, with soft tannins well-integrated and lovely length. Good value!”

LITTORAI SONOMA COAST PINOT NOIR 2016 £67.99, LIBERTY WINES Ted and Heidi Lemon’s project, founded in 1993, has always been dedicated to the highest quality, producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from single vineyard sites in what they call the “true north coast of California: the coastal mountains of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties”. This is cool-climate California winemaking at its very best, the judges said of the Sonoma Coast Pinot. “Peppy, lively, and inviting, this is beautiful wine, with super clarity, length and purity – it’s just gorgeous!”

MELVILLE ESTATE SANTA RITA HILLS PINOT NOIR 2014 £33.25, THE VINEYARD CELLARS Chad Melville and his father, Ron, consider themselves “winegrowers, not winemakers”. By this they mean that their primary role is as farmers of high quality fruit in the Santa Rita Hills, which they then aim to turn into wine with the least interference possible. It’s a recipe that certainly worked for the judges in the case of this “very pretty, very cool” Pinot, with its “red berries, spice and touch of texture and grip”.

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EDNA VALLEY CENTRAL COAST PINOT NOIR

PAUL HOBBS CROSSBARN PINOT NOIR

2015 £15, E&J GALLO It’s still hard to find decent Pinot from anywhere in the world at the £15 mark, but particularly so in California. For our judges, however, it’s something that Edna Valley Vineyards – an estate founded by the Niven family in the eponymous valley, but owned by Gallo since 2011 – manages to achieve here. “Ripe, warm cola spice and caramel oak gives it weight and polished veneer,” the judges said. “Dark fruit has a warmer climate feel: great value.”

SONOMA COAST 2014 £34.95, ALLIANCE WINE Star winemaker Paul Hobbs’ Crossbarn project takes its name from a feature of the family farm in upstate New York where Hobbs grew up. The winery itself is very much a Californian affair, however, with wines made from fruit sourced in Napa, Russian River and, in this case, the Sonoma Coast. It’s a Pinot that divided opinion among the judges, but made it through for its full-on style with “huge extraction and grippy tannins, supporting a savoury-spicy finish”.

JOSEPH PHELPS FREESTONE VINEYARDS PINOT NOIR SONOMA COAST 2014 £49.99, BERKMANN WINE CELLARS Joseph Phelps started out in the 1970s and became one of the big names in Napa. Now run by the second and third generation of the family, the winery maintains its reputation for excellence in both Napa and the Sonoma Coast, with the latter the source of what the judges called a “very impressive, powerful, and ageworthy” Pinot Noir, which has been matured in a mix of new and old French oak.

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STUART MCCLOSKEY Z&B VINTNERS/VINORIUM, KENT Stylistically I think the wines are excellent; very good indeed. We predominantly stock Chardonnays and Pinot Noir [from California], which they do very well. Pinots from Sonoma can be absolutely amazing. As a whole, California can produce world-class wines. A £50 to £70 wine from California – Sonoma, those sorts of areas – are just exquisite. I think they are quite a step up from what you can get from the rest of the New World. When they’re great, California wines are majestic and stunning.

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Trefethen Family Vineyards is located in the heart of the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley and was founded in 1968 as a family-run estate. As pioneers in Napa’s modern era, John and Janet Trefethen have helped shape the valley into what it is today. True to the family’s vision of creating an acclaimed wine estate, they have grown every grape for every bottle of Trefethen. Today, the Trefethen family’s third generation, Lorenzo and Hailey, assist their parents in continuing the family tradition of passion for the land, its people, and the art of crafting exceptional Napa Valley wines.

One Family

One Estate

Napa Valley

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One Passion

Since 1968

Trefethen wines available through Daniel Lambert Wines | 1656 661010 www.daniellambertwines.co.uk | @DanielLambert29


KUNIN SANTA BARBARA SYRAH 2015 £28, ROBERSON WINE New Yorker Seth Kunin became a committed Rhône lover in a career spent working in California’s restaurant and wine businesses. No surprise, then, that our judges detected a stylistic debt to the Northern Rhône in the Syrah that Kunin made in the cool-climate of Santa Barbara. “Great wine,” the judges said. “Beautiful nose, lovely depth of briary black fruit, black pepper and ripe cherry with a hint of herbs and menthol. It has real Syrah character and great length.”

FIRESTONE SYRAH SANTA YNEZ VALLEY 2014 £19.99, BERKMANN WINE CELLARS This winery that led the way in Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez County has been owned by winemaker Bill Foley for the past decade, producing wines inspired by both Bordeaux and the Rhône in a benign “Goldilocks” climate. It’s the latter French region that takes the lead here, in a “full-flavoured” Syrah with a “herbal, spicy nose, good ripe cherry fruit and firm tannins. Good price, good ripeness but not too heavy – although it’s still a baby!”

MELVILLE ESTATE SANTA RITA HILLS SYRAH 2015 £28, THE VINEYARD CELLARS Although Burgundian-style Pinot has attracted most of the attention and critical plaudits for California’s new wave of cool-climate winemakers, many producers are making Northern Rhône-influenced Syrah that is every bit as impressive. The self-styled “winegrowers” of Melville Estate, who also contribute a fine Pinot to this list, are very much among them, with this Santa Barbara expression, according to the judges, “a great restrained effort. Supple, dark red mulberry and plum, really measured, intense, poised and persistent.” CALIFORNIA COLLECTION 2018 THE WINE MERCHANT |

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TREFETHEN ESTATE MALBEC

PAUL HOBBS CROSSBARN CABERNET SAUVIGNON

NAPA VALLEY 2014 £33.99, DANIEL LAMBERT WINES That Trefethen should prove to be a standout producer at this Top 50 tasting will come as no surprise to those familiar with one of California’s most consistent performers of the past 40 years. That a Californian Malbec should prove to be such a hit, however, did raise the eyebrows of one or two judges. “Intense, polished, energetic on the palate, but with peppy acidity, it’s just so much brighter than anticipated,” they said. “Wow!”

NAPA VALLEY 2014 £42.95, ALLIANCE WINE If some of the winemakers on this list have dedicated their careers to changing perceptions of California by working in a more Europeaninfluenced style, there is still room on any independent retailer’s shelves for the classic Napa virtues of big, concentrated fruitiness. The latter is certainly on offer in this second wine in the Top 50 from Paul Hobbs’ Crossbarn venture, which, the judges said, was “sweet, ripe and full on; intense and joyously Californian!”

BROC CELLARS COUCOU CABERNET FRANC HAPPY CANYON OF SANTA BARBARA 2016 £35, ROBERSON WINE Talented young winemaker Chris Brockway has a justified reputation for making some of the funkiest wines in California at his urban winery in the bohemian university town of Berkeley. Minimal intervention and biodynamic or organic grapes are the key tenets of the Brockway philosophy, which he here applies to Cabernet Franc from Happy Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara. “There’s a delightful softness here, a strawberry fleshiness and a sweetness,” the judges said. “So easy to drink chilled.” 28

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DICH OATLEY THE GENERAL WINE COMPANY, HAMPSHIRE Usually for Napa you are looking at £50 upwards so it was nice to see some fresher styles in between the £10 to £20 mark, which for retail is pretty much a sweet spot. There was a really good selection to try and some of the more entry-level wines were standing up to the more expensive ones. There’s an element of having cult names in the industry so if you live in California you’d be paying exactly the same price as we pay here. But the new style is more balanced in acidity and they are standing up to the bigger names. There are some exciting wines coming out of Paso Robles and Monterey; those sorts of areas. There are winemakers who are definitely trying to find more of a balance. And that’s exciting for us as retailers and especially exciting for consumers. We stock about 180 different lines from California. We generally do a promotion once every two years and we get to open up some special bottles as well as some everyday drinking wine for everyone to try and if we get a winemaker over we make as much noise about it as possible. It’s great to see some youthful, more innovative winemakers coming through the ranks from some lesser-known areas. The whole ethos for the younger generation of winemakers is to be maverick and try new things – there’s no rule book for them to adhere to like they do in Bordeaux or Burgundy so they can make their own mark, which is very exciting.

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MAX JEWELL PRIORY WINES, LYMINGTON, HAMPSHIRE The tasting was fantastic – there was a really good cross-section from all levels, not just the staple names that founded the region but also wines that ticked all the boxes with price points I didn’t expect to see. Some were closer to £10, which was quite surprising. Across the board the Chardonnays were really good. They have maintained the expressiveness and vibrancy that they are famous for but they’ve taken away the fat and flabby element. There’s a minerality and backbone; they felt more suitedup and have an extra level of class to them now. They felt a lot more rounded than my previous experience of them. The wine industry in California really has got its act together in the last 10 years in terms of offering that purity and clarity in its wines. For us, California as a region is a hand-sell as people around here tend to know what they like and stick to their habits. California has had a negative connotation of being too jammy and hot. It’s been underrated. Once people get to try it then they will start buying it.

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VINCA MINOR CABERNET SAUVIGNON SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS 2016 £42, ROBERSON WINE Detroit-born Jason Edward Charles brought an end to a peripatetic existence as photographer, waiter and student winemaker by establishing his Vinca Minor operation in Mendocino County in 2013. Using fruit sourced from old vines, he is known for his dry-farmed Carignan, but this Cabernet really captured the judges’ imagination. “Farmyardy nose – Bourgueil in style,” the judges said. “Lead pencil with meat and leather, wild bramble fruit of great concentration. Racy, mouthwatering acidity and fine grainy tannins.”

STAG’S LEAP WINE CELLARS ARTEMIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON NAPA VALLEY 2015 £50, SAINTE MICHELLE WINE ESTATES One of modern California wine’s original big names proves it has what it takes to succeed in a significantly more competitive market nearly 50 years since its foundation by Warren Winiarski. The Artemis is quintessential Napa Cabernet, the judges said. “Chocolate fudge and cassis on the nose with lifted eucalyptus and mint. On the palate, spiciness is backed up by lifted acidity and green notes, finishing with chocolate cake. Great depth; great length.”

TREFETHEN ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON NAPA VALLEY 2014 £44.49, DANIEL LAMBERT WINES The third of a trio of excellent wines in the Top 50 from the consistent Trefethen is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon from the Oak Knoll District of Napa. With tiny seasoning doses of Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot making up the blend, the wine spends 18 months in a mixture of French, American and Hungarian oak. “Dark nose of herb, game and leather,” said the judges. “On the palate there’s dark, wild, brambly fruit, ripe tannins, and a juicy, mouthwatering grip.”

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FEDERALIST LODI ZINFANDEL

JOEL GOTT ZINFANDEL LODI 2015 £16.99, BERKMANN WINE CELLARS Joel Gott is a West Coast specialist, making wines not just in California, but also in Oregon and Washington State in the Pacific North West. For its California operation, it sources from across the state. The fruit for this typically flavoursome Zin is drawn from Lodi, Amador, Lake County and Mendocino, each contributing something different to the final blend. “Herbal spicy notes flow into a palate of good plummy spiciness,” the judges said. “Leafy, sweet, good value.”

2015 £20, TERLATO WINES From a range of wines by Terlato dedicated to the Founding Fathers of the USA, The Federalist Zinfandel is a wine “to salute the first President of the United States, George Washington”, made from that most American of grape varieties, Zinfandel. According to the judges, it’s a fitting tribute: “Smoked meat nose backed up by pepper and raspberry,” they said. “The palate starts sweet but opens to raisins and chocolate. Long, weighty, but lifted by good acidity.”

SCOTTO FAMILY WINES OLD VINE ZINFANDEL LODI 2014 £10.74, SECKFORD AGENCIES The Scotto family, who can trace their roots to Italy via New York, have been involved in wine for generations, but set up shop with their eponymous winery in Lodi in 2009. Their mission: “Small lots of handmade wine from local vineyards” – to which, our judges would add “at great prices”. Certainly, the quality/ price ratio of this fruit-driven Zinfandel makes it an all-the-more attractive proposition for independent ranges. As the judges said: “Good fruit, good length, good value!” 32

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WATERSTONE NAPA VALLEY ZINFANDEL 2012 £14, THE VINEYARD CELLARS The winery working entirely with estate fruit is an increasingly popular mode of production in California. But Waterstone shows the merits of an approach based on clever sourcing from long-term grower-partners. That may well help the company in its aim to produce “luxury wines at affordable prices” – a goal, according to the judges, very much achieved here. “Big and bold, with bittersweet aromas of juicy fruit on the palate and firm tannins and spicy black pepper. Good value!”

SEGHESIO OLD VINES ZINFANDEL SONOMA COUNTY 2013 £47.99, LIBERTY WINES Seghesio may no longer be in the eponymous family’s hands, but it continues to act as a standard bearer for high-quality California wine – and specifically the variety with which it is all but synonymous, Zinfandel. The titular old vines in the Dry Creek bench and Alexander Valley are up to 70 years old, and the resulting wine offers “big ripe black cherry fruit, lovely smooth tannins and fruit, integrated oak and creaminess, and great length”.

RANCHO ZABACO DRY CREEK VALLEY RESERVE ZINFANDEL 2014 £14, E&J GALLO Rancho Zabaco is a winery dedicated to Zinfandel, making a number of wines from the variety at all price points, including a handful of highly rated single-vineyard cuvées. For the Reserve Dry Creek Valley, the company works in its original location, a part of the world where Zin has been around for 150 years, and the benefit of experience shows in what the judges called a “black cherry-juicy, great value wine – well balanced and so easy to like”.

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PETER FRANUS RED HILLS LAKE COUNTY MOURVÈDRE

RUTHERFORD HILL BARREL SELECT NAPA VALLEY 2014 £31, THE WINE TREASURY From its position perched up on the eastern side of the Napa Valley in the Rutherford AVA – where the famed Rutherford Dust is home to some of California’s greatest reds – Rutherford Hill produces classic Napa Valley wines of intensity and balance. The Barrel Select blend is based on 70% Merlot, with 15% apiece of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and, in the words of the judges, “is a full-throttle Napa blend, that packs a punch but delivers on intense flavour”.

2013 £43, AWIN BARRATT SIEGEL As the man on the label, Peter Franus, himself says, “there’s nothing quite like Mourvèdre”. Yet it’s rare to find the variety given a solo outing in the States, which made this 100% example from a vineyard at an altitude of 3,000ft in Red Hills Lake County all the more appealing for the judges. “Spicy violets on the nose and an intense, rounded rich palate with good fruit intensity, creaminess and savouriness. A sophisticated wine that builds.”

TABLAS CREEK PATELIN DE TABLAS PASO ROBLES 2015 £25.70, FIELDS MORRIS & VERDIN The Perrin family, most famously of Château Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, brought the Rhône to California when they teamed up with the Hass family of Vineyard Brands to found Tablas Creek in Paso Robles in 1989. Since then, the winery has been at the forefront of Rhône-inspired winemaking in the state, with wines such as this blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Counoise. “A great wine,” the judges said, “with the perfect balance of varieties. Spicy, structured and long.”

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TERROIR DRIVEN, OLD VINE ZINFANDEL FROM THE OUTSTANDING DRY CREEK VALLEY AVA

WWW.RANCHOZABACO.COM

Distributed by Enotria & Coe

©2018 Rancho Zabaco Winery, Healdsburg, CA. All rights reserved.

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The Wine Merchant California Collection 2018  

The Wine Merchant California Collection 2018

The Wine Merchant California Collection 2018  

The Wine Merchant California Collection 2018

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