It is one man in particular that every so often makes me crave American wine: Jim Clendenen, the Californian winemaker behind Au Bon Climat. The ABC Pinot Noir and Chardonnay I have tried so far were delicious and, if you consider how insanely expensive Californian wine can be, reasonably priced. As it has been a while since I had the pleasure and as I love all Pinot varieties I could not resist getting a bottle of ABC's Pinot Gris and Blanc blend.
With a label like this, impossible to imagine in France and probably even in Germany, I don't have to tell you what went into the wine, but for you lovers of more "natural" winemaking I can add that this ABC is an unfiltered organic product of spontaneous fermentation.
In what has become a Wine Rambler tradition, whenever we get a full committee meeting (Wine Ramblers proper and significant others) together, we do a little blind tasting comparing two wines that ought in theory be very similar on the basis of grape variety, style or pricing. This time, two aged Cabernet-based Bordeaux blends, one an actual mid-range Bordeaux, Chateau Poujeaux 1994, the other a Napa Valley classic, Mayacamas 1992. Braised vension, red cabbage, Spätzle and chestnuts were on hand to keep the contestants company.
We had been wrong before - and so uncorked bottle No. 1 with due concentration and a sense of humility.
There are wines you fancy, wines you want badly and wines you have to buy. The Mayacamas ticked all these boxes, but particularly the third. An eighteen year old wine from a top Californian producer famous for their age-worthy, lighter Cabernets, and the price reduced to half - I had to get it. Mayacamas Vineyards go back to 1899 and rose to prominence when their Cabernet was included in the famous 1976 Paris blind tasting battle France vs. California.
In 2006, the blind tasting was repeated and the Mayacamas came third out of ten red wines, beating the likes of Château Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion. So, when I saw my Mayacamas at Battersea wine shop Philglass & Swiggot I did not hesitate for second and decided to take it to Munich for a blind tasting at a Wine Rambler full committee meeting.
Yes, it is plain wrong and should never exist. Seriously, a Pinot Noir, any wine in fact, with 15.3% alcohol must be evil. And yet this Californian Pinot Noir was strongly recommended to me when, during a visit to a stylish NYC wine shop, I asked for an unusual American wine below thirty bucks. As I love Pinot Noir and as Kate from September Wines was very enthusiastic about this one I decided to take it home with me (for $27.21, if anyone cares to know).
A few weeks later on a cold autumn weekend in London a pheasant was merrily roasting in the oven. The meal, the atmosphere and the colours around me were quite autumnal, and as the appearance of the Cotturi seemed to reflect that, I decided that the wine's time had come.
As far as wine is concerned, there is much more to California than just Napa Valley or Sonoma. In fact, one of the Californian wineries that so far has impressed me most is located a little bit further south, in Santa Maria Valley: Jim Clendenen's Au Bon Climat. On election day in the UK, when a risotto was slowly cooking in the kitchen, it was time to open a Californian Pinot Noir to support us through the long night.
Every so often I leave German Pinot Noir behind and venture into the New World. This time it is Californian Pinot - and a very pleasant one. It is made by the guys from the Calera Wine Company, a Californian winery founded by Josh Jensen in the 1970s. K&U, where I bought this wine, are giving Josh a lot of praise for his 'slow', handmade and sustainable style of winemaking (actually, they do praise almost all their winemakers in that way). The grapes for this Pinot were indeed harvested by hand and fermented with native yeast. So let's have a look! [read the full post...]
The year is 1976 and the French wine legions have conquered the world. The whole world? Wait, a small Californian valley still stands against the empire. But sadly, no one but the Californians themselves is aware of this. The movie Bottle Shock is about a wine tasting held in Paris in 1976, the Judgement of Paris, that changed all that. Despite all the drama, Bottle Shock is also, sometimes sadly, a comedy.
Once upon a time there was a slightly eccentric English lover of wine whose dream it was to run a quality wine shop. Luckily, Steven Spurrier was also the son of a well-to-do family and in the 1970s we find him running his own wine shop and wine school in Paris, shaking hands with the French wine elite and over time becoming accepted almost as one of their own. When Spurrier learned that California wine makers used a lot of new, innovative techniques to make good wine in French style, he decided to host a tasting of French and American wines. While Spurrier never expected the Californians to win, he wanted the tasting to be blind so that they would not get totally trashed by the wine judges who would be French.
Thursday evening we ventured to the Clapham Picturehouse to see a movie about wine. And to drink some, of course. The movie is Bottle Shock and it features the (in)famous 1976 Paris wine tasting during which the French wine elite was defeated by the products of the (then) newcomers from California. To re-enact the Judgement of Paris, the cinema offered eight wines, four each from France and California, and the movie ticket for £22. So off we went! [read the full post...]