WINE

Macclesfield Express - - LEISURE - ANDY CRONSHAW

I WAS at a tast­ing this week when I men­tioned to one of the guests that I’d be writ­ing about Cal­i­for­nian wines this week.

She screwed up her face in hor­ror and made some com­ments to the ef­fect that my role as a wine ed­i­tor couldn’t be all that great after all.

Per­haps the rea­son for this is that the UK is very badly served for Cal­i­for­nian wines at the su­per­mar­ket level.

The painful truth is that Cal­i­for­nian wine does not come cheap, or if it does, it might not be par­tic­u­larly good.

So where to buy de­cent wine from Amer­ica’s ‘Golden State’?

As a re­cent tast­ing at Hang­ing Ditch proved – in­de­pen­dent wine mer­chants are the places to head. You may need to spend £20 plus for a bot­tle but there’s a sweet spot at this level for Cal­i­for­nian wines where they re­ally of­fer plenty of bang for your hard-earned buck.

The to­pog­ra­phy of the state is too var­ied to sum up sim­ply but there are hot­ter, drier re­gions such as Napa 20 miles north of San Francisco.

Other vine­yards closer to the Pa­cific such as Rus­sian River Val­ley in Sonoma ben­e­fit from the cool­ing in­flu­ence of the ocean and fur­ther­more from the dis­tinc­tive preva­lence of fog and mist along the Cal­i­for­nian coast.

This lat­ter fac­tor makes ideal grow­ing con­di­tions for cool cli­mate va­ri­eties such as Pinot Noir.

Mari­mar Es­tate Wines

Cal­i­for­nian wine-maker Mari­mar Es­tate Mas Cavalls Mari­mar Tor­res is the sis­ter of Miguel Tor­res, head of the Span­ish wine em­pire. Her wines make full use of the cooler con­di­tions on the coast where she has or­ganic vine­yards in the Rus­sian River Val­ley. Mari­mar Es­tate Don Miguel Vine­yard Al­barino Rus­sian River Val­ley 2012 (£27.99 www. vin­tage­mar­que.com) Al­barino is bet­ter known as a Span­ish va­ri­ety which thrives in the rainy north of Spain and Por­tu­gal. Here in Don Miguel it bursts with the same vi­tal­ity. The flo­ral aro­mas are matched by the lime cit­rus notes while the palate is taut and min­eral with a very long fin­ish. Mari­mar Es­tate Don Miguel Vine­yard Acero Chardonnay 2012 (£22 the drinkshop.com)

Acero means steel in Span­ish and ac­cord­ingly this wine has been made with­out the use of oak. It’s a wine of won­der­ful pu­rity and el­e­gance where the trop­i­cal flavours are kept in check by a crisp back­bone of acid­ity. Mari­mar Es­tate Mas Cavalls Pinot Noir, Dona Mar­garita Vine­yard, Sonoma 2010 (£34.49 John Ar­mit Wines, Vin­tage Mar­que ) This wine is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of how the fog rolling in off the Pa­cific makes for ideal Pinot Noir con­di­tions. Fine dark cherry and red berry aro­mas min­gle with savoury spices. It’s rounded, gen­er­ous and sen­su­ous in the mouth. Mari­mar Es­tate Cristina Pinot Noir Don Miguel Vine­yard 2009 (£42.49 John Ar­mit, Vin­tage Mar­que) Named after Mari­mar’s daugh­ter Cristina, this Pinot is clas­sic Cal­i­for­nian Pinot with a rasp­berry nose and hints of aro­mat­ics. The palate is silky and de­li­cious.

Hang­ing Ditch Wines

Au Bon Cli­mat Hilde­gard 2010 (£35)

A Cal­i­for­nian clas­sic made from Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Alig­oté. This boasts par­tic­u­larly Bur­gun­dian flavours de­spite the fact there is no Chardonnay used at all.

The ripe peach flavours are matched by sweet oak yet there is plenty of acid­ity to bal­ance it out. Joseph Swan Cotes du Rosa Carig­nan 2012 (£25)

This pro­ducer is a bou­tique win­ery mak­ing ex­cel­lent qual­ity wine in Rus­sian River Val­ley. Very of­ten, as here, they are Rhone-a-like wines. This Carig­nan is bram­bly with savoury, funky nose. The per­fect match for wild boar sausages. Wild Hog Mon­tepul­ciano Nova Vine­yards, Dun­ni­gan Hills, Sonoma County 2010 (£30)

An even smaller pro­ducer grow­ing great wines in very small quan­ti­ties. This was a rev­e­la­tion; an Ital­ian clas­sic grape va­ri­ety pro­duced in Cal­i­for­nia.

There’s a dark cherry full­ness to the nose and a big, but well-struc­tured bal­ance to the gen­er­ous fruit. My favourite wine of this tast­ing.

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