Celebrating California’s finest
The Wine Institute of California is an organisation based in San Francisco that is an association of approximately one thousand wineries and it “initiates public policy to enhance the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine”.
It has designated September California Wine Month. It is very involved with sustainable wine-growing and the appreciation of its wines throughout the world.
The Californian wine trade has come a long way since I spent a couple of months there with Gallo in 1975.
In fact, it employs 325,000 workers in the state and behind France, Italy and Spain, it is now the fourth largest producer overall.
Although all 50 states produce some sort of wine, 85 per cent comes from California. On our island it is estimated that 35 per cent of all wine originates from this state, with the next highest being Italy at about 15 per cent.
We are talking cases and not dollars and so very high volume wines such as our Barefoot Cellars account for a large volume (need that tasty Monday-to- Thursday night wine for sure, and California is so good at it).
For us, the “hottest” category at this time is Pinot Noir and although we do associate sunshine and heat with California, all you have to do is stand down on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco on an August evening and you will appreciate the chilling breeze and fog that rolls in off the Pacific Ocean.
Mark Twain is quoted as saying “The coldest winter I ever spent was August in San Francisco”.
Pinot Noir thrives on cool nights and there are many areas where this grape grows so very happily.
When Laely Heron set up shop in Monterey County she knew that an area in the Santa Lucia Highlands was rapidly becoming a legend in the wine world.
This elevated mountain perch is influenced by fog and breezes from Monterey Bay that create a “Region 1” climate so perfect for the slow ripening of Pinot Noir. Our Heron Monterey County 2013 Pinot Noir has ripe, inviting aromas of black cherry, plum and violets accented by gentle sweet oak.
Its plush tannins frame flavours of baked cherry, strawberry, spice cake and a touch of anise. $24.35.
Another new wine for us from Monterey County is Higher Ground 2014 Pinot Noir that at $20.30 is really quite lovely for the price.
These folks only make Pinot Noir and, though originally for restaurants only in the USA, we have it in our shops here.
You will notice layered aromas of blackberries, cherries and a hint of vanilla toffee. It is a delicious wine that would be so happy to accompany tuna, salmon, poultry and pork.
If you look across San Francisco Bay to the North, the land you will see is the Carneros District that runs along the bottom of Sonoma and Napa Valley. Carneros is the Spanish word for sheep and, of course, these animals, like Pinot Noir, do best when cool.
I love the way Robert Sinskey farms there.
He is certified biodynamic, uses sheep to mow the grass and when he starts up his tractor it smells of French fries, as he fuels it with used cooking oil.
In fact, Robert says that if soil is managed correctly it absorbs so much carbon that if big agriculture were to adopt better methods they would actually achieve negative atmospheric carbon! Bye-bye greenhouse effect.
Here are the comments of the winemaker on Robert Sinskey 2012 Pinot Noir “The 2012 vintage created wines that are as close to perfect as we have ever seen.
“The translucent ruby red triggers symptoms of synaesthesia as you think you can almost smell or taste the wine by just looking at its vibrant colour. Aromas and flavours of cranberry and raspberry are followed by a cinnamon spice and a touch of bramble.
“The wine is vibrant, almost nervy as the flavours explode across the palate for a long, mouthwatering finish”. $50.45.
Let me quickly mention the Russian River Valley, so named because Russian fur traders used to hunt there 150 years ago. I don't need to remind you of what type of climate would cause animals to have thick pelts.
Year in and year out I always enjoy very much our Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and we currently stock 2013 which sells for $26.50. I find it soft and silky with bright cherries enhanced by vanilla and spice complexity.
Please remember that because Pinot Noir grows in cool, damp areas that are subject to disease, Mother Nature loads it with that health-giving strong antioxidant called resveratrol, far more than any other grape variety.
This column is a paid-for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East. 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George's (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available online at www.wineonline.bm.