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Four new wines from the north coast of California

Harvard professor Steven Pinker is famously known for saying that music is auditory cheesecake for the mind.

I hope he will not be offended if I suggest that wine works similarly for olfactory and taste. I am sure that the reasoning behind his remark is that dessert is not necessary for survival of our species but it surely adds pleasure to our lives.

I really am encouraged by the arts during these difficult times and so would like to tell you about some recent arrivals, that you may choose to enjoy with some cheese – maybe I should mention that Led Zeppelin is playing as I write this; an English band, but ideal with these wines of Southern California.

Stags Leap Winery in Napa Valley and Penfolds in Australia are benchmarks for their countries and, you may not know this, but they have the same Treasury Wine Estates ownership. As Burrows Lightbourn represent their wineries, they have just received stock from a brand new project that these renowned producers have created, released for the first time in June of last year.

Another Treasury winery, St Huberts, was established in 1862 as one of the first wineries in Victoria, Australia’s, Yarra Valley.

It began by helping to position the region as a premium wine-producing area and was a champion of the valley’s wine renaissance in the 1960s.

In 2016, St Huberts took the leap to the United States and began producing chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon from the north coast of California under The Stag label. The brand continues to champion new up and coming wine regions bringing new focus and innovation as it continues to evolve.

For me, the temperature of the cheese is just as critical as that of the wine, so let us say that you are having a “lockdown times” pairing of wine and cheese for two. You have chosen 2018 St. Huberts The Stag Santa Barbera Chardonnay and you have selected a piece of Brie, Camembert or Gouda to pair with it. Good thinking! You have made sure that the cheese has had time to reach room temperature and that the chardonnay is between 50F and 55F.

Grapes for this wine are sourced primarily from two Santa Barbara vineyards. Cat Canyon and North Canyon Vineyard are located at a slightly higher elevation and set deeper into the canyon than other vineyards in Los Alamos, with sloping hills and well-draining sandy loam soils. On the eastern boundary of the Santa Maria Valley [American Viticultural Area], the remainder of the fruit is sourced. Because of the Pacific winds and fog in Santa Barbara, there are fewer nutrients in the soil, so grape clusters are typically small and create a lot of flavour density.

This wine is made using a modern approach to winemaking, with very minimal intervention that reflects the uniqueness of the vineyards. Oak fermentation, sur lie ageing (on the lees), along with French oak and partial malolactic fermentation, allowed for a layered and balanced expression of this vineyard-driven chardonnay.

It offers lush tropical aromas of fresh peach blossom, coconut, and marzipan, supported by delicate lemon citrus fruit. The palate is bright with a bounty of ripe flavours, including passion fruit, pineapple, lemon curd and lime zest, alongside hints of spiced oak and cardamom, leading to a soft, round, creamy finish. $28 (Stock #6348).

The 2018 St Huberts The Stag Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon shows a deep ruby, garnet, crimson colour, with perfumed aromas of inviting bramble berry, wild raspberry, dark cherry and red currant, alongside baking spice notes of allspice, cedar, tobacco leaf and clove. The wine is rustic, rich and bold, with good weight and body, offering flavours of macerated red berries, plum, warm red currant and cherry compote, alongside allspice, sweet tea leaf and cinnamon notes from the oak integration. This well-balanced wine is opulent and refined, providing great structure alongside a plush texture with velvety smooth tannins and lengthy finish. $31.75 (Stock #6346).

There are just so many fine aged cheddar cheeses available here and the most flavourful ones would be so enjoyable with this wine and the next.

The 2017 St Huberts The Stag Paso Robles Red Blend is a good example of taking the word blend to the limits as the winemaker knits together cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, malbec, petit verdot, petite sirah and mourvedre. Phew! It does garner an impressive 90/100 from Wine Enthusiast, which writes: “There's a powerful boysenberry core to the nose of this bottling, which also offers brown spice and smoke on the cohesive nose. It lands quite rich on the palate, where dark berry flavours meet with lavender, caramel and French toast.” $31.75 (Stock #6347). I will comment that French toast is a new one for me, but I think I know where they are coming from.

The final wine for today, from the same area, is 2019 Austin Hope Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon. Although I do not see any reviews for this yet, I can tell you that the Wine Enthusiast rated their 2016 96 points, their 2017 95 points and placed the 2018 seventh overall on their list of the world’s top 100 wines, with a score of 95/100. The classic ruby colour of the 2019 is stunning and sets the stage for a robust cabernet sauvignon. On the nose, aromas of tobacco, dark chocolate shavings, fresh black currant hints of savoury notes. On the palate, layers of vanilla, coco powder, juicy cherry, baking spices and signature tobacco create a full body wine. Because of the reputation this cabernet sauvignon is developing it is not easy to get, but we have managed to secure a few cases. $69.75 (Stock #8032).

When I am in a California frame of mind, all these Paso Robles and nearby area wines, exude the warmth, excitement, and enthusiasm of this wonderful place.

For now you can call our shops and they will have your wines ready for pick-up at the door, or you can just knock on their door and they will serve you.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

Cat Canyon, one of two vineyards located at a slightly higher elevation and set deeper into the canyon than most others in Los Alamos, has sloping hills and well-draining sandy loam soils

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Published April 30, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated April 28, 2021 at 7:52 pm)

Four new wines from the north coast of California

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