On the 22nd of April, after six months of organisation, The New California event finally arrived. It all started when Mark, our buyer, and Matteo, head of on-trade sales, took a trip to the U.S. to meet a new wave of Californian producers including Broc Cellars, Lioco, Matthiasson, Copain… and wine critic from the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonne. They came back with a newly expanded portfolio of these new wave producers (very well described in Jon Bonne’s book The New California if you want to learn more). The winemaking is all about balance, fruit that is not overripe and freshness in the glass, things that many American producers had shunned for a long time. I’ll always remember the enthusiasm and the energy both of them brought back from U.S., and the eagerness to share this discovery with the trade and the public. That’s how the New California trade tasting and the ticketed event at Sager & Wilde were created.
The Trade Tasting
In the daytime, we had more than 50 wines open, from amazing producers including Jolie-Laide, Moobuzz, Smith Madrone, Lioco, Corison and Arnot-Roberts. Many winemakers made the trip to London – we were blessed to have Jamie Kutch with new vintages of Sonoma Coast and Falstaff and Jasmine Hirsch pouring San Andreas Fault and for the first time – a Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. On the next table, Wells Guthrie, the winemaker of Copain Wines was showing Tous Ensemble and his top-end single vineyards wines. The smiling Steve Matthiasson was presenting his wines for the first time, Linda Vista Chardonnay 2012, Napa White and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley. Nobody from the team had been able to try those wines before so everyone was fighting to get to his table first. I think I won – sorry guys!
Chris Brockway from Broc Cellars was there as well, pouring his amazing Cabernet Franc and his mysterious Roussanne. He is making very little of both wines therefore we have a very small allocation. When the wines arrived last January, I had to reserve it all for the tasting, leaving many of my colleagues desperate to taste it. They had to wait four months and the general feedback was: totally worth it!
Ellie Patterson from Mount Eden and Graham Tatomer shared the other side of the room. Ellie’s wines are famous in the U.K. – my very favourite was her 2009 Mount Eden Chardonnay. Graham’s fantastic Riesling and Gruner Veltliner were very popular among sommeliers and press.
At the end of the tasting room was Rajat Parr from Sandhi Wines and Domaine de la Cote alongside the inspiring Sashi Moorman, winemaker for both Domaines. As usual, Sandhi’s Chardonnay got plenty of praise and so did the Domaine de la Cote’s Pinot Noir. Sashi was also pouring wines from his own project, Piedrasassi, two delicious Syrahs from Central Coast.
In addition to the main tasting room, we had seminars in the adjacent lecture theatre. Jon Bonne hosted his own seminar themed around his book, The New California, where he talked and showed examples of Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir from several of our producers. The next two afternoon seminars were Balanced Chardonnay and Balanced Pinot Noir which handed the floor to the winemakers to explain the philosophy behind their wines, moderated by Jon Bonne, Jamie Goode and Jancis Robinson.
The New California after-party at Sager & Wilde
After a long day of tasting and seminars, everyone deserved an after party! Michael & Charlotte at Sager & Wilde kindly offer to host us at their Hackney wine bar, where customers who bought a ticket could hang out with the Californian winemakers and drink their fantastic wines.
The wine bar was buzzing and food that kept coming was delicious – my favourite was blue cheese, smoked anchovies, pickled walnuts and truffle oil. The wine list was (of course) all about California that night, even if a few top Grand Cru burgundies were circulating around the bar. Those U.S. winemakers are big Burgundy enthusiasts!
All in all, it was a great night, with people enjoying themselves, good wine in one hand and tasty food in the other. Most of us weren’t looking our best the next day but it was totally worth it. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did and for those who couldn’t get a ticket this time, promise there will be more of those after-parties, and plenty of great Californian wine available to order on our website.