California raising the bar
Breaking high-score frontiers in California: As the current holders of both the International Wine Challenge USA Specialist of the Year and the Decanter Specialist Wine Retailer of the Year for USA awards, we are evidently doing our bit to promote the ever-improving wines from across the Atlantic. Since 2009 we have been importing from some of the most exciting and ground-breaking winemakers in California, and today many of them are still continuing to break through into new quality frontiers with each new vintage. The attention and praise from the wine critics is starting to snowball and we’ve recently seen the highest ever scores awarded to some of our Californian producers. While we’ve known it for a long time, it appears more and more people are starting to realise that the quality from some top Californian producers is really challenging the European fine wine establishment. Mayacamas Vineyards Recent scores: 2013 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon – 97 points, Antonio Galloni 2014 Mayacamas Chardonnay – 96 points, Antonio Galloni Mayacamas is one the most historic and iconic wineries in all of California. Located at the top of the awe-inspiring Mount Veeder (which has its own AVA within Napa Valley), the quality and longevity of Mayacamas’ wines are a product of the terroir on which the grapes are grown. The combination of altitude (550-750m above sea), complex volcanic soils and dry farming, yields concentrated berries that give wonderfully structured and complex wines full of pure blackcurrant and raspberry flavours. Incredibly, winemaking has been practiced on this site since 1889, but it was Bob Travers who brought real world class quality here in the 1970s, with the 1971 being included in the famous Judgement of Paris tasting alongside the likes of Ridge, Stag’s Leap and Heitz Cellars. 2013 is a benchmark for the estate, not only because of the great 97-point Galloni score, but it marks the beginning of a new era for Mayacamas with a new winemaking team who are taking the quality to even better heights, proven by the barrel samples of more recent vintages. The heights they are achieving are firmly putting them in direct competition with First Growth Bordeaux and cult Californian wines which cost multiple times that of Mayacamas. Domaine de la Côte & Sandhi Recent scores: 2015 Domaine de la Côte ‘La Côte’ Pinot Noir – 96 points, William Kelley 2015 Domaine de la Côte ‘Blooms Field’ Pinot Noir – 95 points, William Kelley 2015 Sandhi ‘Bentrock’ Chardonnay – 96 points, William Kelley (arriving in stock soon) 2015 Sandhi ‘Sanford & Benedict’ Chardonnay – 95 points, William Kelley (arriving in stock soon) Those of you who have been following the great wines of Sandhi and Domaine de la Côte since we started importing them 5 years ago will have witnessed the incremental quality improvements vintage after vintage. They set the bar high with the 2011s, but it seems now they are firmly hitting their stride, making wines of international class to rival top cru Burgundy. Those of you who have yet to experience these unique wines have no more excuses. It was a high bar to begin with but the 2015s are potentially the best they've created to date. Now is the time to get involved. William Kelley, formerly of Decanter and now the Wine Advocate, has recently published a glowing report of the latest wines from dynamic duo Raj Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman, and reinforces the belief that this is the best vintage yet from them. With quality and scores now rivalling Grand Cru Burgundy, yet prices remaining a fraction of what they achieve, Sandhi and Domaine de la Cote provide incredible bang for your buck. Tatomer Recent scores: 2016 Tatomer ‘Meeresboden’ Gruner Veltliner – 92 points, Antonio Galloni 2015 Tatomer ‘Duvarita’ Pinot Noir – 93 points, Antonio Galloni Graham Tatomer’s reputation is such that wine cognoscenti on the U.S. west coast speak his name in hushed tones. First, out of the respect they hold for this extraordinary, specialist producer of cool climate grape varieties; second, because his production is so tiny that they certainly don't want any extra competition when it comes to buying his wines. So enthralled was Graham with the cool climate varieties of Riesling and Gruner Veltliner, he strived to learn from the very best in order that he could make his own in California to the highest standard. Where else would he go other than the home of Gruner, Wachau in Austria, and who else better to do an apprenticeship with but the legendary winemaker Emmerich Knoll. Amazingly Tatomer’s wines are beginning to garner scores that rival and even surpass those of Knoll’s. Getting 90+ points for Californian Gruner Veltliner is certainly breaking into new frontiers, the apprentice may be outgrowing the master. Kutch Recent scores: 2016 Kutch Sonoma Coast Chardonnay – 93 points, Antonio Galloni (arriving in stock soon) 2015 Kutch ‘Falstaff’ Pinot Noir – 94+ points, Antonio Galloni Jamie Kutch’s Pinot Noir’s were the very first Californian wines we started importing back in 2009. A former Wall Street banker, Jamie was making wine in his spare time in his New York home until he realised his true calling was to be a full-time winemaker, and we are glad he took the plunge! Meticulous in his approach, Jamie uses as natural processes as possible: hand picking, only free run juice used, small batch fermentation with hand (and foot) punch downs and indigenous yeasts. The result is stunningly pure, elegant and balanced expressions of the Pinot Noir grape and the cool climate terroir with a distinct spicy complexity from whole cluster fermentations. With each successive vintage that Roberson has imported since 2009, the wines have improved markedly year-on-year. Initially they were good; then in 2010 and 2011 they started to become better as Jamie tweaked his style – now the wines are truly excellent as he has perfected his craft. We have no doubt he is set to join the ranks of California's very best Pinot Noir producers. Don't just take our word for it, the critics are glowing about these wines too.
The Open Cellar Door Explained
In and around SW6 and want to keep up with everything that’s happening in the winery? Sign up to our mailing list. What is an Open Cellar Door? The buzz of chatter between neighbours amongst tanks and barrels, the clink of glasses as new relationships are formed, the shared hum of approval when discovering just how delicious a Syrah can be when made in an urban winery in London. This scene may conjure up images reminiscent of the majestic Open House Days in Bordeaux, or just a regular day in Napa Valley. But we are not at the gates of a grand estate in Saint-Émilion, we are not standing in a sun-drenched vineyard in Napa, we are tucked down a side street in Fulham, South West London. The Open Cellar Door concept is rather simple at its core: A wine estate or winery literally opens its doors to members of the public to visit, taste, and learn about the winemaking method behind its wines. There is no booking required and entrance is typically free of charge. At Roberson Wine Open Cellar Door events, the focus is on building a relationship with our local community in and around London SW6. By connecting with residents and businesses, we not only hope to show what we are doing at the winery, the first in London, but also learn more about our neighbours and what they would like from us as a wine merchant and an events space. We welcomed over 80 residents at our spring Cellar Door in March and have big plans for the upcoming summer, autumn and winter editions. Our motivation to hold these events is strongly connected to our history as a company. From our inception in 1991 until 2014, Roberson Wine was also based at a shop on a bustling section of Kensington High Street. An oasis for any oenophile; the shop was as much an experience in itself as it was a place where you could buy top quality wine at great value. After a recent refurbishment, the winery is now a dynamic events space, replete with a striking new tasting room. With our range of tours, tastings, and wine experiences, we are striving to be pioneers of a new wave of urban wine tourism in London. Engaging with our local community is right at the heart of our plans. Check out SW Londoner’s report on our March Cellar Door and more. So whether it is your first time visiting or you’ve been with us before, we can’t wait to see you at our next Open Cellar Door.
2017 Bordeaux En Primeur
2017 Bordeaux - An En Primeur Diary The Roberson Fine Wine team will be relocating to Bordeaux for a week from Monday 9th April to meet suppliers, producers and get to grips with the upcoming 2017 releases. Private Client Manager Paul Williamson will be recording his day by day impressions of the vintage. Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss buying opportunities for the 2017 Bordeaux Primeurs. If you are in search of specific chateaux please do let us know and we will endeavour to meet your requests. You can follow our activities and discoveries on this page, and through our social media channels Instagram and Twitter. 13th April Update - 2017 Bordeaux En Primeur Day 5 To sum up our impressions of the 2017 vintage there are two descriptions which dominated our tasting notes. Freshness and purity. Before arriving there seemed to be a lot of scepticism in the press and the trade. The frost damage and the rain around harvest time was what dominated the chat. Tasting as many wines as possible has been extremely useful as there are certainly ups and downs, but there are plenty of really great quality wines to be found. While the frost damage was indiscriminate it appears the better plots near the Gironde or on higher ground have been spared. Where the wines are good there is superb balance. Fresh, pure fruit backed up by smooth tannins and a bright, refreshing acidity. While the fruit concentration may be a bit less intense than 2015 or 2016, the 2017s have a classic elegance and charm. They should be approachable a little earlier and provide seriously delicious drinking if chosen wisely. That’s where our week of tasting will come into use. Our round up of the best wines to buy will follow soon. 11th April Update - 2017 Bordeaux En Primeur Day 3 We spent the day today in St-Emilion and Pomerol. And what a pleasant surprise, many of the wines are open and delicious. What has become clear is that while the right bank has been affected by the frost, the most heavily affected areas are those on the lower slopes. The second wines of top chateaux, and those of petits chateaux, are made from the vines in these low lying areas. This means that in many cases the top wines on the right bank have not lost much yield at all. There are many gorgeous, fresh, fragrant and balanced wines to be found, They might not have the big tannins and opulence of 2015 and 2016 but what they lack in big structure they brilliantly make up for with superb tension. What I mean by tension is the perfect balance between smooth tannins, fruit concentration and zingy acidity. The best wines absolutely sing with energy on the palate. This is a vintage to get excited about not in the same way as say 2009 or 2016, but for perhaps really superb younger drinking wines. That doesnt make them lesser wines. They are truly vibrant and delicious. 9th April Update - 2017 En Primeur First Impressions As we had expected, 2017 appears not to be a homogeneous vintage. There is certainly quality to be found but it needs a bit of digging. That is what we are here to do! So far quality seems to be high in Pauillac, St-Julian, St-Estephe and Pomerol. Margaux is very hit and miss, but some chateaux have made gorgeous wines. Some of the Haut-Medoc wines are fabulous. There will be value gems to be found there like Cantemerle and Lanessan. There is still a lot to taste and I’m sure our impressions will change over the week, but lots to be positive about so far. 6th April - 2017 En Primeur Preview Early signs suggest that 2017 is a vintage where our taste buds will need to be really in tune and where being on the ground, tasting as many wines as possible, and speaking to those directly involved in the winemaking, will be hugely beneficial. Reports are suggesting that while there is very good quality to be found, it may need deeper searching than what was required for the 2015s and 2016s. 2017 could be a vintage where the skills of the viticulturalists and the winemakers and the quality of individual terroirs are put into sharp focus. At Roberson we strive to be independent and that includes giving honest, impartial purchasing advice. We won't offer any wines which we don't feel provide good value and high quality for you, the end buyer. Our focus will be to find the best wines of the vintage across the spectrum.
Wine Pairings for Spring Flavours
Matching Californian wines with the Spring Table As sure as eggs is eggs, I’m once again putting them all in the wines-of-California basket, and placing that firmly by the season’s cornucopia, in which you’ll find: Meat: spring lamb, venison, pigeon Fish: cod, mussels, oysters, salmon, halibut Cheeses: Sainte Maure, Valençay, Selles Sur Cher, Brie de Meaux, Brie de Melun, mature (12 Month+) artisan cheddars Veg: Beetroot, leeks, Savoy cabbage, Jerusalem artichokes, broccoli, kale, parsnips, celeriac, cauliflower Wine line-up: 2016 Tatomer, Meeresboden Gruner Veltliner, Santa Barbara County 2015 Arnot-Roberts, Watson Ranch Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2016 Matthiasson, Linda Vista Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2015 Sandhi, Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2015 Kutch, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2016 Broc Cellars, Vine Star Zinfandel, Sonoma County 2016 Vinca Minor, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains 2014 Matthiasson, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Arnot-Roberts, Sonoma Syrah Here I’ve lined up some key Roberson Californian wines to go the distance, whose elegance and structure will invigorate. Starting with the whites, let’s hit the cheeseboard: Vanlençay/Selles Sur Cher/Sainte Maure are all Loire Valley goat’s cheeses and amongst several now in season. As their fresh, citric, salty and acidic natures will require something to meet on terms, we want something with a bit of steel, zip and backbone with minerally, citrus fruit. Step forward Graham Tatomer’s Meeresboden Gruner Veltliner and Steve Matthiasson’s Linda Vista Chardonnay: both with laser focus and precision (the latter toward the Chablisien); delicate, chiselled green, yellow and apple fruit with remarkable length. For the richer, weightier dairy options such as Brie de Meaux/de Melun and artisanal cheddars, we’ll want similarity in our whites, where Chardonnay springs easily to mind. Matthiasson’s Linda Vista still has the stuff to take on creamier fare and you can move seamlessly to Arnot-Roberts Watson Ranch as it offers a bit more texture and weight but still with the brisk and lively current of acidity to keep the palate in top shape. To progress the fruit and richness we move to Sandhi’s Santa Barbara Chardonnay, offering a bit more by the way of stone fruit and spice; the higher degree of malolactic takes up the brie in easy harmony. Equally easy are all four whites with the seasonal seafood and fish with the Tatomer and Matthiasson being to the shellfish what they are to the Loire cheeses: perfectly resonant. As cod and salmon are fleshier, best keep to the Sandhi but again, you can chop and change any combination and pretty much come out a winner. For meat it’s a no-brainer: lamb loves all red wine, though some more than others. To lamb’s inherent fattiness, our Californians offer that structural edge, both cleansing the palate and enhancing the flavours with clean, articulated fruit and heightened acidity. Jamie Kutch’s Sonoma Coast Pinot is first in line here with bright, savoury, spiced cherry fruit; freshness, precision and depth; the acidity cuts easily through fat and cleans up neatly. Perhaps a touch delicate for something like venison, red fruit like this does make a beautiful combination with squab, also in season. Reach for the Syrahs and Cab Sauvs, then, when confronting the deer, and our latest addition Vinca Minor of Santa Cruz Mountains offers all the classic notes of elegant Cab: black currant, mint, cedar, cigar box, with Steve Matthiasson’s Napa Valley expression an equally ideal option, offering slightly darker fruits and spice, but both with that briskness that keeps the appetite ticking over. Chris Brockway’s Vine Star Zinfandel weighs in somewhere between the Pinot and the Cabs, though given its floral, lifted sweet spice and red-fruit profile, it would ally better with the Kutch. ‘The pretty side of Zin’, as Chris puts it. Quite! All this leaves us with the crowning glory of Arnot-Roberts’ Sonoma Coast Syrah on the lamb. Here is fresh damson/plum fruit with the crucial attributes of olive tapenade, cured meat, wild herb and violet; firm tannins and that cool-climate structure, it can’t get much better. It also can’t get much easier to explore the affinity Roberson’s California offer has with Old World gastronomic regionality and in time for one of the calendar’s most festive – and digestive – seasons.
And the winner is...
Elegant wines, huge impact Not every wine has to have a big score from Robert Parker to have a significant effect on what we drink - a fact recognised this month by the James Beard Awards, at which both Cathy Corison and Steve Matthiasson were nominated in the category of Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional. The James Beard Awards are the food ‘Oscars’ of the USA. This annual event highlights the best, upcoming and historic chefs and restaurants that shape how the dining industry evolves. The Sprites Wine and Beer Professional is someone who has also impacted the way we dine by shaping what we drink. Steve and Cathy have never been the darlings of the Parker Point set, instead steadily carving out names for themselves in an almost understated way - by producing wines that are elegant, focused and yet still full of power and flavour. In my previous life as a sommelier these were the type of wines that I wanted/needed to have on my wine list: good on their own and yet even better with food. When the food and wine pairings come together in such a way that they are seamless, they complement each other in both texture and flavour, creating a dining experience that can be so memorable. These well-deserved nominations recognise the difference made by these winemakers and the influence they’ve had on sommeliers and, through their choices, consumers across the US.
Rudolf Trossen - Natural Legend
Man of Mystery The legend of Rudolf Trossen is a treasure chest of mystery. One minute I’m listening to an hour long SoundCloud recording of his fermenting Riesling, the next I’m reading about his formative years as a young punk in the Mosel being almost driven out of Kinheim for blasting AC/DC too loud in the winery. He’s a character who everyone has an anecdote about, so finally getting the chance to spend some time with him quickly became the date in our diary everyone was talking about. The enormity of his visit was nicely summed up by Sandia Chang, owner of Bubbledogs, who said over our lunch with Rudolf ‘I’ve been waiting 10 years to meet you, it’s a dream come true’. Sandia first discovered Rudolf’s wines when she was working at the world-renowned Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen in 2008. His wines were the first natural wines to make their way onto this coveted wine list and remain there to this day. He became a staunch believer in Biodynamics after reading the works of Rudolf Steiner as a young winemaker. He quickly transformed his family’s domain into farming organically and employing all of Steiner’s principles; think dung in the cow horn, harvesting when the moon is in a certain place and only working on fruit days as determined by the biodynamic calendar. But for Rudolf, it’s so much more than just these practices. It’s a way of life. It’s your mood when you wake up. It’s when you get inspired by a piece of music. It’s sharing the fruit of hard labour with your friends at the end of the vintage. All these things help to build a culture in which the best natural wines are made. His outlook on wine is so simple: to make wine just from grapes. Many in the industry call this the natural wine movement. But Rudolf questions the entire concept of natural wines: “nature does not harvest any grapes - it’s always human beings who are at work.” At Kiln restaurant in Soho, he made it clear that he believes wine is just part of life. Some choose to obliterate it with chemicals to stabilise the wine, others choose to listen to the natural cycles of Mother Earth and produce wine with minimal intervention. What I took away from my time with Rudolf was far more than just his superb expressions of German Riesling. It was his simple, down to earth outlook on life. And wine just happens to make planet earth a much better place.
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