Top 5 Californian Food Pairings
Want to find out how to pair Californian food and wine? As Roberson’s resident foodie, Operations Executive Max Edge couldn’t wait to discover what’s been tickling California’s taste buds during the lockdown. Bringing Sonoma to Southfields With travel plans scuppered, at Roberson we’ve been California Dreamin’ all May. Although we cannot be there in physical form, we’re embracing the spiritual essence of the Cali lifestyle from our homes. Apron donned, boardshorts on and equipped with a fully stocked fridge I was ready to shred some waves in the kitchen. Surf’s up dude! Now…I should be honest… I’ve never been to the Golden State but with the help of today’s connected world, there are more than enough L.A based food bloggers on the gram to help inspire my culinary mind. And the sprinkling of British spring sunshine has helped along the way too. When it comes to Californian food and wine, one might think only of roadside diners offering oversized carb-stacked plates or the trendy plant-based community café/yoga studio with a 100+ single origin smoothie list, but scratch beneath the surface and there’s so much more to discover. It even stretches beyond the Taco Trucks, In’N’Out Burgers, Smashed Avo on Sourdough, Clam Chowder, General Tso’s chicken and superfood salad bowls. Californian food, just like the state's wine, is less about specific recipes and more about a general philosophy and approach that is far more kindred to the ingredient-led ethos of modern Mediterranean cookery. At its essence, Californian food is best characterised by fresh and uncomplicated produce-driven recipes. From Artichokes to Zucchini, there is an encyclopaedic A-Z of locally grown, organic seasonal fruit and veg to be found in the County Farmer’s markets for cooks to turn to all year round. It is also a beacon in highlighting the wonders of fusion cooking. Home to more immigrants than any other state in the US, the mélange of cultural influences and flavours has been proudly embraced and is truly reflected in contemporary Californian cooking. I’ve brought some California soul from the sunshine state in the form of my top five suggested food pairings to partner our Californian wine heroes: 5. DOMAINE DE LA COTE ‘Memorious’ Pinot Noir with Barbecued Duck Breast An extraordinary deep and complex Pinot Noir from one of California’s most acclaimed winemaking projects. The wine displays bright red fruit with the silkiest finish. Barbecued Duck Breast / Grilled Asparagus / Roasted Kohlrabi / Fennel, Orange & Almond Salad Helpful Tips: Score the skin and rub with a mixture of orange zest, Chinese 5 spice and salt. This will give a fantastic caramelised crispy skin. For perfectly pink duck, Cook skin side down under direct heat of the coals for 6-7 minutes. Sear the fleshy side for 90 seconds and allow to rest before carving. Substitute Kohlrabi for Tenderstem Broccoli if unavailable. 4. SMITH MADRONE RIESLING with Korean BBQ A fresh arrival this May, this gorgeous Riesling displays strong floral notes with hints of lime and stone fruit. A creamy central texture finishes with a bright, lively, juicy-fruit acidity. Altogether delicious and stylish, it’s the perfect accompaniment to spicy and savoury dishes. Korean BBQ – ‘Bullgogi’ Beef skewers / Char Siu Aubergine / Noodle Salad Helpful Tips: For the skewers – make a paste from shallot, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, turmeric, paprika and chilli powder. Add lots of fish sauce, oyster sauce, honey and lime juice. Marinade thin cut beef steaks overnight. Cut into small chunks and skewer. Grill over hot charcoal for a few minutes each side. For the aubergine – Cut into wheels. Soak overnight in mixture of soy, hoi sin & oyster sauces with honey and Chinese 5 spice. Chargrill or roast until soft and sticky. 3. SOBON Old Vine Zinfandel with Cochinita Pibil Tacos Packed with jammy forest fruits and notes of bourbon and coconut, this medium bodied wine is dangerously gluggable and matches nicely with the smoky flavours of Mexican inspired food. Cochinita Pibil Tacos / Yucatan-style Pulled Pork / Pico de Gallo salsa / Avocado / Pickled Radish / Coriander Helpful Tips: A really useful link for buying Mexican produce: coolchile.co.uk Dissolve Achiote paste in Orange and Lime juice and marinade pork shoulder. Braise low and slow for 4 hours and shred. 2. MOOBUZZ CHARDONNAY with Californian Club Sandwich Citrusy aromatics layered with soft vanilla, this crisp, elegant Chardonnay has a long-lasting finish with tropical flavours of melon and peach. Created with the Californian sun and beach in mind – the back garden will have to do for now. Californian Club Sandwich / Sweet Potato Wedges Helpful Tips: Chargrill thick slices of Sourdough bread and serve as glorious open sandwich. Awaken your mayo with finely chopped basil and a squeeze of lime juice. 1. BROC LOVE ROSÉ with a Superfood Salad Bowl This blended rosé is fresh and mouth-watering, combining spiciness from Zinfandel, refreshing acidity from Valdiguié and texture from Trousseau. Notes of summer red fruits, this refreshing light rosé is great for a late lunch in the sun. Superfood Salad Bowl / Quinoa / Roasted Vegetables / Leaves & Herbs / Avo / Tomatoes / Radish / Pomegranate Helpful Tips: Swap quinoa for any grains you might have in the cupboard (barley, couscous, bulgur wheat, brown rice) Some of my favourite roasted veg – Cauliflower / Butternut Squash / Bell Peppers / Asparagus / Sweet Potato Win a case of Californian wine worth over £300 by buying any Californian wine from our range during May, or by posting your Californian wine experience using #californiaathome.
The New California Icons
California is now home to some of the world's most collectable wines. Private Client Sales Manager Patrick Robinson reviews the new crop of iconic wines from the golden state. California Icons - A New Era When we talk of iconic, investible wines, our thoughts used to be limited to Grand Cru Burgundy and First Growth Bordeaux, think DRC and Chateau Margaux. Now though, the world of fine wine has changed and names like Screaming Eagle and Dominus frequently top that list. The US is producing some of the greatest wines in the world and the market has certainly woken up to this. Their stratospheric rise in popularity has not been by accident. These wines are receiving huge acclaim, yet because of this, prices have gone through the roof. What used to be affordable has now become the preserve of the ultra-wealthy. That being said, there is certainly still value to be had, if you know where to look. Roberson Wine is proud to be pioneering the rise of the New California Icons: fantastic wineries producing amazing wines, often at a fraction of the prices asked by many of their peers. These are producers who remain committed to making wines of elegance and balance in an industry that had been focused on overripe and over-oaked wines for decades. Mayacamas: Critically Acclaimed Cabernet 2015 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon was ranked No.2 in the Wine Spectator Top 100 wines of 2019 - not bad for one of California’s best kept secrets. When compared to similar wines from Napa, Mayacamas is punching well above its weight. Not only is the value for money evident above, 2015 Mayacamas has fantastic cellaring potential. It should drink beautifully well into the 2050s - this really is an iconic wine of the future. Kongsgaard: Power and Elegance California is not just Napa Cabernet. Pinot and Chardonnay are where some of the best value can be had, especially when compared to the region famed for those two varieties, Burgundy John Kongsgaard has been producing some of the most exciting wines in his Napa winery since his inaugural vintage in 1996. Uncompromising in his approach, he bucked the 90s trend for turbo-charged extraction and consistently makes some of the best Chardonnay in California. These are made in the Burgundian style: elegant yet full bodied and concentrated, with great capacity to age. These wines are made in such tiny quantities that they are sold on allocation. However, although rare they remain exceptional value for the quality. Kutch: Ethereal, Yet Rooted in Terroir One producer we can’t help but mention is of course Jamie Kutch. His wines were the very first that we imported from California in 2011, a decision which spearheaded our journey towards becoming an award-winning US wine specialist. Jamie’s wines beautifully represent all that we love about the new wave of California: elegant, balanced and terroir focused. Jamie’s wines seem to become more pure, ethereal, and nuanced every time we taste them. Kutch’s wines would stand toe to toe with many of the greats from Burgundy, but when you see the price point, I know which way I’d lean. We recently offered Kutch Bohan vineyard Pinot Noir at just £425 per case of 12 in bond, that’s under £36 a bottle. Domaine de la Côte / Sandhi: Freshness and Balance For lovers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara is home to some of the most revered vineyards in the whole of California. This is home to Domaine de la Côte and Sandhi Wines, two separate estates focussing on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. At Domaine de la Côte, the wines embody the philosophy of Rajat Parr and Sashi Moorman (the owners), which centres around freshness, vitality, and balance. Sandhi is dedicated to making wines of finesse, minerality, acidity, structure, and balance. Both of these wineries follow Burgundian ideals and the resulting wines are world class. The New California Icons We have curated a list of producers that are making wines to rival the quality of any of the old icons. As well as the above it also includes names like Corison, Hirsch, Arnot-Roberts, and Mount Eden. These wineries are proving to be genuinely good value for money, often outscoring wines well above them in terms of price. It’s clear that if you look in the right places you can really snap up some bargains, what more could you really want? Well just to stock your cellar chock full of these New California Icons. To receive Roberson Wine's private client offers please contact Patrick Robinson
Top 5 Californian Wines
New to Californian wines and want to know the best grape varieties to try first? Californian wine-lover Ellen Doggett takes a look at the incredible diversity of the golden state's wines. California at Home Welcome to 2020, the year of social distancing, zoom meetings, secret loo roll hoarders and obsessing over baking sourdough. It is a bizarre time, and we are stuck at home dreaming of the places we will visit when lockdown lifts. For us, many of those places are in California. Sipping beautiful wines, overlooking sun-soaked vineyards; exploring everything our favourite US State has to offer. Yet perhaps exploring California can take on a new guise these days. Through a wine bottle enjoyed at our dining table, in the garden or a comfortable armchair. This is the kind of lockdown exploration we can get behind, but where to start? We have whittled this adventure down to the top five grape varieties that perfectly sum up the diversity and deliciousness of Californian wine. 5. Zinfandel Despite a reputation for being just sweet and pink, or beefy and tannic, this variety is a chameleon. To pigeonhole this grape into two styles does it a disservice. This variety is one of the most versatile grapes grown in California today. It is genetically identical to Italian Primitivo and Croation Crljenak, both countries whose immigrants played a big role in the history of Californian wine. From light, fragrant and delicate, to bold, muscular and rich, Zinfandel can fall anywhere on the red wine style spectrum. Looking for something fresh, with silky structure? Try Viano Vineyards 2016 Zinfandel, one of the oldest wineries in the San Francisco area and completely organic. Interested in a bolder, balanced style? Broc Cellars 2017 ‘Wirth Vineyard’ Zinfandel is a real winner. Based in Berkeley, Chris Brockway is a pioneer in the ‘Urban Winery’ concept, and sources the finest fruit from across California. 4. Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Sauvignon rules supreme in California, and for good reason. Originally from Bordeaux, this grape found a natural second home in the golden state. It helped catapult California to world acclaim, when its top Cabernets triumphed against their Bordeaux equivalents in the 1976 blind tasting ‘The Judgement of Paris’ (looking for a good lockdown film about the tasting? Try ‘Bottle Shock’). Like Zinfandel, it is extremely versatile. Grown in abundance from north to south, each region in California has its own unique expression. Napa Valley-styling without the price tag? Slingshot has you covered, with their brilliant value 2017 Cabernet. Something more ‘cult’, from a mountainous area? Mount Eden in Santa Cruz is unrivalled. We love their second wine, Domaine Eden, as an earlier drinking style. A contemporary twist on the classic comes with Arnot Roberts in Sonoma. Their 2016 Montecillo Vineyard Cabernet is the perfect balance between rich fruit and elegant structure. 3. Syrah A sun-loving variety that thrives in California. Originally from the Rhone Valley, Syrah gained popularity in the golden state as Americans fell in love with Hermitage and Cote Rotie. Local producers cottoned onto this trend, planting Syrah to try and replicate this success on home soil. It was not an instant success though. For years Syrah lived in the shadow of Zinfandel and Cabernet, but all that changed when a new generation of winemakers tapped into its potential. This is an exciting time to be drinking Californian Syrah. Seth and Megan Kunin shone light on Syrah in Santa Barbara. We would recommend their 2016 vintage, for the perfect mix of ripe Californian fruit and classic Syrah spice. For something more intense, anything produced by Piedrasassi is a winner. Focusing on cool climate sites, Sashi Moorman and his wife have propelled this grape variety to great acclaim. 2. Pinot Noir Notoriously difficult to grow, but if you get it right the results are amazing. In California’s sun-soaked climate, Pinot Noir needs to be planted on the coolest sites and grown very carefully. The best Pinot Noir vineyards in the golden state are some of the most extreme, teetering near cliff edges, on the side of mountains, or as close to the sea as possible. Rolling morning fogs, higher altitudes or cool breeze from the coast are the recipe for success for Pinot Noir in California. And what success they have, producing wines that can even rival top Burgundy. Fancy something fun, light and quirky? Moobuzz produce vibrant Pinot (blended with a tiny percentage of Italian grapes), in the coastal region of Monterey County. Perfect slightly chilled. If you want to go straight to the top, Domaine de la Cote in Santa Rita Hills is a must. Small quantities and unrivalled quality. 1. Chardonnay Though California is perhaps most famed for red wines, do not underestimate the star power of its Chardonnay. Chardonnay was the other variety that triumphed in the Judgement of Paris, making the world sit up and pay attention to Californian Wine. Chardonnay is a grape that thrives here. However, it did once fall out of fashion thanks to producers getting a bit heavy handed with the oak. That has changed dramatically in recent years. Now winemakers strive for fresher, leaner, complex Chardonnays that are more salted butter and less rich cream! Fancy something full flavoured, but still mineral and fresh? Michael Cruse’s ‘Rorick’ Chardonnay fits the bill. Grown in the Sierra Foothills, this is a great example of modern Californian Chardonnay at its best. If you are a Burgundy drinker keen to try new things, we cannot get enough of Jamie Kutch. Playfully nicknamed ‘Kutch Dury’ by his fans, these Sonoma Coast wines are some of the best in the State. For more fantastic Californian wines, check our our Postcards from California collection and sign up to our mailing list.
Made in London
The growth of local food in the capital. From experience people love to talk about food! In London, locals and visitors alike need no encouragement to enthuse about the wide variety of food on offer. The more ‘exotic’ the cuisine, the more likely is it to get a mention, Japanese, Greek, Malaysian, Nepalese, Turkish… Whilst global gastronomic diversity has undoubtedly influenced our own cuisine by introducing all manner of delicious ingredients and flavours to the British palate, we are now experiencing increased interest in produce grown much closer to home. In the 1990’s a ‘new’ phenomenon, the Farmer’s market occurred. Of course, the concept of growers bringing goods directly to the public has existed for centuries. In the days before supermarkets, history tells of farmers providing shoes for geese and turkeys on long walks to London where they would be sold. I’d like to think of them kitted out in a smart pair of brogues or at least comfy trainers but I’m sure the truth is far less sartorial or animal friendly! To understand why the modern concept of Farmer’s markets continues to increase in popularity, there are around 20 each week in London and over 400 in the whole country, we only need to look at current global trends. Those of: reducing food miles organic production ditching unnecessary packaging knowing where and when goods are produced and by whom A move away from processed, mass-produced food has obvious benefits for health and the planet but renewing our relationship with the land is a powerful consequence and has been proven to have huge psychological benefits. In 2009, Sarah Vaughan-Thomas established London’s only commercial vineyard since the Middle Ages, Forty Hall, as a social enterprise, based on her knowledge and conviction that working outdoors amongst nature provides untold health benefits. As a not-for-profit venture she invites volunteers to come along, work together in the vineyard and connect with the land, at the same time as contributing to making award-winning organic, English wines. Urban pioneers Whilst not reaping the benefits directly from spending time outside amongst the vines, working for London Cru , I consider there must be a knock-on effect from sharing the same space with fermenting grapes in an urban winery. Indoor eco therapy?! London Cru started producing wine in London in 2013 using fruit from vineyards in France, Spain and Italy. Fast forward four years and vineyards in the south east had developed to a high enough standard that grapes could be 100% locally sourced. As a producer based in the city, using an oft-cited phrase for inspiration, ‘if it grows together, it goes together” we decided to research other producers making foodstuffs within the M25. When it comes to all things agricultural, Dagenham, Enfield and Chingford possibly aren’t the first places that spring to mind, but truth is they are the locations of 3 of London’s 5 urban farms (Enfield is where Forty Hall Farm and vineyard are located). Incredibly there is a hotbed of urban farmers, community growers and makers in and around London with organisations like Capital Growth supported by the Mayor of London and the Lottery Fund, establishing community gardens, organising supper clubs and promoting local food networks. Whilst neighbourhoods are cultivating spare ground and individuals are caught by the planting bug, businesses are acting on opportunities presented by the renewed interest in all things local. In some instances, budding entrepreneurs have taken the bold step of ditching careers to follow their dreams. Wildes Cheese Wildes Cheese is owned by Philip Wilton an ex-management consultant, who in 2012 faced redundancy. Rather than begin the momentous task of applying for new jobs, his first instinct was to start making cheese in his kitchen. Having moved out into a small garage space, Wildes Cheese are now in bigger premises on an industrial space in Tottenham, North London. Why Tottenham? Because that’s where friends live and it’s their home. They’re not afraid to make everything their own way. Cheese recipes are original, milk is from a single herd of cows in East Sussex and only vegetarian rennet is used. Far from being secretive about what they do, Philip hosts lively and entertaining cheese-making workshops to spread the word. Cobble lane cured Cobble Lane Cured creates high quality charcuterie from British sourced meat. Set up by four friends in Islington, North London, between them they had the necessary skills, craftsmanship, technical know-how and business acumen to make the venture a success. Fortuitously, their concept caught the eye of a well-known TV chef who was keen to invest and help establish their business. Their speciality is Salami containing free-range pork from farmers with exceptionally high standards of welfare and husbandry. Whilst sticking to traditional recipes they’re also not afraid to experiment with spices and flavourings to put their own twist on things, but the time taken to make and age their products and their commitment to quality is their defining feature. Whilst supermarkets aren’t going anywhere soon, good food, grown and produced locally is increasingly available. So maybe London, as other locations around the country, will be defined by their own seasonal offerings and will deserve a mention alongside the more exotic cuisines Thai, Japanese, Indian, when people enthuse about their favourite foods in future. For an opportunity to taste foods produced in the capital alongside our London-made wines, join us at Made in London, our new food and wine pairing event. You’ll get the opportunity to try a selection of smoked fish, cured meats, cheeses and other locally produced goodies and learn some of the science and personal preferences involved in good pairing.
The Tale of Broc Cellars
Chris Brockway and the tale of Broc Cellars We are no strangers to the concept of an ‘Urban Winery’ here at Roberson. Our own London Cru sits in an old Gin Distillery near Earls Court; inspired by producers who pioneered this concept in California. It’s a simple one, the idea of creating quality focused wines, in urban settings, with fruit sourced from further afield. Yet this simple idea courts controversy. Isn’t it illogical to completely remove grapes from their home and transplant them into the bustle and concrete of a modern city? What’s the allure here? California is a huge state, with diverse wine growing regions that are well connected. You no longer need to be on a vineyard’s doorstep to produce excellent wine from its grapes. Urban Wineries have opened a new world of winemaking, with freedom to create whatever you want in a space that’s not tied down by tradition or geography. Enter Chris Brockway. Chris is a winemaker who learnt all the rules before he started to break them. When most people think of Californian wine, they think of the rolling hills of Napa and picturesque rural wineries. They think of big bold Cabernet’s, rich buttery Chardonnay and Zinfandel at every turn in the road. It is classic, it is tradition, and it is a region that’s very proud of its heritage. It should be, but it should also be very proud of the creatives shaping its future. Chris Brockway studied at UC Davies before working for JC Cellars, and was set up to produce very traditional Californian wines indeed. Yet he was also frequenting a Natural wine bar in San Francisco, where the wines were very different to what he’d been taught to make. Chris started to go against the grain. Who’s to say that there is only one way to make ‘Californian’ wine? In 2006, Chris set up shop in an industrial unit in Berkeley and Broc Cellars was born. From day one, Broc was all about experimentation. No grape variety, style or winemaking method was off limits, and Chris always opted for quality over quantity. This is how it has remained for the last 14 years. He isn’t bound by geography, and sources grapes from far and wide; Zinfandel from Sonoma, Valdigué from Solano County, Carignan from Alexander Valley and Counoise from Mendocino. In 2013, Chris produced 6,000 bottles from 15 different varieties! All as naturally as possible, with spontaneous fermentations and minimal use of Sulphur. Today Broc has expanded beyond Berkeley in many ways, developing collaborative relationships with its trusted growers across California. Together they’ve worked hard to eliminate all use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers in the vineyards. The wines are so alive, from their light Beaujolais-esc Valdigué (a variety once mistaken for Gamay!) to their bold spicy Syrah, and everything in between! Year on year, they are defined by vibrancy and freshness; something that really seems to stem from happy vines and a creative mind. Broc Cellars is an urban winery that completely embraces what it is and puts no limits on what it can do. Total freedom and innovation in an unlikely part of California.
Focus on Burgundy
What makes Burgundy so special? When I was 22, I flew to Paris, hired a car with a broken Satnav and got very lost driving to Burgundy in the hot August sun. My hosts in Chablis were busy preparing for harvest, so I spent most of my time exploring the breadth of the Cote d’Or alone. Wandering through vineyards, eating too many eclairs, tasting amazing wines and falling head over heels for this unique French region. I’ve been hooked ever since. Burgundy roughly stretches between Dijon and Lyon. It is defined by individual villages, growing predominantly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, although other grape varieties, including Aligote, Pinot Blanc and Gamay are also permitted. Each village has its own designated vineyard areas complete with scored quality levels (Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru), appellation laws, and distinctive styles. As a good rule of thumb, villages in northern Burgundy (aside from Chablis) mostly produce wines from Pinot Noir, and those in the south from Chardonnay. However, there are exceptions. You can find some amazing Pinot Noirs grown in southerly Chassagne Montrachet, and the northerly village of Morey St Denis is home to a 100% Aligote Premier Cru (Clos des Monts Luisants). There is even an appellation near Chablis called Saint Bris, that grows Sauvignon Blanc. Just when you think you’ve got Burgundy figured out, it’s very good at throwing curve balls and opening a whole new world of wine to explore! We are very lucky to represent some wonderful Burgundy producers at Roberson. Two who I visited last year, were Domaine Pierre Guillemot and Domaine Chavy Chouet. Domaine Pierre Guillemot Domaine Pierre Guillemot are a big part of the history of Savigny-les-Beaunes, having produced wines in the village for eight generations. We visited at the end of June 2019, in the middle of a scorching heat wave. 36C without a cloud in the sky, it was a welcome reprieve to walk down the steps of their ancient cellar to taste wine in the cool and dark. All their wines are wonderful, but my personal favourite is a white Savigny-les-Beaunes produced from their Dessus Les Gollardes vineyard. This vineyard was planted over 50 years ago with 70% Pinot Blanc and 30% Chardonnay. Phillipe Guillemot (who now runs the winery with his brother Vincent) describes the wine as not a blend, but a co-habitation, celebrating the unique character of both grapes, whilst still working in harmony. Phillipe then pulled a bottle from the back of the cellar, caked in dust and cobwebs (pictured above). He opens and pours. We all taste together blind. What vintage he asks? We put our heads together. The wine is so fresh, and the fruit is still forward. There are hints of honey to show development. We agree on a year between 2008 and 2010. The actual date? 1991. Our jaws hit the floor! We currently stock the 2017, and it is drinking beautifully, but don’t underestimate this Domaine, that wine has the legs to age for many many years to come too. Domaine Chavy-Chouet Domaine Chavy Chouet was the next stop in the day. Based in Meursault, the Domaine is run by Romaric Chavy, who took over from his father Hubert at just 22. One of his great winemaking influences is his godfather Francois Mikulski, which I feel translates well in his own style. Focusing more on a lean, pure fruit profile instead of masking the Chardonnay with rich oak (as has previously been the norm). Romaric is a key player in shaping the modern style of Burgundy. Again, we move out of the sweltering sun and into the cellar, to taste his 2018’s from barrel. This is where Romaric’s unique style comes into its own, his focus on preserving acidity and fruit working perfectly with this richer, warm vintage. They’re damn good! People are often apprehensive about drinking young Burgundy, but if you are going to buy any 2018’s to drink (or age for that matter!), the wines of Chavy Chouet are perfect.
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