The New California, Revisited
Head of On-Trade Keith Kirkpatrick takes a trip through the Californian wine scene, five years after the publication of a influential book by Jon Bonné drew the world's attention to the revolution transforming the state's wines. California's New Wines Five years ago, in 2013, the then wine editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné, published his eagerly awaited new book; ‘The New California – A Guide To The Producers And Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste’. ‘What book, by who?’ you say. Well, you may not realise it, but this book has had a great impact on how you buy your Californian wines, either as a retail customer or restaurant diner. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the book was eagerly awaited within the wine trade, certainly within the walls of Roberson HQ. For a few years prior to the book’s release, we had been watching what was happening in California, a growing band of new producers keen to talk about where their wines came from, the specific vineyard sites with their specific terroirs, even particular blocks or rows of vines within a specific vineyard. They wanted to talk openly about their methods in the vineyard and the winery, what they were doing to bottle a wine that was a true reflection of a particular grape grown in a particular location. They were not talking about how many millions they had spent on a new winery, who their billionaire backers were, how many people were on their waiting list, not trying to keep the source of their fruit a secret, or how much wine they actually made, not keeping the winery door closed to prevent prying eyes from seeing the array of expensive technology fashioning a made to order product with various constituent parts added or removed. We like to seek out the former and politely decline the advances of the latter. First Steps and First Successes In late 2011 we had taken our first tentative steps towards becoming a multi award winning US specialist, shipping at first a small amount of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Jamie Kutch in Sonoma and Bergstrom in Oregon. At this time, in many restaurants, you would find these wines listed under a very generic heading such as ‘USA’ or ‘New World’, usually on the last page of a wine list. The front pages of the same list would be subdivided in to the various villages of Burgundy, the left and right bank appellations of Bordeaux, the DOCs of Spain and Italy. This careful and detailed categorisation was used to emphasise the particular character and nuance of the wines from each village, so why were the wines of the US not treated the same, did people not care, or did they just not know enough about them? It will come as no surprise to anyone that has tasted the wines of Kutch and Bergstrom that they were universally adored by our restaurant clients from the moment they arrived in the UK, and despite their lowly placement at the tail end of the wine list the wines sold incredibly quickly, no doubt due to excited sommeliers keen to show off their new listings that offered a quality and value that had not been seen from the US before. The wines sold out, we shipped more stock, sold out again and shipped again. It was clear that we needed more wine, the restaurant trade was ready to embrace the new wines coming from the west coast of America. So, a couple of months before Jon Bonné’s book was due to hit American bookstore shelves in late 2013, we embarked on a whirlwind tour of California, squeezing in visits to as many producers as possible. The post trip debriefs were intense and agonizing, we wanted to bring in so many of the wines but had to at least try and be selective. In the end we brought in around 15 new agencies and dozens of new wines, still a lot, but they were all producers that had exactly what we wanted, wines that spoke of were they were from, the right grapes grown in the right location, farmed in the right way and bottled as an unadulterated and pure expression of themselves. The wines arrived. Now we had to sell them, get them in front of as many people as possible. With ‘The New California’ about to be published in the UK, why not invite the author to launch his book at a joint event? It made perfect sense, all of our new producers were featured in the book, we can open all the wines and you wouldn’t just have to believe what we were telling you, this award-winning writer is saying exactly the same thing, and he is here in the room to tell you. While we’re at it, let’s get as many of the winemakers as possible over here for a few days, so they can pour their own wines and tell you their story. On the 22nd of April 2014 we hosted ‘The New California’ tasting with Jon Bonné and a bevy of Californian winemakers, happy to finally have the chance to show their wines to an enthusiastic audience in London. It was a resounding success, wine buyers from all parts of the trade were amazed by the quality, authenticity and diversity of the wines, and most importantly by the obvious differences between, for example, the Pinots made high up in the hills over the Pacific on the extreme Sonoma Coast to those made in the western edges of the Sta. Rita Hills, or a Cabernet made in the Santa Cruz Mountains compared to one from Napa’s Rutherford bench. All excellent wines in their own right, but each had their own identity, the wines from each region and sub region were different, but not because of the winemaker or their winemaking techniques, here was confirmation that California had ‘terroir’. In the years that followed, another dozen or so agencies have been added to our portfolio, all are producers that make wines that you want to actually drink, not just taste, spit and apply a score out of 10, 20 or 100, whatever your preferred method. I prefer the method of how much of the bottle is gone by the time dinner is ready, and we have a lot of wines scored 75cl in our range. The California Wine Market Develops We’re by no means trying to take all the credit, but due to the activity of Roberson and a few other UK specialist importers, the way that US wines are represented on restaurant wine lists bears absolutely no resemblance to how they were just a few years ago. The wines are now often afforded the same luxury as their European peers, you may find Sonoma subdivided between Coastal or Valley, Alexander Valley or specific parts of the Russian River Valley, maybe even a feature on the vineyards located in the Petaluma wind gap. Is your Napa wine from the south, the mountains, if so which range, or the far north? Santa Barbara, is that Sta. Rita Hills, Ballard Canyon or Highlands? This is ultimately great for the producer, importer, restaurant, wine drinker and retailer. The path followed by wines from newly discovered, temporarily trendy or in California’s case, re-invigorated, wine regions goes like this: sommeliers get excited by something new that offers amazing quality and value compared to what has gone before, the restaurant customer gets a greater understanding of the region/wines and can decide on their preferred style, they then confidently go out and buy from their local wine shop, the importer needs to place another order, the winemaker is happy see their wines being recognised and appreciated for what they are. California is not a new discovery, nor is it temporarily trendy, the re-invigoration is permanent, and the wines are here to stay, but is there a danger of it all getting too confusing, too intricate? If the swing from generic ‘USA’ to pages of sub AVAs on a wine list is tipping you over the edge, fear not, there may be over 200 wines from the US available on our website, but we are here to help you find your ideal wine. The New California, Re-explored There is still great value to be found in Monterey, Contra Costa and Amador, all regions that are little known, but there are plenty of substandard examples on the market from these parts, so you’ll need to be steered in the right direction. Santa Barbara and Sonoma are a source of beautiful, profound wines with nuance and style. The Santa Cruz Mountains and Napa are where you will find classically styled and structured wines, but all of these regions are capable of producing wines which define California and its individual terroirs. Starting in the South and moving North, here are some top picks, all great examples of what each region has to offer. Just to the north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara County is home to the Santa Ynez Valley. The rest of the California coast is pretty much all North to South mountain ranges, but here the mountains make a sharp turn to run west to east and these transverse hills provide a corridor for cool winds to be sucked in from the Pacific year-round, up through the Sta. Rita Hills towards Ballard Canton and Happy Canyon. So, despite being much further south, this region has a much cooler climate than regions in Northern California, lending an elegance and fresh acidity to balance the fruit intensity of the wines. At the very western edge of the valley, just a few miles from the sea, you will find the vineyards of Sandhi and Domaine de la Cote in the Sta. Rita Hills, benchmark Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of a quality to rival any produced in Burgundy. Introduce yourself to winemaker Sashi Moorman’s wines with the Sandhi Santa Barbara Chardonnay before exploring the single vineyard Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay and the Pinots of Domaine de la Cote, Bloom’s Field and La Cote being two excellent examples of the individual nuances of different vineyard sites. Moving inland, where the temperature rises as you move away from the sea, you will find the landscape and planted grape varieties change, but the constant cooling wind is still there. From the John Sebastiano Vineyard, try the excellent Piedrasassi Sebastiano Vineyard Syrah, or if you’ve been a fan of Austrian wines in the past, you must check out the Tatomer John Sebastiano Gruner Veltliner. Graham Tatomer also has some Gruner in the Kick-On Ranch Vineyard which lies just outside the Sta. Rita Hills, on the way towards the Santa Maria Valley, fruit from these two vineyards is blended into the deliciously fresh and textured Tatomer Meeresboden Gruner Veltliner. Driving North from Santa Barbara County, the temptation is to just keep going, history may tell you that many of the wines from the Central Coast are generic, a bit overdone and boring, it seems too hot and geographically sprawling to be interesting. But If you head up in to the hills to the west, where the abundant sunshine is tempered by some elevation, limestone soils and cool winds crossing the mountains, you will find plenty of quality, and quite often at a bargain price. From vineyards dotted along the route you’ll find the refreshingly light but fruit packed Jackhammer Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both made without the use of any oak, or if you prefer a little bit of buttery vanilla but not too much try the Moobuzz Chardonnay and Pinot from Monterey County, these wines deliver a lot of reward for a small trade up from your average supermarket offering. Continuing north, just as you reach San Jose and San Francisco, you will see the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west, this region is home to some of California’s most historic vineyard sites, a complex mix of soil types and micro climates that are perfect for producing great Cabernet, Pinot and Chardonnay. Ask most people to name where you’ll find a great Californian Cabernet and most, if not all, will instantly reply Napa, but in the Santa Cruz Mountains you will find classically structured wines with the potential to age for decades, true expressions of the right grape grown in the right place. You’ll not get much more classical and structured than Mount Eden Cabernet Sauvignon, while new producers such as Jason Charles are doing their bit to lift these wines out from the shadow of Napa, his Vinca Minor Cabernet Sauvignon shows drinkability in youth but still has that Santa Cruz structure as its signature. You’re also in the right place for a Chardonnay fix, whatever your preferred style, Arnot-Roberts Trout Gulch gives you a wine with intensity, precision and tension, while Mount Eden is richer and broader. Heading inland from San Francisco, you’ll find more wine producing regions which are either unfashionable or relatively unknown in the UK. Much like the Central Coast, some of these areas have been know in the past for mass production and dubious quality, but again if you look to the hills or for a producer with the right history and philosophy, there are many bargains to be had. In Contra Costa County you will find Viano Vineyards, a Piemontese family that arrived in California in 1920 to farm vineyards planted in the 1880s. Never tempted by the technology of mass production or the desire to change the style of the wines to chase sales, they do not irrigate or use any chemical treatments on their land, all the while retaining a traditional and thirst quenching style suited to any occasion, their Cabernet Sauvignon and Hillside White are two of the best value wines in the whole of California. Next, in to Green Valley in Solano County, a tiny strip of viticultural land where Chris Brockway sources the fruit that goes in to his Love Red. The vineyards here are cooled by the breeze coming off San Pablo Bay. A longer than expected growing season and old vine Carignan and Syrah of over 50 years of age guarantee quality grapes, but being a small unknown AVA means the fruit prices here are significantly lower than in the neighbouring Napa Valley, so this wine reaches you at a price way below what you might expect for its quality. Further inland still, Amador county is home to many a great value wine and a traditional home to Zinfandel, the grape that has unfortunately become a bit of a caricature, its image ruined by lakes of undrinkable, high alcohol supermarket plonk. But, as ever, if you know where to look you will find joyous, fresh, fruit driven wines that will have you coming back for more. Sobon Estate is sustainably farmed and all their wines display the smoky, darker red fruits you would expect from Zinfandel, soft tannins and plush texture, but it is all done with a fresh natural acidity and moderate alcohol. If you love Zin but have been let down on too many occasions, try the Shenandoah or Rocky Top bottlings. And so, back west to the Napa Valley, California’s most famous and name checked wine producing region. Here we find wines with an abundance of up front fruit, plush texture and deep flavour, but quite often too much of all of these, along with excessive alcohol. It would be very easy to assume that everything from here looks the same, tastes the same and comes in the same heavy bottles and handmade wooden cases. But not so, try the Watson Ranch Chardonnay from Arnot-Roberts, a hillside vineyard at the southern tip of Napa that is exposed to the cool air coming off the bay, the wine has fresh acidity and some delicate nuance, but its backbone is broad, structured and textured, absolutely classically styled chardonnay, just without the slap dash make up that is applied to many a Napa Chard. Similarly, the Linda Vista Chardonnay from Matthiasson is a fresh and ethereal wine, but a little leaner than the Watson Ranch, you could say it’s a Puligny as opposed to a Chassagne. For the Cabernets, you’ll find the style you like in either Corison or Matthiasson. To continue the French analogy, if you like Pauillac go for Corison, or if it’s St. Julien go for Matthiasson. If it’s neither of these and you actually prefer St. Estephe, go back to the Santa Cruz Mountains and Mount Eden and co! As an introduction to Napa, you could not do much better than to explore the Wines of Hunt & Harvest, a Cabernet, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc made by Long Meadow Ranch, a trio of wines that give a true expression of what Napa wines should be like at a price that is not prohibitive. Finally, for something truly special, venture up in to Mount Veeder to the west of Napa where you will find the historic Mayacamas Vineyards. The current owners took control from the 2013 vintage and they have had an immediate effect on restoring the wines to their previous glories from decades past. Their first year at the helm and the 2013 Cabernet is already one of the best Napa Cabernets I have ever tasted, the 2014 is yet to be released, but it is even better again. On the other side of Mount Veeder, you enter Sonoma. This is a region littered with great wines, but the problem is that it is such a big region, the Sonoma Coast AVA covers almost 750 square miles, far too big to give the wines a common identity. So, you need to break it up in to smaller chunks. On what you might call the extreme Sonoma Coast, you will find wines that are made within a few miles of the sea, climates so extreme that you are at the very edge of where it is possible to ripen grapes. When conditions are this hard and the growing season so long, you find fruit in small compact bunches, packed with flavour, sweet and savoury, complex and framed with a fresh acidity retained by the cold winds and fog. Anything from Hirsch Vineyards, for example the San Andreas or West Ridge Pinot Noirs, or Jamie Kutch’s Sonoma Coast or Falstaff Pinots will give you an unforgettable experience of what is possible when vines are pushed to the limits of survival. From further south, in the area know as the ‘Petaluma Wind Gap’ due to the channel of cold air sucked in from the Pacific (just as happens in the Sta. Rita Hills in Santa Barbara), you will find vineyards capable of producing world class, elegant and nuanced wines, Wind Gap Armagh Vineyard Syrah or Gap’s Crown Pinot, and Arnot-Roberts Clary Ranch Pinot Noir are three to look out for. Happy exploring!
Longing for l'Apero
Purchasing Assistant Marion shares her favourite tradition. I love pubs in the UK. There is nothing like them in France, but I have to admit, I sometimes get a bit nostalgic about the “aperos” we do in my country. An apero is basically a pre-dinner drink that very often, evolves into the dinner itself. Like having a pint and crisps in the pub, we meet up with friends in a bistro or at home and enjoy wine and finger foods. For these occasions, I always go for a good rosé and it is usually the first bottle to be emptied! With our current rosé focus sale, there are plenty of ways to match your wine for l’apero: M de Minuty, Château Minuty The fresh acidity and delicate fruits are so versatile, that you can pair Minuty with almost anything. For a quick apero, just match it with stuffed olives and mixed nuts like pistachios, cashews, almonds, peanuts… so simple! Rose et Or, Château Minuty More expressive than M de Minuty, with grapefruit notes and white peach. The Rose et Or is great with a charcuterie board (saucisson, jambon cru, pate en croute…) as its acidity will balance out the fattiness of the meat. Whispering Angel, Château d'Esclans In the same style of Minuty, Whispering Angel is also a dry Provence rosé made by Sacha Lichine, who has become famous for making Provence’s most expensive rosé wine: Garrus. Whispering Angel is expressive, slightly sweeter on the palate, with notes of strawberries and raspberries. This wine would be heavenly with fresh goat’s cheese, rosemary and honey toasts, and a bowl of cherry tomatoes. Cremant de Limoux Rosé J Laurens, N7 Sparkling wine is also great for apero and it is a shame to keep it for dessert only! The sweetness and creaminess of the bubbles call for melon and prosciutto wraps, or watermelon and feta slices with a drop of balsamic vinegar. For all these wines, make sure to chill them before serving, but don’t freeze them otherwise all the subtle aromas won’t develop in your glass. Bonne santé!
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.
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