Collectible California

Published by Lee Talbot on 04/10/2019

Making Tastings Great Again!

Last week saw the California Wine Institute’s prestigious Collectible California tasting return for a second helping in London to great success. The now annual event, held at the US Embassy, plays host to a number of importers showcasing some of the Golden State’s most celebrated and sought-after wines to the UK’s most influential trade buyers, private clients and press, before a black-tie gala dinner.

With just over 200 wines on show, the small scale, premium tasting does exactly what it says on the tin – it is a tasting of some of California’s most collectible wines, all £50+, to reinforce California as one of the premium wine producing regions of the world, and to show that California wines should have pride of place in any great wine cellar.

The prestige of having the event held at the US Embassy itself, a stunning fortress-like building surrounded by what I can only describe as a moat, added to the atmosphere. Then having to make your way through airport-style security and passport checks at the door, with US flags waving and quotes from the Declaration of Independence adorning the walls of the hall further heightened the anticipation and buzz around the event. Not that there needed to be much more, given the quality of wines available to taste!

This was a more focused version of similar California tasting events in the past, and many a generic tasting I have been to, where over 700 wines were shown, and people simply mob around the tables with the most expensive wines without really trying through the selections. Shame on them! Although everyone can probably be guilty of this ‘white line fever’ at some stage or another…

And while even £50 for a bottle of wine may seem like a large investment, and it is to an extent, the relative value that can be found in some of the top US wines when compared to similar quality from the Old World, namely Bordeaux and Burgundy, is striking!

Favourites such as Domaine de la Cote from Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr, as well as Hirsch Vineyards, Mount Eden and Mayacamas to name a few positively shone. Mostly new release wines, but with a selection of back vintages to hint at the ageing potential of where some of these stunning wines might be going was a real treat.

The growing sense of intrigue and awe around California as a leading wine producing region and the quality of wines it is now making was palpable, and the general hum of chatter and excitement surrounding the wines continued throughout the day and onto the dinner late in the evening.

And having recently won the Decanter Magazine award for Best Usa Specialist for the 6th consecutive year, is there a better place to try some of California’s best and most collectible wines than with us? I’m not so sure!


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