The USA and its citizens have perhaps the most diverse and polarised stereotypes of any other country in the world. Think America and you may envision anything from cowboys to clinical obesity. Similar opinions seem to exist when it comes to their wines, with the mass commercialisation of certain below-par offerings dominating our UK market and doing the same for American wines as Blue Nun did for German Rieslings. Yet New World fans still sing the praises of Californian viticulture and recently I have found myself agreeing with them.
Although our gourmet tours focus on Italy and Spain, we love a little variety, so here’s a list of 5 of my current favourites from across the pond, having reminded myself of a fair few during last week’s 4th July celebrations!
- 1. Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2011
Charles Smith Wines, Columbia Valley, Washington State
I love this funky modern Riesling, with its fresh acidity and complex minerality. Hints of orange and lime make this the perfect accompaniment for spicy Asian dishes or prawns on the BBQ.
- 2. Wild Boy Chardonnay 2010
Au Bon Climat, Santa Barbara, California
A psychedelic label featuring the free-flowing bearded winemaker, Jim Clarenden, is at odds with the bottle’s contents – this is a serious wine. Clarenden’s Burgundian influences definitely shine through in this oaked, citrusy Chardonnay. Salmon, shellfish or chicken would all go down well with this west coast gem.
- 3. Vin Gris de Cigarre 2012
Bonny Doon Vineyard, Santa Cruz, California
A pretty shell pink colour reminiscent of Provence and subtle hints of citrus and summer fruits making a delightful crisp and fresh wine that still has complexity. Summer in a glass!
- 4. Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir 2009
Willemette Valley, Oregon
Burgundy has definitely inspired the wines of this estate, perhaps Oregon’s foremost Pinot Noir producer. This 2010 vintage is an incredibly accessible example, with the strawberry on the nose that you would expect, as well as red cherries and a subtle hint of spice. Delicious and elegant.
- 5. Incredible Red Zinfandel, 2010
Peachy Canyon, Westside Paso Robles, California
This Incredible Red from a small family-run estate on America’s West Coast is, I think, incredibly good value for money. A far cry from the clumsy, mass-produced Zinfandels that plague pub wine lists, this incarnation of Italy’s Primitivo grape is a great example of the variety’s possibilities in the States. Every glass is packed full of flavour, starting off with forest berries, moving into more complex notes of leather, spice and vanilla. A big, American wine with a lot going on!