California produces some of the world’s best wines

California produces more wine than any country outside Europe yet very little of it seems to make its way to Ireland. 

Sadly also the wine we do get is perceived as either branded inexpensive plonk or expensive fine wine.

California produces some of the world’s best wines and I was reminded of this recently with a bottle of cult wine Paradigm Cabernet 2000 from Napa Valley which would easily be mistaken for a top Bordeaux. Paradigm’s winemaker has an Irish cousin he sends his wine to every year and she is an old friend — I have yet to taste a bottle that wasn’t outstanding with endless layers of complex cedar and blackcurrant fruit.

Finding good Californian wines in that sweet spot between €10 and €25 has always been a challenge but they do exist — try your local Independent or try the excellent Clos du Val range which O’Briens stock.

If you don’t believe me you will have to come along to Meades 126 Wine Bar in Cork on October 29 when I will be hosting a Californian wine tasting with tapas from La Rambla in Killarney and music from Grace and Kirby of Art Crimes who will help “set the mood with West Coast Vibes” they tell me.

To whet your appetite I recommend some west-coast wines below, some of which are brand new to the market.

A few of the wines below were first tasted at a Food and Wine Magazine/Findlaters evening in Ananda in Dundrum (in my view Ireland’s best Indian restaurant). Food & Wine has a new dynamic editor so is worth checking out.

For the diary: Friday, October 24, Spanish Wine Tasting with Marques de Riscal, 3-7pm, JJ O’Driscolls, Ballinlough, Cork.

Wednesday, October 29: California Wine Evening, Meades 126 Wine Bar, Oliver Plunkett St, Cork. 6.30pm. In aid of Cork Alzheimer’s Home Support (CAHS). Admission €10, music, wine and food included. Tel: 021-4271530; email: manager@meades126.com

BEST VALUE UNDER €15:

Montevina Pinot Grigio 2013 — €12.99

California produces some of the world’s best wines

Stockists: Bradleys; No 21 Coburg St, Midleton, Charleville; JJ O’Driscolls

Let’s face it it is always tough to get much flavour out of Pinot Grigio (one of the reasons people like it I suspect). This does a much better job than most and has some nice pear aromas with a decent bit of weight, texture, and creamy fruit on the palate.

Charles & Charles Chardonnay 2012, Columbia Valley, Washington — €14.99

California produces some of the world’s best wines

Stockists: Bradleys; No 21 Coburg St, Midleton, Charleville; JJ O’Driscolls

A cheat here as this wine is from up the coast a bit in Washington State, arguably the USA’s second best wine State. This is old-school oaked Chardonnay, 20% fermented in new French oak with a fine melon and citrus flavour with a vanilla and spice character.

Beringer Zinfandel 2012, California — €14.99-€15.99

California produces some of the world’s best wines

Stockists: Bradleys; O’Briens; Amber Fermoy; Vintry, Rathgar; Redmonds, Ranelagh; Sweeneys; Hole in the Wall

One of the oldest California wineries with decent wines across their range. This is a good introduction to Zinfandel with bright red and black fruit aromas and flavours and reasonable weight and touches of spice and blackberry on the finish. Try with some spicy barbecue food.

BEST VALUE OVER €15:

Lyeth “L de Lyeth” Merlot, Sonoma County, California — €19.99

California produces some of the world’s best wines

Stockists: Florries, Tramore; Miller & Cook, Mullingar; Corkscrew, Dublin; 64 Wine; Redmonds, Donnybrook Fair

Sonoma is California’s second most famous name after Napa Valley with cool sea breezes and a temperate climate. This is classic California Merlot and one that even Myles in Sideways might like — elegant plum aromas and flavours, generous ripe fruit and lots of length.

Joel Gott Unoaked Chardonnay 2013, California — €16.99

California produces some of the world’s best wines

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Bradleys, No 21, Cork (Coburg St., Midleton, Charleville)

Fruit is sourced from Monterey, Napa and Sonoma County which each brings different flavours to the wine. I loved the elegant pure fruit flavours in this and the fine racy, mineral influenced, palate.

Predator Old Vine Zinfandel 2011, Lodi, California — €20.99-21.99

California produces some of the world’s best wines

Stockists: Matsons, Bandon; No 21, Midleton; Stacks, Listowel; Ardkeen Stores; The Parting Glass; Baggot St Wines

This wine uses predator ladybirds in the vineyards rather than pesticides to keep the wine’s environmental impact to a minimum. Rich coffee and spice aromas and more spice on the palate which is packed with red and black fruit. This will be one of the wines at Meades Wine Bar on the 29.


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