What is it with Californian wine in the UK? I had a bit of a moan on Day Two about the dearth of decent affordable Cabernet from the Golden State, but to be honest I could extend my whinge to the entire gamut of wine. The annual Californian wine tasting took place about three weeks ago, and it was a depressing affair. Yes there were some fabulous wines, particularly from Vineyard Cellars, but anyone looking for good everyday drinking left feeling cheated. Why aren't there half a dozen sizeable wineries that can turn out interesting, tasty wine that can sell here for less than a tenner? Fetzer used to be able to manage it, but seems to have lost the plot. Cline is the only winery I can think of that has been doing the biz for any length of time.
(Another gripe about the event while I'm here - can it be organised next time by people who have actually tasted at a large tasting? Firstly the layout. Three aisles designated A, B and C is fine, but to get from stand A7 to A8 involved walking back past stands A5, A3, A1, A2, A4 and A6 - a complete pain in the Arroyo Seco. Secondly the food - an event like this is not the time for ornate food in tiny portions and food police to make sure you didn't go back for secs. Simple but substantial is what we need)
So it is with not especially high expectations that I set into...
Echo Falls Chardonnay 2006, California
The Merlot from Day Eight was OK, and blow me down, this isn't bad either. It starts out light, and crisp, just as the Hardy's VR did yesterday, but it keeps going in a similar vein, with none of the muddy sweet vanilla edge. Almost Mâcon-y in style, this is a pleasant surprise. Much of it will end up in the sauce for the smoked salmon and mushroom pasta, but a glass or two of this may very well pass my lips.
Its red partner is...
Kumala Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2006. South Africa
Where does that baked/charred edge come from in South African reds? Some say from vine virus, some say from the soil, others say from barrels - no one has a fully convincing answer. You don't have to be an seasoned taster to pick it up - Jill spots some Cape reds a mile off. And here it is again, taking a fair degree of pleasure from what otherwise is a decent wine, plump and plummy, but with a dry finish. However, the last flavour in your mouth is bonfires - not what I want in a wine.
++++UPDATE March 30th++++
Just got hold of a bottle of the 2007 - much juicier, fresher, and with none of that Cape baked edge, nor the dry tannins. Is this the influence of the multi-talented, multi-chinned Bruce Jack, who has been roped into working on Kumala since his Flagstone winery was acquired by Constellation? Whatever, this is a BIG improvement on the 2006...