California wine fair highlights

Ahead of a fundraising event on Sunday for the wildfire relief efforts, Peter Ranscombe looks back at some of his highlights from the recent California wine fair.

IT’S always hard when you see images of smoke and flames engulfing people’s homes.

The wildfires that have swept through Northern California over the past fortnight have claimed more than 40 lives and forced thousands of people to flee.

As well as the tragic loss of life, many people have seen their businesses and livelihoods consumed by the fires, casting a shadow over their futures.

The wine trade in the UK is rallying round producers in the Napa Valley and Mendocino and Sonoma counties by holding a fundraising event in London on Sunday, linked to a Just Giving campaign that aims to raise £10,000.

I’m confident that California’s winemakers will bounce back from the fires thanks to their ingenuity and creativity.

And that creativity was on show at the recent California wine fair in London, with wines from throughout the state on show.

Looking ahead to Sunday’s event, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate some of the wines on show at the fair.

Two of the cooler climate coastal wines stood out for me during a workshop led by Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible.

The 2013 Failla Occidental Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir (£65, Flint Wines) from the Sonoma Coast combined rose petals and wood smoke with red- and blackcurrants on the nose, before leading into concentrated raspberry and red plum flavours on the tongue, wrapped in velvety tannins to produce a lush mouthfeel.

Complex and concentrated fruit was also on show in the 2013 Piedrasassi Rim Rock Canyon Syrah (£61.95, Philglas & Swiggot, Roberson), with the full range of black fruit from fresh blueberries and blackcurrants through to richer blackberry and twist of redcurrant, with hickory smoke on the nose and a hint of mint on the finish.

The fair’s other seminar – presented by Kelli White, author of Napa Valley: Then and Now – provided some equally-exciting examples of Californian craft.

The 2013 Forman Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (£98, Fine & Rare) offered aromas of rosemary, violets and smoke and rich flavours of blackberry, blackcurrant and mint, with well-integrated tannins and a warmth from its 14.5% alcohol.

Complexity was also the name of the game for the 2013 Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon (£54, Roberson), which had an interesting mix of rose, cranberry, blackcurrant and blackberry on the nose, followed by dark and milk chocolate on the palate, with cloves on the finish.

Good luck to all those taking part in Sunday’s event.