California

Complex cabernet, Californian style

Californian wines are enjoying a tremendous revival, from the top exclusive Estates to the more commercial volume producers.

Californian wines are enjoying a tremendous revival, from the top exclusive Estates to the more commercial volume producers. The replanting of most of Californian vineyards in the early-to mid-1990s is starting to bear fruit. The new selected low volume clones grafted onto Phylloxera- resistant rootstock are now of an age to produce grapes that are yielding excellent quality. The sometimes outrageous prices being demanded, and indeed paid by customers, are a phenomenon of the early 1990s. Prices today are becoming a little more realistic even for the so-called 'boutique' wines. Cain Cellars are on a roll with the recent run of excellent vintages. Chris Howell is making slick, complex and very well-balanced wine from the fantastic raw materials he has at his disposal high up on Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. “The best claret outside of Bordeaux” as some put it. The team at Heitz, lead by Kathleen Heitz-Myers, is seriously over performing, too. They make impressive and much sought-after single-vineyard Cabernets, which habitually show great finesse married to a traditional charm that marks the Heitz style out so clearly; whilst their single vineyard Zinfandel is of great interest - a beautifully crafted expression of the variety - ripe and enticing, whilst boasting a poise and restraint which many of its over-blown competitors lack; Heitz’s new clones of Chardonnay, too, are producing elegant and consistently great wine, packed with fine, bracing, fruit flavours. At Dominus, Christian Moueix and his team continue to push the boundaries producing wonderful wines from the Napanook vineyard that are marry Californian beauty with Pomerol brains.