Golden State of diversity

Californian wine has a lot to look forward to, despite some producers abandoning the UK market in the face of the recession, according to California Wine’s UK director John McLaren.

Gearing up for the annual trade tasting on March 15, he says the region’s diversity is particularly suited to independent retailers, as well as its traditional stronghold in the multiple grocers.

“The Golden State will continue to play to its strengths – the ability to make an abundance of crowd-pleasing wines with all the credentials of fully-fledged brands, underpinned by a diversity of varietal and regional wine styles,” McLaren says. He speaks of its? “sustainability and lifestyle messaging which is the envy of the world”, and predicts it will

“find its way into more UK consumers’ hearts, this year and beyond”.

This year’s annual tasting will feature a number of new releases, new looks and new vintages.

Napa Valley Vintners, which represents 375 wineries in California’s most famous winegrowing region, will showcase more than 40 wines from 22 different producers. Michael Honig of Honig Vineyard & Winery, Daniel Bailey of Jones Family Winery, Peter Franus of Peter Franus Wine Company and Kristine Ashe of Ashe Family Vineyards will be on hand to talk about their businesses.

Gallo is showing the 2008 vintage of Gallo Family Vineyards – the first since quality improvements were made in the vineyards and winery. The range’s packaging has been revamped to give it a more premium feel, and in a first for the brand, the whole portfolio has been bottled in lightweight glass under screwcap, to ensure freshness and bring its carbon footprint down. Wines from the Turning Leaf, Redwood Creek and Bare­ foot ranges will also be available to taste.

Hallgarten Druitt is unveiling the previously unreleased Rock ‘n’ Roll varietal range, made in partnership with music business managers RZO. Hitting the stage will be Forty Licks Merlot, Woodstock Chardonnay and the Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon (£16.99). A new Chardonnay and Merlot from Napa Valley’s Panamera will also be on taste, as will samples from dessert wine specialist Quady.

D&D Wines International is launching Mission Trail, a three-tier brand named after the foot and horseback trails between mission settlements in the late- 18th century. The entry-level range features a Californian red, white and rosé.The middle tier has a Colombard/?Chardonnay, Ruby Cabernet/Shiraz and white Zinfandel (£5.99), and the single varietal range features Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Petite Sirah (£8.99). D&D will also show wines from Green Hills, a brand produced and packaged according to environmentally sustainable principles as part of a new joint venture between D&D and Lange Twins Winery & Vineyards. The four-strong range incl-udes a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvig­non from Lodi, and a Merlot from Clarksburg (£7.99). Wines from entry-level Mellowood and the Magnificent Wine Company will also be on taste.

PLB will be releasing the Ménage à Trois brand (£8.99), from St Helena’s Folie à Deux winery, to multiple specialists for the first time. The red and rosé wines are blends, while the white is made from Chardonnay grapes sourced from Monterey, Santa Barbara and Mendocino. Ironstone will launch its Reserve Vineyard duo at the tasting – two wines made from very old vine Zinfandel, aimed at independent specialists and priced at £19.99. Wines from EOS in Paso Robles, including new vintages of the UK exclusive Blackburn & James brand, will also be on taste.

Bibendum will be launching two premium brands from Delicato – Stone Barn, a varietal range comprising Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay (£5.99-£6.99), sourced from the Central Coast and Lodi regions, and First Press, a selection of Napa Valley wines at more affordable prices, including a varietal Chardonnay (£12.99) and Cabernet Sauvignon (£14.99). Calera’s Central Coast Pinot Noir is being relaunched under the glass Vino-Lok stopper, which has been embraced by Calera’s US customers, with 30,000 cases sold without a single complaint about tainted wine. The off-trade exclusive Brazin range of Zinfandels will also be on taste.

Patriarche Wine Agencies is unveiling new labels for Hahn Family Wines’ Cycles Gladiator range. The move comes after Alabama’s Alcoholic Beverage Board banned the range from sale in the state because its labels were deemed pornographic. Winery president Bill Leigon said: “We made the change specifically to reflect the beautiful, classic design of the ‘naked nymph’ by moving to a more classic hierarchy of traditional wine labels. This not only makes the label more readable for ?consumers, but also signals the seriousness of the wine itself.”? Constellation is showcasing the newly released Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, and introducing Woodbridge Pinot Grigio 2009 (£7.99). There will be parcel offers of Woodbridge Rosé 2008 (£7.99) for summer 2010, and a selection from quirky brand Ravenswood and the core range of Echo Falls – which, Constellation says, is the fastest- growing US wine brand? – will also be?on taste.

Mentzendorff will be showing new vintages of Francis Ford Coppola’s Diamond Collection Ivory Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Diamond Collection Silver Label Pinot Noir 2008 and Director’s Cut Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.