Don’t overlook California’s fine wines!

Living so close to the motherlode of North American wine, we sometimes take California wines for granted. Some old standbys from California continue to evolve and improve… and at the same time new labels from wineries we`ve never seen before routinely appear on our shelves


Leading with a wide range of styles of Chardonnay and an apparently infinite variety of Cabernet Sauvignons, we forget that very few of the world`s wine grapes are not grown somewhere in California.

Colombard is one of the world's great white blending grapes. In California it is often blended into sun-drenched Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio to add a refreshing natural acidity.


Vista Point Pinot Grigio - Colombard (328989) $8.00 is an unassuming white from California, light and crisp, almost dry. Aromas and flavours of peach, pear and candied lemon rind swirl out of the glass and onto your tongue.

Just as modestly priced, Californian Vista Point Cabernet Sauvignon (5447) $8.00 pleases profusely without overwhelming the taste buds. There’s a surge of sweet cherry and berry flavors on that first sip, enhanced with a spritz of oaky vanilla on the finish.

For thirty years – since being created by the late Robert Mondavi - Woodbridge has been making classic wines that reflect the diversity of California's winegrowing regions.


With aromas of nectarine and fresh peach Woodbridge Pinot Gris (197186) $11.49 is a crisp and refreshing white full of honeydew melon, peach and lemon flavours. Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon (48611)

$11.99 offers aromas of plums, cherries, red berries, chocolate, with a toasty caramel finish.

More than 40 years ago, international investors started to notice the intriguing possibilities that California’s vine friendly climate and terroir offered to winemakers. English expatriate Peter Newton founded Sterling Vineyards in 1964.


Opening with bright grapefruit, lemon blossom and pineapple aromas Sterling Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc (886796) $17.99 has a dense, smooth palate with grapefruit, lemon, golden apple, guava and passion fruit notes. Quite a richly fruited, weighty white!

Based in Geyserville, California, Tom Gore is a second-generation grape farmer with a passion for coaxing vines into wines of great flavor. Tom Gore Vineyards Chardonnay (381079) $20.99 is bright and lush at the same time, perfectly balanced with underlying notes of ripe apple and tropical fruit, toffee and toasty oak.

Sounding very Spanish, Bodegas Iberia (794537) $21.99 is a steal!  An intriguing blend of the Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties Touriga Nacional, .

Graciano, Tempranillo and Tinta Cao, this red was actually grown by Bodegas Paso Robles at Blair Vineyard in Calistoga, Napa Valley, California.  A medley of black fruit flavours and fascinatingly earthy undercurrents just kept coming, changing with every little sip.

Not to be confused with Syrah (…which is also known as Shiraz), Petite Sirah is a red wine grape that originated as a cross of Syrah pollen germinating a Peloursin vine flower. The result gave us the grape known as Durif in France and Petite Sirah in California.

Bodegas Paso Robles Iberia

With spicy dark chocolate and cola aromas, Line 39 Petite Sirah (204891) $22.49 offers a medley of bumbleberry fruit flavours in a jammy medium bodied red. Damson plum and fig flavours flow into a finish with notes of cinnamon, cappuccino and lingering wisps of sweet liquorice.


With over 100,000 acres under vine, Chardonnay claims more acreage than any other wine grape in California.  The most popular wine in the US, it comes in a variety of styles. It can be clean and green, with bright acidity or full-bodied and lusciously fruited with tropical notes and varying degrees of oak.

‘Acero’ is the Spanish word for steel. Marimar Estate Don Miguel Vineyard Russian River Valley Acero Chardonnay (384925) $42.25 is entirely un-oaked, from start to finish. Classic notes of bright apple and pear veer through mango and even pineapple.

Planted in the most favourable sites in California’s Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon routinely produces deeply coloured red wines that overflow with red and black berry fruit flavours and earthy mint and leathery eucalyptus complexities.

With the generous addition of Merlot and smaller measures of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec,

Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (561126) $52.60 showcases raspberry, blackberry and blackcurrant flavours over intriguing layers of mint, fresh cut tobacco and cedar.


Make a deliberate choice to rediscover the range of fine wines California continues to offer us!

Reach WineWise by emailing douglas_sloan@yahoo.com