A combination of circumstances amd energetic people have brought 'real' Californian wine to the UK, says Jane Parkinson, who picks her top wine bars and restaurants for a taste of California.
Drink Californian wine: London
Since it opened last year, Mission in Bethnal Green has set the Californian bar extremely high. A casual bar and restaurant with a passion for seasonal vegetables, its wine list covers several regions and countries but the focus is heavily on North America so California is well represented. The range is eclectic, tempting and impressive. It shows a deep understanding of the state’s wine and this results in imaginative choices.
Sparkling wine by the glass covers vintages over 20 years old. The main list features interesting selections, within sections including Pink and Orange, Rhône Varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, each with a Californian subset; there are also back vintages of Californian icons such as Harlan. But perhaps most impressive is its Cabernet Sauvignon By Decade section (yes, decade), from the 2000s back to the 1990s. Needless to say, it’s a must-visit.
- In California? See our 10 top San Francisco wine bars and restaurants
The façade of Mayfair’s Avenue restaurant looks deceptively traditional. Not only does it sell three top-end Californian wines under the super-modern Coravin system (at the time of writing, including Château Montelena and Opus One), making very expensive wines more available for customers. It is also one of the first restaurants to sign up to Roberson Wines’ Californian Wine on Tap scheme. While its food is refined modern American, Avenue’s wine list covers well-respected names such as Au Bon Climat, Heitz and Frog’s Leap, but there are more eclectic choices too.
Rex & Mariano, Blacklock, Burger & Lobster’s Threadneedle Street branch, and the St Katharine’s Dock branch of CAU also use Roberson’s Californian Wine on Tap system. CUT at 45 Park Lane, as the address suggests, is sleek and smart but this modern steak restaurant has a devastatingly delicious Californian range that includes big names and a quirky wine or two for the adventurous.
Drink Californian wine: Outside London
A luxury hotel and spa set deep in Berkshire countryside, The Vineyard at Stockcross pays serious homage to the Golden State. Its Californian Bar lists 100 wines by the glass, but this is only a drop in the ocean of the 800 Californian wines on the restaurant’s 3,000-bin list. Peter Michael of the famous wine estate created the hotel, and so a comprehensive range from this winery is available, including a library of back vintages. A generous selection of legendary names grace the list, which manages also to cater for more modest budgets.
All branches of specialist steak restaurant group Hawksmoor list some top-class Californian wines, including its Manchester outpost, which has some gems in the ‘rarities’ section of the menu.
Meanwhile, in Oxford, 1855 has a tempting list that mixes established names such as Qupé’s Syrah with modern wines such as Wind Gap’s Trousseau Gris. This casual bar and brasserie has held Californian wine events, most recently hosting a walk-around tasting of 11 Napa wineries, with many winemakers present. A little haven worth visiting.
Wine writer and communicator Jane Parkinson is the IWSC Communicator of the Year 2014, a regular on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, and a member of The Wine Gang.