The New Faces Of Californian Wine

With the romantic gesturing towards Pinot Noir in the film ‘Sideways’ and the meteoric rise of wine critic Robert Parker, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Californian wine is all about the bright lights of Napa Valley and the generous styles of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir that she produces. 

Fast forward to today, and a new generation of young, innovative winemakers are shaking up the Californian wine scene. Their focus is on making fresh, naturally made styles of wine from a diverse stable of grape varieties that herald from lesser known (and less expensive) pockets of California. 

Championed by the former San Francisco Chronicle's wine writer, Jon Bonné, in his book 'The New California Wine', these are just a handful of the producers leading the way:    

Ultramarine & Cruse Wine Co.

PHOTO CREDIT: BACKYARD BILL FOR HOLE & CORNER

PHOTO CREDIT: BACKYARD BILL FOR HOLE & CORNER

Michael Cruse is a man with sparkling ambition. A scientist and a thinker, his obsession with bubbles has seen him challenge California’s tentative history of crafting quality sparkling wines by founding his Ultramarine label. Here, Cruse brings together the two sides of his personality to create wines of technical balance and feeling that are reminiscent of the artisanal, Grower Champagnes coming out of France. These wines are made in tiny quantities, but keep your eyes peeled for his Sparkling Valdiguié Pet-Nat that he makes under his other label, Cruse Wine Co.

 

Bedrock Wine Co.

PHOTO CREDIT: TOM SANDERS

PHOTO CREDIT: TOM SANDERS

A far cry from the flashy wineries that line the Silverado Trail, Morgan Twain-Peterson made the first 3 vintages of Bedrock in a chicken coup. In 2012 he encouraged his buddy Chris Cottrell to come onboard and the duo have been focusing on creating wines that celebrate site and a sense of place (over varietal) ever since. They gather fruit from both their own ancient vineyard in Sonoma Valley and work with growers in unique spots on California’s Northern coast that they fondly refer to as the‘viticultural backwaters’. The resulting wines, such as the Bedrock Heritage, are a blend of up to 26 grape varieties and a testament to California’s ability to make super aromatic wines- red in particular- that are full of distinction and character. 

 

Broc Cellars

PHOTO CREDIT: NEW YORK TIMES

PHOTO CREDIT: NEW YORK TIMES

When you drink Chris Brockway’s wines something special happens - you are forced to give into the exhilaration of not quite knowing what's in your glass. Inspired by the French and older style of Californian wines he drank growing up with his stepfather, Chris makes wines from grape varieties such as Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc that had previously fallen out of favour. Keeping costs down on the production side and the end product, Chris makes his wine in an industrial estate (aka ‘urban winery’) in Berkeley, opening his doors at the weekend for admirers to come in and enjoy a casual glass or two. 

 

Lioco

PHOTO CREDIT: LIOCO

PHOTO CREDIT: LIOCO

Founded by two friends, former sommelier Kevin O'Connor and fine wine importer, Matt Licklider, Lioco was born as a nod to the style of wines coming out of California back in the 1980's. Moving away from the ‘bigger is better’ mantra, the Lioco wines have an honesty and purity to them that can be hard to find in California. Look out for the ‘Sativa’ Carignan from Mendocino County. Carignan is a fast disappearing grape variety in California and this wine is full of wild mountain fruit from over 75 year old vines that is sure to create a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

For UK readers, some of these wines are available from online wine merchant, Roberson

London restaurants redefining the wine experience

Wine often features as a part of our meal when eating out, yet it is rarely the thing that influences our decision about where to dine. Somewhere along the line, we accepted that wine might feature as a mediocre, unmemorable part of the meal, enhancing only the final amount found on our bill. Over the last few years London has responded to this with a number of restaurants transforming the wine list into something of purpose and influence; something that sits alongside the food and the environment as a natural part of the dining experience.  

10 Greek Street/ 8 Hoxton

Amongst a sea of changing faces, 10 Greek Street and 8 Hoxton possess the quiet confidence of being here to stay. Run and owned by restauranteur Luke Wilson and chef Cameron Emirali, the focus is on fresh, seasonal food cooked with a light touch. The wine list is much the same, and has some of the best value wines to be found in London that rarely stray above the £30 mark. Ask for the ‘Little Black Book’ for a hand written journey through some of the special, off menu wines.   

The Quality Chop House

Previously a workers cafe dating back to 1869, and after exploring many alter egos, The Quality Chop House was restored to her former glory by restauranteur Will Lander. The space retains its original charm with black and white floor tiles and mahogany banquets, and the restaurant serves simply cooked food, with a leaning towards choice cuts of meat. Alongside their solid, core wine list, they often have a selection of special wines by the glass, including rare, fortified wines that date back to the 1930’s.

Medlar

The quality of service and attention to detail found at Medlar, can be hard to find outside of traditional London establishments such as The Ivy and Rules. Medlar’s focus is on creating set menus that are an ode to modern French cuisine. Situated in South Kensington, they also harbour some of the best sommeliers in London, previously Clement Robert and now Christopher Delalonde, whose expert knowledge and excitement for wine are a delight to be on the receiving end of.

Sager + Wilde

Positioned half way up Hackney Road and flanked by a housing estate and a fish and chip shop, Sager & Wilde was responsible for starting a different type of conversation around wine when it opened a few years back. Technically a wine bar that also serves charcuterie and the best grilled cheese in town, the wine list explores anything from classic Burgundy to more obscure skin fermented wines, many of which are made available by the glass. The softly lit bar set against exposed brickwork and a thoughtfully curated playlist, make you never want to leave.        

Verden

Childhood friends, Ed Wyand and Tom Bell opened their neighbourhood wine bar and restaurant in Clapton in 2014. The interiors draw on natural light and materials, with cool greys and Scandinavian inspired furniture, that contribute to the sense of calmness and grace that fills the space. The cheese and charcuterie selection is some of the best in London, and the thoughtful wine list balances the traditional and the more daring with a focus on smaller, artisanal producers. Don’t miss steak night every Tuesday which pulls in both locals and Londoners far and wide. 

Noble Rot

When Stephen Harris, former chef at the Sportsman in Seasalter, Kent decided to take residence at Noble Rot, London stood up and paid attention. Tucked along one of the most quaint streets in central London, Lambs Conduit Street, Noble Rot appropriately inhabits an old wine bar. The owners, Mark Andrew and Dan Keeling are also the talent behind the wine and lifestyle magazine that shares the same name, making it a sure destiny that Noble Rot would become one of the most exciting food and wine destinations in London.

Ellory

Situated at the foot Netil House, a creative co-working space for new ventures on the edge of London Fields, the opening of Ellory has brought with it some of the best food and wine in East London. Chef, Matthew Young creates inventive, but timeless food often served in a tasting format that aims to offer more than two mouthfuls of joy with each course, whilst co-owner and sommelier Jack Lewens has curated a short selection wines that compliments the food in a gentle, non intimidating way. 

Brawn

Whilst Brawn started life in 2010 as a wine bar, and has changed ownership several times over the years, sometimes to the detriment of its quality, it is now in safe hands with owner and Chef, Ed Wilson. Formerly of Terroirs Group, Ed’s food has a generosity of spirit, flavour and honesty, whilst the wine list remains dedicated to the natural and biodynamic wines that have always lovingly decorated their list.

 

A New Breed of Magazine

For many of us, reading about wine can seem daunting. We are familiar with a brand of wine journalism that focuses more on the details of a particular wine than it does on the context in which we are drinking it. But with the help of a new breed of wine and drinks publications, wine journalism is starting to evolve into something that sits more naturally alongside our other lifestyle choices, encouraging us to offer it the same consideration that we would the food that we eat or the clothes that we wear. We’ve chosen four publications that caught our attention with their visual matter and thoughtful narrative on a topic that struggles to capture a younger audience around it.

Alquimie_Magazine

Alquimie

Alquimie is a drinks publication founded by editor Josh Alias and creative director Nicholas Cary in Australia. They ruminate on all manner of drinks, from wine and spirits to coffee and even water. From the gold foiling on the front cover, to the clean minimalist photography and considered tone of voice, Josh and Nicholas have skilfully pushed wine and drinks into a non traditional environment.

www.alquimie.com.au

Noble_Rot_Magazine

Noble Rot

Noble Rot is a food and wine magazine founded by Mark Andrew and Dan Keeling in London. Aesthetically it feels more like a grown up zine, using playful illustration to create a fun, open environment in which people can read and learn about wine. You’ll find interviews with musicians such James Murphy and Brian Eno to chefs and prolific wine writers such as Jamie Goode.

Mark and Dan also have their own restaurant and wine bar that goes by the same name on Lambs Conduit Street in Holborn, London.

www.noblerot.co.uk

TONG_Magazine

Tong

Where Alquimie and Noble Rot are more visual, Tong is all about smart, detail orientated commentary on wine. Each journal explores one topic, either a grape variety (for example Nebbiolo), wine style (Champagne) or influence (Oak). The design is simple, but beautiful, using only one colour and two fonts throughout each issue. It drills down into the minute details, carrying with it a lot of wine terminology that will delight those that have an existing interest and knowledge of wine.

www.tongmagazinedigital.com

TheArtofEating_Magazine

The Artful Eater

The Artful Eater is one man’s personal commentary on food and wine. Edward Behr, an American writer, is somewhat an authority on food and has also written several books, including the brilliant Art of Eating. Much like in his books, Behr crafts traditional prose about food and wine related topics in an honest, candid and non-trend related way.

www.artofeating.com

 

The Concept of Appetite

As we move through winter into the idea of spring, the type of food we desire, the amount we eat and what we have access to begins to change. An appetite for game, root vegetables, fuller red wines and dinners at home make way for spring vegetables, seafood and wines with a lightness of being. Beyond seasonality, the concept of appetite  also encourages us to think about what it means to be hungry for something - food, success, a memory, a place or otherwise.

box_of_donuts

We’ve chosen two videos from the MAD vaults, ‘Appetite. Ah. Hmm. Yes’ by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver and ‘What gives me the appetite to be who I am’ by Chido Guvera that explore the concept of ‘appetite’ and what it means to them. MAD is a not for profit founded by Rene Redzepi of NOMA in 2011. Through a collection of talks, essays and a yearly symposium in Copenhagen, they explore the past, present and future of food.

‘When people return to the restaurant, they come with an appetite and a smile. And when you have a customer with a smile, you automatically smile back. Maybe there is a virtuous circle of appetite in that way’.  – Trevor Gulliver, St John

Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver are co- founders of the St John restaurant group. 20 years ago, with the opening of their first site, a former smokehouse flanking London’s Smithfields market, they created an appetite around food that might ordinarily be overlooked. With an emphasis on ‘nose to tail’ dining, they took off cuts and offal, cooked them simply and served them in a welcoming, thoughtfully curated environment. Not only has their influence been felt on the evolution of modern British cooking, but on creating an appetite for success in the bevy of young, talented chefs that have graced their kitchens.

‘Appetite comes from a special place within us. It is the place where strands of hope are starting to rise, it is where you can see a little bit more than what is in this moment.’ – Chido Govera, Food Activist, Zimbabwe

Chido Govera is a farmer and food activist in Zimbabwe. Her Foundation, Future of Hope, works with women, orphans and disadvantaged communities to teach them agricultural skills that enable them to better feed and provide for themselves and their families. As a result, Chido’s relationship with the word ‘appetite’ carries a different meaning to that of which many of us hold in the Western world. It is defined by hunger, being hungry and the fear of not having enough food to remain alive and healthy. But Chido’s situation also created an appetite for hope and change, a desire to create a different, more sustainable way of living for both her own family and many others in Zimbabwe.

 

Spanish Design for Food & Wine

Spain’s culinary prowess is no secret. Both El Bulli and El Celler De Can Roca have occupied the prestigious number one spot in the World’s 50 best restaurants, with the likes of Mugaritz and Asador Etxebarri hot on their heels. Their ability to combine flavour, spectacle and design without losing sight of their traditional roots has helped to raise awareness of Spain as a culinary melting pot.

OTTO, by designer Ramirez i Carillo uses computer – generated geometry to create this modular wine rack.

OTTO, by designer Ramirez i Carillo uses computer – generated geometry to create this modular wine rack.

As a celebration of Spain’s contribution to contemporary food design, the Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) have commissioned a roving exhibition, TAPAS: Spanish Design for Food, showcasing over 200 objects that explore the relationship between food, design and science and how they’ve influenced eating habits and the cultural landscape of Spain.

Marti Guixe’s project, Embedded Drinks, infuses edible snacks with alcohol, harking back to an old Catalonian tradition that soaked bread in wine and sugar.

Marti Guixe’s project, Embedded Drinks, infuses edible snacks with alcohol, harking back to an old Catalonian tradition that soaked bread in wine and sugar.

Divided into four sections – Kitchen, Table, Food & Wine – the exhibition explores the evolution of traditional objects such as the Paella pan and the Porrón (a wine pitcher) alongside contemporary tools that have been designed for Ferran Adrià’s creations. It also delves into the impact leading food designers have had on food culture in Spain and the architecture of some of Spain's most celebrated wineries.  

Qumran is a winery in Castilla y León designed by architects Sandra Hernández + Álvaro Solís to work with the natural environment and different elevations found in the vineyard.

Qumran is a winery in Castilla y León designed by architects Sandra Hernández + Álvaro Solís to work with the natural environment and different elevations found in the vineyard.

The exhibit has toured major cities in America such as Washington and Miami, as well as cropping up in Tokyo, Korea and Toronto. To see all of the designs download the accompanying ebook to the exhibition here in Spanish and English.

 

Sissel Tolaas & The Art of Smell

It’s a little mind-boggling to think about where Sissel Tolaas’s nose has been. A ‘scent artist’, Tolaas has multiple degrees in chemistry, languages and art, and works with brands, such as Comme des Garçons, adidas and Ikea to develop conceptual scents. Her laboratory shelves are teaming with thousands of smells that she has tirelessly captured over the years, from smelly socks, to toys, rotting food and exotic flowers.

Tolaas captured the scent of nine men prone to panic attacks for her exhibition FEAR at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center in New York.

Tolaas captured the scent of nine men prone to panic attacks for her exhibition FEAR at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center in New York.

But where Tolaas really comes to life is with her personal projects, which blur the boundaries between art and science and challenge our understanding of this seemingly undervalued sense. At her 2006 exhibit at MIT, ‘the FEAR of smell – the smell of FEAR’, Tolaas captured and revealed the scent of men who were prone to severe anxiety attacks via scratch and sniff panels, whilst her piece at SFMOMA’s ‘How Wine Became Modern’ exhibition in 2010 attempted to replicate the smell of a rare 100-point Robert Parker rated wine on the artist's breath.

Tolaas recreated the smell of a ‘perfect’ 100 point wine as rated by wine critic Robert Parker at SFMOMA's 'How Wine Became Modern'

Tolaas recreated the smell of a ‘perfect’ 100 point wine as rated by wine critic Robert Parker at SFMOMA's 'How Wine Became Modern'

Considering we breath in around 27,000 times a day, we have little understanding about the role that scent plays in our everyday life, let alone the language at our fingertips to describe it. Tolaas’s work strives to help us do this, firstly by getting us to pay attention to the world and scents around us and secondly by creating experience’s that allow us to talk about smell in a more tangible way.

See her in action here, where she talks about the relationship between smell and memory as part of the Serpentine’s Memory Marathon in 2012 .