Wine columnist Rose Murray Brown goes on a quest to find the best Californian wines for under £25

SPARKLING

Anderson Valley, Mendocino: Quartet Brut NV
My favourite Californian fizz. This might not be Cristal, but it is a very complex New World fizz with lemon mousse notes, and it’s creamy, vibrant and ripe from a classic blend of chardonnay and pinot noir.
£19.50, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com;
£22, Oddbins; £22.99, Majestic Scotland; £25.99, Majestic
England

WHITE

Lodi: Uvaggio Vermentino 2013
This offers something really rather different in California – a textured Corsican style of vermentino. It has bags of richness with textural smoothness and nutty undertones.
£11.95, Berry Bros & Rudd

Calavares County: Ironstone Verdelho 2011
From the heart of Gold Country, verdelho is grown by the Kautz family at 2,400ft. Verdelho can be heavy and lacking acidity, but this is reasonably well balanced, vibrant and elegant.
£12.50, Calistoga, Edinburgh, www.calistoga.co.uk

Santa Barbara: Au Bon Climat Chardonnay 2012
Burgundian-mad Jim Clendenen makes benchmark chardonnays in southern California. With a mouthwatering minerality combined with ripe fruit, his are the sleekest chardonnays west of the Atlantic.
£19.80, Majestic Scotland; £22, Majestic England

Carneros: Pine Ridge ‘Dijon Clone’ Chardonnay 2011
Much more elegant than you might expect from a barrel-fermented Californian chardonnay. Appley, smoky nutty aromas, rich leesy undertones, hints of toast on the palate with very bright citrus fruit. Very good.
£22.95, members; £24.95, non-members, Rude Wines,
www.rudewines.co.uk

Santa Cruz: Birichino Malvasia 2013
This is a vibrant, perfumed, unusual dry white from duo Alex Krause and John Locke who met whilst working at Boony Doon. Their Monterey is pricey, but a very interesting example of the malvasia grape in action with a very pretty enticing label to boot.
£17.50, Berry Bros & Rudd, www.bbr.com

Mendocino: Parducci Small Lot Pinot Gris 2012
An interesting effort from the family-run Parducci with this tricky grape in a dry Alsace style. There are peach/floral notes with leesy undertones. Initially on the palate you taste lively citrus fruits, moving to a crisp, linear, dry finish.
£15, Calistoga, Edinburgh

Napa: Trefethen Dry Riesling 2014
A fine dry riesling is pretty rare in California. This impressed our tasters with its deliciously limey, toasty notes: more similar to an Aussie riesling than Alsace perhaps.
£19.99, Ellies Cellar, www.elliescellar.co.uk

RED

Napa: The Exhibition Merlot 2012 Frog’s Leap
This was the only merlot in our tasting – and it really stole the show. Fleshy, plummy, well-rounded fruit, but very refined for a New World merlot. This TWS exclusive from Frog’s Leap is a real steal for California. Very, very good.
£14.95, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com

Sonoma: Joseph Swan Pinot Noir Cuvée Des Trois 2011
Hints of raspberries, cherries and violets on the nose, spicy earthy undertones, but beautifully pure, complex and well-made. Very good.
£24.99, Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh

Sonoma: Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel 2013
My favourite zin in the tasting. Loved the liquorice and cassis notes, sweet raisiny palate (without being too sweet as many zinfandels can be), well balanced and good finish.
£21.99, Virgin Wines, www.virginwines.co.uk; Old Bridge Wine Co, www.oldbridgewine.co.uk

Napa: Ca’ Momi Zinfandel 2013
Big, buxom, sweetish version of this popular Californian grape. Plenty of rich black cherry and eucalyptus notes, quite pronounced oak and a slightly syrupy finish.
£17, Calistoga, Edinburgh

Lodi: Uvaggio Primitivo 2011
Our tasters loved this sweet juicy gem from a grape usually found in Puglia. Herby, damsony with a delicious fleshy fruit palate.
£14.95, Berry Bros & Rudd Sweet

San Joaquin Valley: Quady’s Elysium Black Muscat 2014
Made from black muscat grapes with added grape spirit – it is similar in alcohol level to a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (15 per cent) – but much richer and fruitier as it hails from the hot baked vineyards of Madera in Central Valley, south of Sacramento. Not a bad price for a sweetie.
£9.89 hf bt, Majestic Scotland; £10.99 hf bt, Majestic England

• Join Rose’s California Wine Masterclass in Edinburgh on 16 June, £40, www.rosemurraybrown.com

 

About The Author

Rose Murray Brown

Rose Murray Brown is one of only 323 Masters of Wine worldwide and is the only one to host wine courses and regular wine tastings in Scotland.

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