The wine business in the USA is huge and with total annual consumption of around 3,500,000 litres per year it is the world’s largest market and the 4th largest producer (behind France, Italy and Spain). 90% of wine produced in the USA comes from California. 30% of wine consumed is imported and it is New Zealand’s single biggest wine export market taking around 21% of our annual production of 300 million litres. New Zealand is now number 3 by value (9.4% share) of all wine imported into USA – Italy 33.5%, France 23% with Australia slipping to number 4 at 8.8%. In 2010 New Zealand wasn’t even in the top 6.

Alongside this growth in exports to the USA we have seen more USA labels appearing on our shelves here. These wines are from the more ‘commercial’ end of the market – New Zealanders may baulk at some of the prices being asked of the top end labels! However, what we do see here are able to compete and contrast with wines such as reds from Australia and locally produced Chardonnays. The oft requested big, golden, buttery $20.00 Chardonnay seems to be more likely to come from California than NZ these days. Tonight we took the chance to have a look at some of these North American wines available on our shelves.

Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut $40.99

Owned and operated by the famous Champagne House, the Californian Roederer Estate is located in the Anderson Valley 125 miles north of San Francisco near the Mendocino Coast. A blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir this is a yeasty, big, rich style with lemony citrus flavours backed by the nutty, spiciness from 2 years aging on lees as well as the addition of reserve barrel aged wines into the blend.

McManis Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2015 $18.99

A 5th generation family owned winery located in the River Junction AVA of the Central Valley of Northern California. A real glassful of tropical and citrus fruits – pineapple and melon with some creaminess from 2/3’s malo-lactic with subtle oakiness from aging in older French and American oak. A soft and approachable style.

Columbia Crest H3 Chardonnay 2013 $26.99

From the Horse Heaven Hills region of Columbia Valley in Southern Washington State. About 3 hours inland from Portland, here the area is sheltered by the Cascade Mountain range from the rains off the Pacific. Around 70% of the wine was fermented in new & older French and American oak with the balance in stainless. The result is a wine with noticeable coconut aroma and a smoky, lifted characters. The palate shows more citrus and apple and white fruit flavours with a cooler climate ‘freshness’ feel  to the palate.

Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2015 $31.99

From the makers of USA’s top selling Chardonnay, the Vintners Reserve, this is selected from the top 5% of the Chardonnay blocks in Monterey and Santa Barbara. Fully barrel fermented in around 30% new French oak with the balance older oak (20% American), with 100% malo. A big, powerful, golden, soft, rich, buttery Chardonnay that carries its 14.5% alc. very well. Californian sunshine in a glass.

La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir 2012 $35.99

Established in 1979, this is also owned by the Kendall Jackson family. The wine maker is NZer and Lincoln University trained, Craig McAllister. The coastal valley of Monterey is California’s coolest growing region with cool sea breezes and fog moderating the temperatures making it ideal for Pinot Noir. At 4+ years this has some developing characters turning the sweet fruits into more savoury. Juicy with fine tannins, this proved to be a very pleasant surprise on California Pinot Noir. Very enjoyable.

McManis Family Vineyards Petite Sirah 2015 $19.99

Located in the Lodi Valley inland from San Fransico, this is a family owned winery established in 1990 and producing their own label since 1997. Petit Sirah (known as Durif in Australia) is well suited to warmer regions and produces big, inky dark wines. This is no exception with big black, concentrated sweetly ripe fruit flavours surrounded by spicy vanillin oak. A ‘fun’ sort of wine, with jubey, pastille, liquorice flavours, soft acidity and an easiness on the palate. “A mouthful of pleasure”, someone said.

Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 $35.99

California has made Cabernet Sauvignon ‘their’ red wine variety and especially in recent years with the reduced interest in the Merlot variety there. This is classic Californian in taste and style. From the Sonoma Valley, 92% Cabernet Sauvignon with the balance other Bordeaux varieties, aged in a mix of French and American oak. Blackcurrant, dried herbs, olive and mocha. Medium weight with fine dusty tannins.

Artezin Mendocino Zinfandel 2013 $25.99

This label is based on the fruit source of old vine Zinfandel and other ‘fringe’ varieties grown by individual family growers throughout the Mendocino County. Long considered a ‘workhorse’ variety, Californian Zinfandel is emerging with a new face – less alcohol and more finesse. This is 85% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah and 5 % Carignan. Dark cherry/raspberry chocolate flavours with a hint of the tartness of pomegranate or cranberry on really juicy palate. Much richer and deeper than previous vintages of this label.

Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot No. 64 $31.99

This is ‘old school’ Californian. A blend of predominately Zinfandel with Petit Sirah, Syrah and a splash of “black Italian varieties” mixed over 4 different vintages  – the Zinfandel is always the youngest with the ‘heavtier’ Petit Sirah and Syrah aged in oak for a longer period – and selected from over 40 different individual wines. This Lot # 64 was released Spring 2016 (each release is uniquely numbered).  This tastes of red fruits, mushrooms, spices that is more than reminiscent of a Chauteauneuf du Papes. A wine to bring out when you just feel like a good glass of red, but not too sure what. This will fit the bill.