On Wednesday 24 March I was in Paris for a tasting of “Vins et Spiriteux des Etats-Unis” at the US Ambassador’s residence on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
Such a tasting would be unlikely in the UK: The best wines are shown via their agents rather than at a generic gathering like this. I have been to California only once so do not know the wines at all well. Producers from such unlikely places as Colorado and Georgia were also showcasing their wares to what I suppose was an audience of top Parisian sommeliers, cavistes and journalists.
With the taste of the outstanding Léoville-Barton 2009 still resonating on my palate, the wines here were predictably a mixed bunch and too often striving for power rather than finesse. Randall Grahm’s 2004 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant was a ringer for Châteauneuf du Pape. It even had some Brett for added authenticity! I also liked the fleshy and luscious 2005 Joseph Phelps Insignia and Ridge’s rich and almost elegant 2006 Lytton Springs Zinfandel and Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon. The two Au Bon Climat Pinot Noirs were soft, juicy and elegant – good wines.
There were some curiosities from Colorado that I had not encountered before. Boulder Creek Winery produces a Merlot/Cabernet blend called VIP Reserve 2006 that really wasn’t bad at all. There was a bit of excess oak but the mid-palate was pleasantly juicy and fruity.
Varaison Vineyards and Winery, however, is totally misguided. The earnest young man pouring these shockers told me, “We’re trying to produce wines that taste 20 years old without waiting that long…” He has succeeded admirably: The Chardonnay and two Merlots that I tasted were indistinguishable from each other – and from a lame Fino Sherry, for that matter. I am still staggered that somebody actually thinks these are good wines and that people will buy them.
Probably this “Judgement of Paris” was organised along standard French practices. But the tiny spittoons on each table were woefully inadequate for so many people and had to be emptied at frequent intervals, meaning that sometimes there was no spittoon at all. It all looked very nice but the logistics could have been better – says a London-based journalist!