WINE O’CLOCK: A lot of good wine goes up in smoke
Fires have been rampaging through California’s Napa Valley in recent weeks, destroying thousands of acres of vine-growing country and causing severe damage to at least 20 wineries.
The fires have also destroyed hundreds of homes and small businesses and claimed some lives, so wine is not top of their worry list just now.
But it is a blow nevertheless. Napa and the Sonoma valleys are the USA’s top wine producing regions and a huge tourist industry has been built around them. Many of these vineyards support restaurants and hotels. Some are at the centre of full-scale holiday resorts.
This is the third time in two years that this part of California has been swept by wildfires. Production has suffered and you can expect to see less Californian wine on our shelves next year.
I have mixed feelings about Californian wine. I find the cheap stuff is bad and the good stuff expensive.
Nevertheless, I would hate to see its industry wiped out or destruction caused to this beautiful part of the world where there are a great many wineries, scattered around a patchwork of small towns each with its tasting room and restaurant, sometimes an art gallery.
I’ve picked out a few Califonian wines you might like to try. It’s a random choice, just some I have sampled.
Crane Lake Napa Valley Pinot Noir (€15 Wineonline.ie)
Zinfandel is the American cousin of a grape known as Primitivo in Europe, where it is mainly grown in southern Italy and Croatia.
This is a full-bodied red, aged in oak,which gives it a hint of cinnamon and a spicy finish. It’s nothing like the cheap sweet white and rosé wines which carry Zinfandel as the main name on their label. Same grape but a very different product.
This makes my point about Californian wines; it’s good but it’s expensive. A light, pleasant, fruity wine that goes perfectly with, say, a chicken salad, a nice pasta dish or a Margherita pizza.
When Andrew Quady and his wife Laurel moved to the San Joaquin Valley they found some of this Orange Muscat grape growing wild. They cultivated and encouraged it and they use it to produce this beautiful dessert wine, fortified slightly in the manner of Port or Sherry.
It is sweet and lush with flavours of peach and apricot. It goes well with most after-dinner dishes, although I prefer it as dessert rather than with dessert.