Sunshine state on show
Published:  07 March, 2008

The annual California bash will showcase a host of new offerings from across the board

Some 300 wineries - including new arrivals Vinum Exports, Dancing Coyote, Heck Estates and Michael-David Winery - will be showing their wares at the annual Wine Institute of California tasting in London on March 10.

Highlights of the show at the Royal Horticultural Halls include the unveiling of this year's Benchmark Wines Selection and a seminar by Paul Dolan, ex-president of Fetzer and now owner of Parducci, the first carbon-neutral winery in California. The invitation-only event will look at sustainable winemaking in California, including a tutored tasting of sustainable, organic and biodynamically produced wines. It takes place at 9.30am.

The California Tourism Board will also be at the tasting to discuss its upcoming campaign promoting the state as the Land of Wine and Food. The promotion is part of a £6 million campaign encouraging Europeans to visit California, and has been launched thanks to a fund-raising drive by governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

World Wine Agencies is introducing three ranges and two wineries at the tasting. The Bath-based agency has teamed up with existing partner Jewel to launch the off-trade targeted Sacramento Trail range (rrp £6.99). Three varietal wines - Chardonnay 2007, Zinfandel Rosé 2007 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - will hit the Co-op's shelves in April. Mendocino County-based Bliss Wines is launching an on and off-trade targeted range priced at £8.99 for independents, and the Napa Valley's Silverado Winery is releasing four wines including its flagship, Solo.

Seckford Agencies is launching its first Californian range - Scotto Family Wines. The portfolio includes 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio Blush, plus a 2006 Cabernet/Carignan blend and a 2005 Zinfandel, priced from £6.50-£6.99.

Blossom Hill is unveiling new packaging for its varietal range, which it hopes will draw more attention from its target audience of women over 35. The new look is part of a major trade marketing and product development programme in 2008, including sponsoring Wimbledon and a primetime TV ad campaign. Brand manager Carol Chan says: "We want to redefine the wine market with packaging that is truly iconic. The wine aisle is still very confusing and crowded and we know that many consumers struggle to find what they want. We wanted the new look to have really excellent shelf standout while expressing its premium credentials."

Crush Wines has teamed up with Napa Valley-based Don Sebastiani & Sons to promote five brands in the UK - Pepperwood Grove, Smoking Loon, Aquinas, S/K/N and Hey Mambo, priced from £7.99. The winery is unusual in that it uses a whole range of different closures - Neoc ork, screwcap, Zork and Vino-Seal.

Thierry's Wine Services will be showing its new brands from Sonoma's 585 Wine Partners - Red Truck, Picket Fence and Steelhead . Red Truck makes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines from the Central Coast region; Picket Fence sources Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley; and Steelhead is made by Quivira Vineyards, based in Dry Creek Valley. The portfolio is Thierry's first venture into Californian wine.

Buying director Dominique Vrigneau said: "We've spent some time looking for potential wines to fill a gap in the UK market for overtly Californian brands with authentic, classic American imagery. Red Truck in particular fits the bill perfectly."

Fetzer & Bonterra winemaker Charlie Gilmore will be at the event to launch Bonterra Rosé 2007, a predominantly Sangiovese/Grenache/Zinfandel blend designed to drink like a medium-weight Rhône rosé and made from organically-grown grapes. Fetzer is celebrating its 40th anniversary by showcasing six of its best wines, including Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Bonterra Viognier 2006 and Bonterra McNab 2003. Brown-Forman will also be showing wines from Sonoma-Cutrer and Mariah Zinfandel 2004, a small parcel of wine grown in the Mendocino Ridge AVA.

Beringer is showing off a new logo - Beringer Icon B - which is to feature prominently across all its packs. The logo will be on show on the Founder's Estate range at the tasting, and will be rolled out across Beringer's other ranges over the coming months.

Dates and details

Where: Lindley Hall, Royal Horticultural Halls, London

When: 10.30am-5.30pm, March 10


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