James Hocking, the ex-wine director at The Vineyard Cellars, has set up a new Californian-focused wine agency.

James Hocking Wine will specialise in boutique, family-owned wineries from California and other selected North American regions, and it will aim to sell to high-end independent wine merchants, wine-focused restaurants and private clients.

Hocking has sourced a selection of wineries, spanning affordable “by the glass” price points through to top-end wines, many of which have rarely been seen outside of California.

The portfolio will include one estate which is exporting to the UK for the first time – Oak Farm Vineyards -along with another (Larkin Wines) which is returning to the UK after a ten-year break.

Oak Farm is a Lodi-based estate, owned and operated by the Panella family. It is sustainably-managed and the range includes a Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and a red blend (Zinfandel, Petite Syrah and Barbera). Prices for these wines start at £14.99.

Larkin Wines is a boutique Napa winery set up by Scotsman Sean Larkin. Larkin specialises in Cabernet Franc, alongside Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a small quantity of Chardonnay. The rrp for the Cabernet Franc is £69.

Hocking said: “Over the last 18 years, I have seen the U.K. market’s steady rising demand for premium Californian wine.  Over the last two years, the growth has been substantial at both the top end, where wines sell for around the £60 plus mark and at the more affordable end where there is a strong market by-the-glass in the on-trade. 

“These are the focus price points for the new company.  In terms of sourcing, Napa and Sonoma wineries will dominate, but I am also keen to explore other up and coming exciting regions of California as well as other North American AVAs.”

Damien Jackman, California Wine Institute’s Trade Director UK & Ireland, said: “JHW is a welcome addition to the U.K. wine trade, particularly for supporters of Californian wine.  James’s commitment to, and knowledge of, Californian wine is long established in this market and we have always enjoyed working with him to drive the California category forward, and to learn from his extensive experience.”

The JHW portfolio will include Amala Springs; Benovia; Ferrari-Carano; Larkin; Mandolin; Moone-Tsai; Oak Farm Vineyards; Talley; Waterstone; and Whitehall Lane. Small parcels from cult wineries, such as Kistler, Dana Estates, Occidental, Ovid and Scarecrow, will also be available.