From $11.99, £16.95 Roberson, 55,000 Korean won
The image of California wine is far removed from bargain territory. We know California wine can be cheap, but good? Even the presentation by my co-author of American Wine Linda Murphy called Does California do value? at the California Summit attended last year by Julia was less than fully convincing.
But keen American bargain hunters know that sufficient sniffing will yield a few choice bottles and I believe this is one of them. It has been found for British wine lovers by Mark Andrew of London wine merchants Roberson, who is such a fan of California wine that he has invested considerable sleuthing time to the subject and is importing Raj Parr's In pursuit of balance concept to London for a California wine event on 22 April this year.
Admittedly it is much, much more of a bargain in its homeland, where it can be found for as little as $11.99 even if the more usual price is $14-15 a bottle. At £16.95 (the price bolstered by transport costs, UK taxes and the cost of operating a large store on Kensington High Street), Moobuzz Pinot Noir 2011 Monterey County is decent but not thrilling value. But it's certainly a very pleasant drink that is recognisably Pinot Noir (though far from burgundy) with just enough of that variety's sweet fruit without having the sickliness and syrupiness that spoil many inexpensive American Pinots. Monterey is famous for its cool climate - so cool that in the 1970s and 1980s it was famous for its underripe Cabernets. The light green streak in this Pinot Noir adds freshness and is well integrated. Indeed it is all so well integrated and evolved that I would drink this wine over the next few months. Do not on any account cellar this wine.
According to Mark Andrew, the Pinot Noir grapes were destemmed and aged for 10 months in French oak barrels but tentacular Google led me to another site that had recommended the value offered by this wine, www.thefrugalwinesnob.com, which offers the following intriguing information on its make-up: 86% Pinot Noir, 10% Sangiovese, 3% Tempranillo, and 1% Syrah, with 86% of the grapes from Monterey, 10% from Mendocino, and 4% from Lodi at the northern end of the Central Valley. The Frugal Wine Snob (who supplied the close-up of the label above) also reports that 5,400 cases were produced.
The Other Guys brand was established for less expensive wines aimed at non-stuffy drinkers 10 years ago by August, fourth generation of the energetic Sebastiani wine family in California. This Moobuzz (slogan: from the land of milk and honey; theme: cool-climate varietals) range has been one of the more successful. It certainly looks smart enough, and is highly distinctive thanks to its thick yellow plastic, peal-off-able Zork stoppers developed in Australia.
Roberson are also importing Moobuzz Chardonnay 2012 Monterey County, which is less impressive and just a tad too sweet for my palate - as is so often the way with California whites, particularly but not exclusively those at the bottom end of the price spectrum.
Here, for once, is a wine that is extremely easy to find in the US, can be found by Brits who live outside London online at Roberson (the price comes down to £15.26 if you order any six bottles, £14.41 any 12), and can also be found in Korea, according to wine-searcher.