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17 high-end Californian wines from the Wine Treasury

The Wine Treasury is a UK importer with an impressive portfolio of high-end Californian wines. This is a selection of some of them. There's no doubt that the best Californian wines are pretty serious efforts, but they aren't exactly cheap... Approximate prices are given in brackets.    

Contact details: The Wine Treasury Ltd, 69-71 Bondway, London SW8 1SQ, Tel: 020 7793 9999

Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Napa
92% Cabernet and 8% Merlot primarily from the Stag’s Leap and Rutherford Bench regions of Napa. Very deep colour with a lovely chalky edge to the rich cassis fruit on the nose. Very classy. Lovely density of minty, chalky fruit on the palate with good intensity. Nice balance, with some tannic structure. Very good/excellent (£35)

Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Napa
Slightly muted nose with some herb-tinged fruit. Midweight, balanced palate shows good density: a very restrained style. Very good+ (£25)

Stags Leap Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Napa
Lovely forward minty, menthol-edged to the nose, which is very complex and expressive. The palate displays sweet forward fruit with a slightly roast-coffee edge to it. Good density. Very good/excellent (£60)

Stags Leap Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1997, Napa
Quite classy herb-edged fruit here, with a roasted edge. Lighter than the 1998. Very good+ (£60)

Sequioa Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Napa
Deep coloured. Herby edge to the rather muted nose. Juicy fruit on the palate. Sweet and accessible but a tiny bit simple. Very good (£18)

Stonestreet Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1997, Sonoma
Part of the Kendall Jackson empire. Sweet menthol and herb edged cassis on the nose leads to a palate showing juicy, chewy fruit. Good tannins and medium bodied. Quite restrained. Very good+ (£25)

Hawk Crest Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 California
Nice midweight Cabernet with some herb-tinged fruit. Nice if not terribly concentrated. Very good (£12)

Joseph Phelps Le Mistral 1998, California
A Rhône-style blend of 51% Grenache, 21% Syrah, 9% Mourvèdre, 7% Alicante, 7% Zinfandel, 3% Carignan and 2% Petite Syrah. Intense, spicy/herbal nose with a sweet edge. The palate shows lovely sweet-edged spicy herbal flavours with some strawberry and red berry fruit. A lovely forward Rhône style wine but in a very Californian mould. I like it. Very good/excellent (£22)

Alban Vineyards Reva Syrah 1998, San Luis Obispo
Wonderful expressive nose showing sweet roasted fruit: rich, spicy and toasty. Lovely dense spicy, savoury palate with a pronounced roasted edge. This is a distinctive, concentrated red wine. Very good/excellent (£30)

Alban Vineyards Lorraine Syrah 1998 San Luis Obispo
Opaque red/purple. Really full-on rich nose: sweet and liquoricey with a roasted edge. Hugely concentrated palate is rich, lush and fat, with sweet berry and cassis fruit with a firm spicy edge. Impressive in a very ripe style. Very good/excellent (£28)

Alban Vineyards Viognier 1998 Central Coast
Remarkably forward herby, spicy edged nose is very vivid, with some peachy tropical fruit notes. The palate is very lush textured and soft, with good concentration. Impressive wine in a very rich style. Very good/excellent (£23)

Stags Leap Sauvignon Blanc 1999 Napa
Fresh but very ripe nose is quite full on. Rich herby palate shows good concentration. Very ripe and lush. Very good+ (£15)

Cline Los Carneros Syrah 1999 Sonoma
Very deep coloured, this wine has a brooding, savoury herbal nose with liquoricey fruit. The palate is very dense, spicy and shows intense fruit. Really interesting stuff with great concentration and a spicy finish. A rich, new world style – almost Australian. Very good/excellent (£14)

Cline Viognier 2000 Sonoma
Rich herbal edge to the peachy, pear fruit nose. The palate has a nice texture with good acidity: quite fat, but stays fresh. A nice Viognier. Very good+ (£13)

Sanford Pinot Noir 2000 Santa Barbara
Cherry/herby nose with a medicinal edge. Juicy, vivid fruit on the palate, which shows great density, good acidity and some spicy oak. Impressive in a fuller style. Very good+ (£22)

Sean Thackrey Pleiades X, California
A non-vintage blend with grapes from just about everywhere: Napa, Sonoma, Monterey and Central Coast. Remarkable nose is vivid and arresting, with very sweet fruit and bizarre herbal and liquoricey elements. Midweight palate is sweet and herby, with striking medicinal notes. A remarkable, forward wine. Very good/excellent (£25)

Caymus Conundrum 2000, Napa
A blend of Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Muscat! Very striking herb-edged nose with lemony fruit and spicy wood. Rich, full textured, lush palate with a vanilla edge. Very striking style with lots of richness. Works really well in a fat, full-on style. Very good/excellent

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wines tasted May 2002; article published August 2002