Some brilliant Californian imports from Nekter Wines

Jon Davey started Nekter Wines 2 years ago, after spending 16 years working in management consulting. He had developed an interest in wine, and on a holiday to south Africa he decided to bring some wine back. This was the spur for him to make a career change. He tried to get a good job in wine and couldn’t with his lack of experience, so he started importing wine. He began with a couple of producers in South Africa, then a few from California, and has taken off from there. The Nekter customers are predominantly London on-trade. In terms of the wines in the portfolio, stylistically and philosophically it’s minimal intervention – not ‘natural’ but doing as little as possible to the fruit. He’s grown to the point that he’s hired Imogen Taylor to work with him. The thing that sets Nekter apart is their specific focus on interesting producers in California, and the quality of the wines they have sourced from there. I tasted with John and Imogen at their offices, and was impressed by the quality of the wines. Prices indicated are the consumer prices from the Nekter website (the trade price is exactly half this in each case).

Matthiasson Family Vineyards ‘Tendu’ White 2016 Dunnigan Hills, California
10.3% alcohol. 75% Vermentino, 20% Colombard, 5% Chardonnay. The idea behind this wine, which comes in a crown-cap-sealed one litre bottle, is that it should be a barbecue wine – all about drinkability. This is fresh, lively and direct with nice citrus and pear fruit. This has lovely focus with pure fruit the main theme. Stony and pure. 89/100 (£27)

Ferdinand Albariño Borden Ranch 2016 Sierra Nevada Foothills, California
13% alcohol. Made by Evan Frazier who is assistant winemaker at Konsgaard, and it’s made at Atlas Peak. Matured in used oak. One sulfur addition at bottling. Beautiful aromatics with lovely citrus and apricot hints. Lovely concentration with rounded, rich tangerine and lemon fruit. Such finesse here: fine-grained and delicious. Mouthwatering and a bit saline. So nice. 93/100 (£28)

Donkey & Goat Perli Chardonnay 2014 Mendocino Ridge, California
Surrounded by redwoods on a 60% slope, 2200 feet altitude. 13.2% alcohol. Very fine aromatics: lemony and bright with a fine spiciness. There’s a slight mealiness, too. The palate is concentrated with nice ripe citrus fruit, a fine spicy dimension, and some stony minerality. So distinctive, vital, lemony and spicy. Such finesse and purity here. 94/100 (£39)

Big Basin Vineyards Coastview Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 Monterey County, California
Clone 96, from two terraced rows in the highest vineyard in Monterey, at 2300 feet. Decomposed quartz and limestone, 2 new barrels out of 9. Distinctive and a little oxidative with some apple and pear fruit, as well as some citrus brightness. Some nice depth and texture here. Very interesting. 93/100 (£49)

Donkey & Goat Stone Crusher Roussanne 2016 El Dorado, California
Elen Ridge vineyard, 2400 feet. 14 days on skins then ageing in neutral oak. 12.1%. Such a beautiful nose: perfumed and exotic with floral tangerine and orange peel, as well as some apricot skin. Very delicate and exotic on the palate with nice grip and really pretty, perfumed apricot fruit. Such a thrilling wine. 95/100 (£48)

Benevolent Neglect Riesling 2017 Nelson Vineyard, Mendocino, California
From a 44 year old vineyard. Cole loam soil, fermented in stainless steel for 30 days. 11.3% alcohol, 14 g/l residual sugar. Textured and fruity with nice weight: there’s some sweet pear and apple fruit, with a slight stoniness. Such lovely complexity here, with some rounded fruit. 91/100 (£34)

Matthiasson Family Vineyards Tendu Red 2016 Dunnigan Hills, California
11% alcohol. Aglianico, Montepulciano and Barbera. This is delicious bright, pure and sappy with lovely red cherries and raspberries, and a bit of sappy greenness. So pretty with good acidity and lovely crunchy fruit. So fine and fresh and smashable. 90/100 (£27)

Keep Wine Counoise 2017 El Dorado, California
Jack Roberts (assistant winemaker working with Steve Matthiasson) and his wife JJ make this wine. Terrible label, brilliant wine. Pale pink red with a hint of orange. Bright and grainy and light with lovely balance and freshness. It has beautiful red cherry and strawberry fruit with good structure and acidity. Such zip and detail. Lovely wine with incredible elegance. Such a wine, with drinkability, elegance and also complexity. 95/100 (£32)

Calder Wine Company Carignane 2015 Mendocino, California
Rory Williams, son of John Williams of Frogs Leap. 80% from the Rovera Vineyard planted in 1942, and 20% from dry-farmed Cemetry vineyard planted in 1954. Two out of the 12 barrels were new American oak. Concentrated and ripe with sweet berry fruits and a bit of spiciness. There’s some sweetness to the fruit, and maybe a hint of spicy oak. Nice grip here with lovely freshness and direct fruit. Some raspberry and cherry on the finish. 92/100 (£34)

Big Basin Vineyards Homestead Vineyard GSM 2014 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Granite
13.9% alcohol. High lying sites with granite/limestone soils. Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Old oak. Structured yet elegant with beautiful direct black cherry, raspberry and blackberry fruit. Very refined with good structure and nice freshness. Lovely compact fruit. Such elegance. 94/100 (£38)

Benevolent Neglect Las Madres Syrah 2015 Carneros, Sonoma, California
13.9% alcohol. 40% whole cluster. So floral and expressive on the nose with some meaty reductive notes and some lovely peppery focus. The palate is fresh and complex with black pepper, a hint of meat and some olive tapenade character. Really nice varietal character: cool climate peppery Syrah with some incredible texture. 94/100 (£52)

Ashes & Diamonds No 1 Cabernet Franc 2014 Napa Valley, California
Made by Steve Matthiason. This is the first new proper winery in Napa for a long time, with all star collaborators, aiming to go back to the wines of the 60s and 70s that made Napa famous in the first place. This is picked a bit earlier than normal. 13.9% alcohol. This is the first vintage. Smooth and textured with lovely graininess. It’s smooth and ripe, but also fresh with lovely elegance, too. Has some chalky, grainy Cabernet Franc character, with a taste of luxury but also great balance. 94/100 (£90)

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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