Out With The Heavy OAK
The PEAK Hong Kong|September 2017

The new Cali style is subtle and elegant, unlike the oak-heavy blockbusters previously capturing the attention of Hong Kong’s oenophiles.

For too long, California has been overlooked in Hong Kong’s obsession with Bordeaux and Burgundy. But the last five to ten years have seen a transformation in styles as California’s producers alter their approach and shift focus.

Traditionally, wines from California have had a reputation for being big, robust and meaty – the state’s cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay can be so rich they are almost impossible to drink with food.

Now, like any good Hollywood starlet, California is refusing to be typecast. By welcoming wine to the dining table, Californians have opened the stage door to intuitive styles with expressive fruit and lighter alcohol.

Recently, I sat down with California transplants Sabrina Hosford, Yvonne Cheung and Victoria Chow to reignite the conversation about California wines in Hong Kong. During our conversation, one thing became clear: wine has the power to evoke memories and emotions. Sip a glass of French wine and you might imagine yourself in a street-side brasserie, staring at Notre-Dame. Drink a glass of Italian wine and you’re transported to a piazza, twirling pasta around your fork, men parading by in hotly hued pants. When I drink a glass of pinot noir from my home in Sonoma County, I can taste the landscape’s dramatic beauty, smell the redwoods and feel the fog surging up the Russian River.

Pinot noir is one of my favourite varieties because it clearly expresses its region. The third most blessed US state when it comes to coastal expanses, California has 840 miles of coastline and an array of mountain ranges with cooler climates, giving pinot noir plenty of opportunities to sing in its own voice. Key areas to look at include the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills, and Anderson Valley among a sizable handful of others from the 500-mile-wide region in which this famously fickle variety is grown. This also includes my home turf of Green Valley and Russian River Valley, where my parents continue to grow a few vines.

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