from an SVB Wine Luncheon in London, England
England — It is the last day of final exams at Oxford University. Euphoria
is in the air, along with the fragrance of fine sparkling wine as it flows
freely through the college quadrangles. Students are celebrating the end of
another grueling examination season.
Predictably, the wine shoppe on the High Street is bubbling with
activity, too. Yet, to a California wine lover it is a bit lonely here. The
shelves are stocked with delicious Old World wines from France, Germany, Italy
and Spain, while the New World selections are confined to a distant back shelf.
If I look hard enough between the bottles from Chile and South Africa (as well
as the dozens of New Zealand wines) there are exactly two California choices —
both for under £7 (about US$12)! Given their over-stretched budgets, the
students are reaching even lower on the price/performance curve. Their beverage
of choice looked to be a £5.99 Liebfraumlich, the sweet German wine from the
With the United States as the world's fourth largest producer of
wine and California representing 90 percent of the U.S. production, one would think that a bit more 'real estate'
on the wine shoppe shelf might be appropriate. And it is the California
winemaker's dream to have his or her product enjoyed by folks outside of the
opportunity surfaced that would help to turn things in the right direction. At
the invitation of the Silicon Valley Bank London office, I was asked to host a
'California Dreams' Luncheon for 40-50 of SVB's London-based venture capital
clients. It took place at the tastefully
appointed Hempel Hotel in the center of London.
Caption for photo: Raymond presents
2005 Duckhorn Vineyards 3 Palms Merlot with SVB London colleagues Anna Jennett
and Elly Gilbert.
As a major European capital and cosmopolitan center London is a
much more likely place to find great California wines than Oxford. In fact, it was actually a great pleasure to do so. At the venerable wine
merchant Berry Brothers & Rudd, numerous excellent California selections
were on display: Wine from the Central Coast (Qupe, Au Bon Climat), the Santa
Cruz Mountains (Ridge Vineyards), and of course Napa and Sonoma.
With the help of the team from SVB London, we were happy to
present four different wines from two world-class California producers: Ramey Wine
Cellars and Duckhorn Vineyards.
Wines for a First Rate Meal
Upon arrival, guests were offered a chilled glass of 2008 Ramey
Chardonnay from the Russian River — a mineral-driven, bright wine with aromas
of pear and spice cake. One of the guests immediately mentioned that it
reminded him of "a Grand Cru from the Chablis Region of France." Of course,
his generous compliment revealed the wine reference point for many of the
guests at the lunch: the republic of France!
The first course was a salad of Colchester crab, avocado, tomato
and coriander. And the perfect pairing was the seriously focused 2009 Duckhorn
Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. The addition of Semillion showcases the passion
fruit and "pineapple upside-down cake" flavors! One of the guests said it
reminded her of the wines she enjoys from Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. Yes –
bingo, again! These are the regions in France that are famous for growing
The main course was a classic choice: fillet of aged Galloway beef
with wild mushrooms, gnocchi, baby onions and Alsace bacon. Naturally, for a
masterpiece like this the obvious choice was the 2005 Duckhorn 3 Palms Merlot.
A personal favorite of the SVB sommelier, this plummy, black cherry gem of a
wine with Earl Grey and allspice flavors provided the ideal platform for the
succulent and perfectly prepared beef fillet.
Once again, after tasting this wine, several guests said they were
transported to the right bank of Bordeaux and to wines from St. Emillion and
Pomerol — wines which are predominantly Merlot-based. Oh, how I wish the
Duckhorn team could have been with us at the table to hear all of the favorable
comments! Alas, this brief dispatch will have to suffice.
Finally, guests were offered a glass of the 2006 Ramey Larkmead
Cabernet Sauvignon for their dessert course of vanilla crème brulée and rhubarb
sorbet. It was a fine way to land a powerful and deeply satisfying meal.
Taken together, it was more than just comforting to hear the
guests at the London meal respond so enthusiastically to these California wine
treasures. It indicated that there is both interest in — and demand for —
California wine in London. Happily, as Silicon Valley Bank brings technology
banking to the UK, more West Coast wines are sure to follow as well.
While it is foolhardy to suggest that California wine will ever
share the same shelf space as French wines in the British wine stores, the time
is clearly ripe to help California winemakers' dreams become a reality. And if
last week's London luncheon is any indication, this dream is clearly within
reach — one glass at a time!
mentioned in this article include:
Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
Ramey Cellars Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Duckhorn Vineyards 3 Palms Merlot
- 2006 Ramey Cellars
Larkmead Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
Silicon Valley Bank's Wine Division publishes
Liquid Assets as a quarterly column featuring visionary winemakers and
wineries. As the leading provider of financial services to wineries and
vineyards in the western United States, we are using our unique
perspective to help our readers further understand winemaking and the
innovative vintners who create some of the world's premium wines.
Valley Bank is not selling, marketing or distributing wine or
wine-related products. Through its SVBwines.com Web site, Silicon Valley
Bank provides information to clients, employees and other parties and
refers those users to wineries and other wine industry service
providers. These communications are for informational purposes. Silicon
Valley Bank is not responsible for (or a participant in) the sales of
any of the wineries' products in any fashion or manner, and makes no
representations that any promotion or sales of alcoholic beverages will
or will not be conducted in a lawful manner. Further, Silicon Valley
Bank disclaims any responsibility or warranty for any products sold by
wineries or other wine industry service providers.