Tasting sheet with a list of wines and places for notes in the front, filled tasting glasses with white, rosé and red wine as well as a small plate with cheese and charcuterie.

🇺🇸 Contrast & Compare: California or New York, West Coast or East Coast?! 🎉

The South London Wine School celebrates US wines with a fun tasting format, comparing New York & California. And the winner is... 🏆

We often think that we should try more US wines and look beyond California to taste what else the country has to offer across its wide range of wine regions. So we were curious to venture to Streatham Wine House to join South London Wine School for their intriguing tasting called West Coast Vs East Coast.

The tasting grouped eight wines in pairs, to always pitch one West Coast wine against one wine from the US East Coast.

So far so good. We were surprised, and maybe in some way also a bit disappointed, when in the end most of the West Coast wines - which were all from California - won in the public voting. It really was a California vs. New York contest. We had been hoping to sample some options from Washington and Oregon too.

To be fair, Matt from the South London Wine School did highlight that the East Coast is not just New York, when it comes to wine. You can find wineries all along the West Coast from the Finger Lakes in the north to Florida in the south. However, what probably makes the Finger Lakes particulalry interesting as a wine region, especially when you mainly drink European wines, are perhaps the grape varieties used there. In contrast to Europe, or California, so called hybrid grape varieties which sometimes also are more disease-resistant are fairly common in the Finger Lakes region.

In any case, Matt had selected some really outstanding and interesting wines. Here our personal favourites of the evening.

Matt from the South London Wine School kicks off the tasting with a map.

🍑 Ripe Riesling

  • Wine: Precedent, Wirz Vineyard, 2017, £25
  • Producer: Precedent Wine
  • Region: West Coast / Cienega Valley, California, USA 🇺🇸
  • Story:
    A lovely and characterful Riesling from vines that are over 60 years old.
    🏆 Although it only got 2 out of 16 votes across the whole group, it was easily our favourite pick of the evening.
    📦 This was the only West Coast wine that wasn’t compared to an East Coast wine, because the delivery didn’t arrive in time for the tasting. Instead, Matt paired it with a South African 🇿🇦 Riesling, which most people preferred.
    Starting off with a beautiful smell of ripe stone fruits 🍑, this peachy Riesling delighted us with its acidity combined with slightly sweet lime notes. At this price, it’s a steal! 🥷

🍋 Citrus Chardonnay

  • Wine: Racines, USA, 2019, £70
  • Producer: Racines
  • Region: West Coast / Sta. Rita Hills, Central Coast, California, USA 🇺🇸
  • Story:
    A Californian Chardonnay, also a classic European white grape, and my winner of the second round. 👍
    The winemaking team is using its experience from France 🇫🇷 to produce something beautiful. Matt highlighted that for many years in California, there was a tendency to produce bold and strong wines. But now, the pendulum is swinging the other way. ↔️
    Which brings us this light, bright & balanced Chardonnay at 12.7% alcohol, refined with a touch of just 10% new French oak and one year in the barrel 🪵.
    Maybe some people were more influenced by the price than the flavour 💰, but at the end of the evening, this Chardonnay won the public vote with 5 out of 16 votes.
    No matter why people voted for it, it’s an elegant Chardonnay with a winning flavour profile. There’s smething for everyone, from white flowers to orange 🍊 and lemon zest 🍋 to apple notes 🍏 and a nice texture with a hint of cream 🥛. Sounds like a crowdpleaser, so obviously, it was a winner. 🥇

😎 Quirky Counoise

  • Wine: Benevolent Neglect, Rosato,2021, £33
  • Producer: Benevolent Neglect
  • Region: West Coast / Yolo County, North Coast, California, USA 🇺🇸
  • Story:
    Counoise, a lesser known grape variety 🍇, aged in amphora makes this wine sound interesting. We completely forgot about Counoise 🤭, but it’s also one of the varieties that can be used in the prestigious French region of Chateauneuf du Pape 🇫🇷. As a Rosato or Rosé, this seems like a great summer wine 😎. And it has only 10.% alcohol!
    Matt higlighted that many top winemakers prioritise taking care of vines in the vineyard over extensive processing in the cellar. That aligns with the minimal intervention approach of Benevolent Neglect.
    This wine was described as fresh and fruit-driven, with notes of candied red fruit and some spice. We liked the lovely lightness with raspberry and cherry notes 🍒, complemented with a little kick of white pepper. In the voting, this wine came 2nd with 4 of 16 votes. 🥈

🍒 Cunning Cab Franc

  • Wine: Red Hook Winery, Cabernet Franc, 2018, £36
  • Producer: The Red Hook Winery
  • Region: East Coast / Brooklyn, NYC, New York, USA 🇺🇸
  • Story:
    Of course the tasting wasn’t complete without a red. Our pick was a Cabernet Franc. In the poll the Californian was just one vote ahead. But not for us.
    We quite like Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley in France. This one is from the US East Coast, where Cabernet Franc is widely planted in the Finger Lakes wine region in the North. And that’s where the rendy urban winery in Red Hook, Brooklyn, gets its grapes from. They view it as their mission to “uncover and highlight the best vineyard sites in New York state”.
    We think, that with this wine, they did a pretty good job. 👍 We found the wine had a slightly chalky smell, it was surprisingly fruity in flavour. Bringing together sour cherry and black pepper notes, this was our personal number 3 of the entire tasting. 🥉

Cheese and charcuterie board with bread next to a photo of a label on a wine bottle: Carboniste - Modern Sparkling Wine

🍾 Amazing Albariño

  • Wine: CARBONISTE, “OCTOPUS” Sparkling Albariño Extra Brut, 2021
  • Producer: CARBONISTE
  • Region: West Coast / Andrus Island & Central Coast, California, USA 🇺🇸
  • Story:
    After getting all the way to Streatham, we stayed for a bonus wine upstairs in the restaurant and went for a Californian sparkling wine made from Albariño grapes. It tasted as interesting as it sounds!
    CARBONISTE want to start a “Sparkling Revolution” and “reimagine sparkling wine in California”. Admittedly, we don’t know too much about the current state of sparkling wine in California, but if the future will taste like this Albariño, we’re supporting this revolution! 😁
    Their idea is to make sparkling wines that are “modern and reflective of grape and place” with “juiciness and freshness”. You might be wondering how Albariño comes into this. Well, the Gomes Family Vineyard is built on Portuguese heritage 🇵🇹, and they used rootstocks from Rias Baixas in Galicia, Spain 🇪🇸 - commonly viewed as the origin of the Albariño grape.
    We were big fans of this refreshing bottle with vibrant acidity, zesty lemon and lime not and some apple flavour characteristics too. We even say that we found another layer of flavours like stone fruits, peach and nectarine. Overall, a fun wine and another highlight at the end of our tasting.

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First published in November 2023.