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Thursday, 5 November 2020

Two Bonterra Wines

Two wines from California's Bonterra - via Waitrose

Bonterra is a quintessential Californian winery - think squeaky-clean, organic varietal wines from international grapes with plenty of Californian sunshine.

These two bottles are from Mendocino County in the north of the state; it is large, diverse region and a leading area for organic winemaking where the main grapes are Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

California's key stylistic "tell" is typically ripeness and alcohol; the wines just can't help being bigger, often oakier and certainly more fruit-forward than Bordeaux and Burgundy.

But there is an increasing trend in California to dial down the heft, finding cooler sites and making wines with the freshness to match Bresse chicken, say, rather than burger and fries; European structure with New World fruit.

The Chardonnay is fermented in a mixture of old oak for complexity, stainless steel for freshness and 15% new oak for subtle toasty spiciness.

The Cabernet Sauvignon includes Petite Sirah, Merlot and Syrah in the blend and is fermented in stainless steel (to preserve the fruit), with 12 months' aging in oak for complexity (and 40% new oak for spiciness).

Of these two wines, I rather prefer the white, for a number of reasons: oaky Chardonnay is somewhat out of fashion these days and I like it; it's expressive and engaging, almost in the manner of a kiwi Sauvignon with its ripe tropical fruits, substance and structure.

However, if the Chardonnay can't help announcing its presence, the Cabernet seems to be trying a bit too hard to disappear, or at least avoid upsetting the other guests - it's big but well-groomed and plays everything very safe with lots of pleasing fruit, hiding its more assertive side.

Bonterra Estate Collection Chardonnay, Mendocino, 2019 (£15, Waitrose) floral, toasty nose leading to ripe lemon curd, topical citrus, baked apple, ripe pears and creamy-oatmealy, buttery, spicy oak; complex, fresh and linear, long and well-structured.

Still young and sealed under screwcap, improves with aeration and will repay some cellaring.


Match with white meats or mushrooms with cream and pasta.

Bonterra Estate Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino, 2018 (£15, Waitrose) baked red and black fruits, coffee grounds, oaky spice, some leather and tobacco with gentle, well-integrated tannins. Dense and concentrated with a warming finish; could be fresher.


Match with slow-cooked beef casserole - or burgers.

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