Saturday 29 November 2014

Californian myths, mists and pinot noir

My image of California's coast has always been that of a magnate for sunshine and surfers living out their lives in a temperate paradise. This summer I discovered that marketing and pr may once again have gotten the better of me, because whilst nearly every beach can boast surfers, fog was far more prevalent than sun.

Much of the area was almost continually wrapped in a view obscuring temperature plummeting grainy blanket. Occasionally it lifted and we'd race off to a few choice landmark spots... only to discover the reason why.

A local told me that all this fog and wind is to do with the Pacific Ocean being much colder and damper than the dry heat of inland California. Yes that's right, the sea is freezing cold too, something else not mentioned in the brochures, all the surfers I saw sported full wet suits and a very fast walk back to the car. The whole experience reminded me of a childhood weekend spent shivering on Bridlington sands. They get fog there too but I don't think it's anything to do with Yorkshire's hot arid climate.

Well they say every cloud has a sliver lining. The temperature drop afforded by California's fog shroud allows grapes nearer the coast a longer cooler growing season than they'd get further inland. This results in some rather tasty Pinot Noirs like this appropriately named number from Waitrose.

This is an enjoyable pinot from Monterey, lusher and softer than New Zealand versions of the grape. What it lacks their vibrancy and piercing fruit flavours it compensates for by being far more laid back and mellow, how very Californian. It could be accused of being a bit bland but it's a polished wine for the money and makes a good sipper for the gogglebox generation. Turn on, tune in and drop off.

Fog Head Californian Pinot Noir from Waitrose. As I type on offer at £11ish normally £15ish.

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