Wine: California dreamers
As a quinquagenarian, it's a little shocking to discover being older than today's modern Californian wine industry. Major setbacks lost the skills and knowledge of generations of winemakers, beginning in the late 1800s with devastation in the vineyards by the Phylloxera insect.
The 13 years of Prohibition from 1919 overtaken by the Great Depression of the late 1920s and World War II delayed recovery until the mid-60s; but what a recovery.
Stretching 1,100km north to south, today, every grape variety one could imagine is being planted by someone somewhere in California. Most prolifically harvested is Zinfandel, long regarded as California's very own grape variety. It can produce rich, blackberry fruity wines with potent alcohol hovering around 15pc: ideal for barbecues.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted in 25pc of all vineyards and some have been lavished with investment to produce world-class and age-worthy icon wines.
Meanwhile, pale-skinned Pinot Noir demands the coolest coastal sites to showcase its savoury character. Most versatile of all and as good with white as red meats.
1) Zinfandel 2010
Kendall-Jackson, Mendocino County, California 14.5pc
Ripe jammy notes and blackberry fruity scents. A Black Forest Gateaux with black cherry and dark chocolate wrapped in a creamy texture. Rich and full-bodied but not heavy.
€18.99 reduced from €21.99 until January 5 at O'Brien's 32 off-licences nationwide
2) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Sutter Home, California 13pc
Subtle blackberry aromas, lively acidity and friendly tannins on the taste buds. Medium-bodied with a classic long berryish finish.
€10.99 at Dunnes Stores, SuperValu, Centra, Londis and Next Door chain nationwide
3) Merlot 2012
Lake View, California 13.5pc
Fresh fruity aromas and a good depth of juice, fresh fleshy plum flavours.
€11.99 at Marks & Spencer nationwide
4) Menage-a-Trois 2011
Folie a Deux Winery, California 13.5pc
The trio of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot gives a friendly attack of juicy and ripe black fruits on the entry.
€12.99 at Next Door off-licences
5) Old Vine Zin 2011
Gnarly Head, Lodi region, California 14.5pc
Ripe and sweet blackberry aromas. Smooth and gentle tannins echoing jammy blackberry fruit with a little pepper. Powerful, but neither rough nor forceful.
€18.99 at Matson's, Cork and Next Door, Kilkee. Dublin: Drink Store, Manor Street; Grapevine, Glasnevin; Thomas Martin's, Fairview; Gibney's, Malahide; Kelly's, Clontarf; Deveney's, Dundrum; Coopers & Young, Dun Laoghaire
6) Pinot Noir 2011
Small Lot Blend, Parducci, California 13.5pc
Complex bouquet of damp leaves and undergrowth with raw meat. Medium-bodied with gentle tannins, so serve cold. Fresh and crunchy rosehip and a silky texture.
€19.99 at Malson's, Bandon and Grange and Number 21, Midleton, Co Cork