Hocking launches Californian wine agency

27 February, 2019
James hocking

James Hocking, who was until recently wine director at The Vineyard Cellars, has set up a new Californian-focused wine agency.

James Hocking Wine will specialise in boutique, family-owned wineries from California and other selected North American regions, and will sell to high end independent wine merchants, wine-focused restaurants and private clients.

Hocking says he has sourced a selection of wineries, spanning affordable ‘by-the-glass’ price points through to top end wines, many of which are rarely seen outside of California. The portfolio will include an estate exporting to the UK for the first time and another returning to the UK after a hiatus of more than a decade: Oak Farm Vineyards and Larkin Wines, respectively.

Oak Farm Vineyards is a Lodi-based estate owned and operated by the Panella family. Sustainably-managed, its range includes a Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and a red blend (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Barbera), ‘Tievoli’, all of which will be available in the UK, with RRSPs starting at £14.99.

Larkin Wines is a boutique Napa winery set up by Scotsman Sean Larkin. Larkin specialises in Cabernet Franc, an under-rated varietal in the region, alongside Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a small quantity of Chardonnay, all from the Napa Valley AVA.  RRSPs for the Cabernet Franc is £69.

Hocking said: “Over the last 18 years, I have seen the UK market’s steady rising demand for premium Californian wine.  Over the last two years, the growth has been substantial at both the top end, where wines sell for around the £60 plus mark and at the more affordable end where there is a strong market by-the-glass in the on-trade.  These are the focus price points for the new company.  In terms of sourcing, Napa and Sonoma wineries will dominate, but I am also keen to explore other up and coming exciting regions of California as well as other North American AVAs.”

Damien Jackman, California Wine Institute’s trade director UK & Ireland, added: “JHW is a welcome addition to the UK wine trade, particularly for supporters of Californian wine.  James’s commitment to, and knowledge of, Californian wine is long established in this market and we have always enjoyed working with him to drive the California category forward, and to learn from his extensive experience.”

To date, the portfolio will include the following estates:  Amala Springs; Benovia; Ferrari-Carano; Larkin; Mandolin; Moone-Tsai; Oak Farm Vineyards; Silenus; Talley; Waterstone; and Whitehall Lane.  Small parcels of wines from “cult” wineries such as Kistler, Dana Estates, Occidental, Ovid and Scarecrow, will also be available.

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