12 Must-Try American Wines
Most wine produced in the United States comes from the state of California – which should be no surprise to most wine drinkers. What might be more surprising is that pretty well every state in the union is making wine, although not all states have vines growing.
Aside from the Bear State, which produces about 85 percent of American still wine (2016), most familiar to Canadian aficionados will be Oregon and Washington State, with New York State’s wines making an impact too.
America’s history on the world wine stage is one that was free of the constraints of old world traditions, yet grew from the efforts of their immigrant population, notably from the Mediterranean, where wine was part of their culture, and was sure to be part of it in their new home.
Prohibition generally halted things, though since its repeal, the United States’ “can-do” attitude, its generally wealthy status, and culture of innovation – helped too by California’s near-perfect conditions for agriculture and especially viticulture – means that some of the finest wines in the world come from the United States, and will for years to come.
Mer Soleil 2014 Reserve Chardonnay
Santa Lucia Highlands, California
A classic gem loved by those not afraid of some oak in their chardonnay. It’s ripe and honeyed, with plenty of cider apple and white blossom. Oak has become slightly more restrained in recent years, but it’s still tropical and buttery, a gem for any cuisine that wants a little oak. Roasted poultry anyone? Or even just a little freshly popped popcorn. CSPC +453142 about $35.
Sans Liege Cotes du Coast 2014
Central Coast, California
Limited in production to 17 barrels, this viognier-led blend is chased by 23 percent roussanne, 20 percent grenache, and 11 percent marsanne. Wildly tropical on the nose with lifted, prominent floral tones, peach and apples. Oak flavours add remarkable complexity without overwhelming the palate. Looking for something new or exciting in white? Try this. CSPC +772708 Around $27 on the shelf.
Fox Run Vineyards 2013 “Kaiser Vineyard” Reserve Chardonnay
Seneca Lake, New York State
A clean and stylish example of the quality that can come from the Finger Lakes, look for apricot and apple fruits with spice and some matchstick aromas to start, while flavours are rich and textured with the right sort of balance for food or just a nice glass of wine. Bone in pork chops or even some Vietnamese cuisine… CSPC +757077 About $26-28.
Truchard 2015 Roussanne
If you aren’t familiar with roussanne yet, I strongly suggest you remedy that. Tight and citrusy fruit aromas, with lime and a decidedly peachy style of perfume, on the nose give way to a sleek and tasty sip of wine with loads of mineral character. Lovely, lovely wine that could easily be paired with grilled shrimps, lobster tails, or roast chicken. CSPC +715000 $28.
Rose Rock 2014 Chardonnay
Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon
Part of the Drouhin family’s holdings in Oregon, one should expect all the class and restraint French whites are often known for. Look for soft apple driven fruits with mild peach and pear notes following up. Highly enjoyable on the palate, and yes, it’s fresh, classy, and restrained. Serve lightly chilled, no food required. CSPC +784863 About $40.
The Fableist 2015 Cabernet
Sauvignon “373” Cabernet Sauvignon
Paso Robles, California
Wildly intense on the nose – rife with blackberry, plum and slightly wild fruits with a touch of mahogany, spice box, and cedar aromas. Fruit driven, but not at the expense of spice or some slightly earthy tannins, the overall balance and flavour profile should be a fine match for beef well-smoked, or some finger-licking ribs. CSPC +429860 around $34.
Long Meadow Ranch 2015 Farmstead
Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, California
A simply stunning gem that I was thrilled to taste recently. A deeply layered and evocative nose evolves in the glass, and lead with blackberry fruits and earthy, farm-style undertones. Spending 11 months in neutral French oak, look for flavours of tea leaf, controlled fruits, and great tannin. Well-polished from start to finish – and it’s farmed organically too. CSPC +773276 $40.
Louis M. Martini 2014 Cabernet
Sauvignon, Sonoma County, California
Like that classic, cabernet character, those cherry and cassis fruits, mild bell peppers, violets, graphite, and cedar? Well the Martini has it all. On the palate, softer tannins complement generous fruit along with vanilla bean and a little sweetness across the entire palate. A crowd-pleasing style of cabernet, making me think of burgers or sweet, smoked ribs….CSPC +741062 $14.
Heitz Cellars 2015 Chardonnay
Napa Valley, California
With no malolactic fermentation and only about 20 percent new oak, get ready for a clean, modern, and tasty chardonnay. Loads of green apple style fruits with lemon, and a touch of pear on the nose. Palate-wise, in a nutshell, simply delicious – it’s crisp, textured, and lively. Pair with grilled seafood, or on its own lightly chilled. CSPC +700841 $47.
Ironstone 2014 “Rous Vineyard” Reserve Zinfandel
Sourced from 105 year-old vines, the wine in the glass is remarkably aromatic and bursting with perfumed blueberry and brambly fruits. Look for milk chocolate, cherry and plum too. Those 10 months in French oak soften the tannins, making this a barbecue favourite. CSPC +112250 about $38.
Buena Vista Winery 2014 Zinfandel
Sonoma County, California
Man, I love good zinfandel, those brambly, wild berry fruits, spice, and cherry. Well balanced on the palate too with great tannins begging for a little protein, tight acids wanting a little bit of fat, and the right sort of fruit to make it tasty too. If you can’t tell, this would be great with some nice steaks simply done on the BBQ, or pepperoni pizza – delivered of course. CSPC +766297 $29.
Gramercy Cellars 2013 Syrah
Columbia Valley, Washington State
Meaty, savoury, and spicy syrah with loads of cracked pepper and Saskatoon berry fruit on the nose, while on the palate, a beautiful example of what Columbia Valley quality can be like – with a densely layered flavour profile coupled with tight, age-worthy tannins. Ready to drink now or cellar a few years for a fine reward. CSPC +767911 Around $45-48.