For our latest round of wine reviews, we asked our national panel of experts to rate American wines—any style, from anywhere in the country.
As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s retail price, which can vary from store to store and market to market. Unless noted otherwise, the price reflects a 750-ml. bottle.
If you’re a beverage professional with a specialty in wine and you’re interested in participating in the panel, please contact managing editor Kyle Swartz at email@example.com or 763-383-4400 x2225.
(96) McPherson Cellars EVS Windblown 2017 (Texas). From Area 51 at McPherson comes this special blend that celebrates the earth, vines, and skies of the Texas High Plains (EVS). Mouvedre, petite sirah, carignan, cinsault and grenache are artfully blended. Pepper and spice dominate with dark fruit notes. Classic French varietals as interpreted by Kim McPherson. A new Texas benchmark wine! ($27.99)
(96) Masut Vineyard & Winery Estate Pinot Noir 2016 (California). You may not be familiar with the Masut label, but you should be. Ben and Jake Fetzer (yes, that Fetzer) are producing some stunning pinot noirs, from the cool climate of Mendocino County. Their estate pinot noir is a deep ruby in color. The nose is an enticing blend of black fruit and subtle spice. On the palate, the concentrated fruit is supported by a lush and lovely texture. ($40)
(95) Rowen Red Wine 2014 (California). From a Cooley Ranch site situated at 2,000 feet in elevation in the far north of Sonoma County, this is an unusual blend of 57% cabernet sauvignon, 22% malbec, 16% syrah, 4% viognier and 1% petit verdot. Together, they hum along seamlessly, a thick juicy expression of black cherry and berry integrated in oak, with accents of dried herb, vanilla and clove that’s cloaked within a smooth texture. ($48.99)
(94) Guardian Chalkline 2016 (Washington). The fruit flavors are supple, showing a pleasing sense of texture and balance. Aromas of fresh raspberry and plum jump from the glass of this Columbia Valley wine. ($26.99)
(94) Husch Dry Gewurztraminer 2017 (California). This is a sustainably farmed Anderson Valley beauty by Husch, who has been making gewurztraminer for a long time and has it down pat. This is an excellent example of a dry, floral wine that’s fun enough for an outdoor summer concert and serious enough for a winter’s lunch. It smells and tastes floral, peachy and a little nutty, with medium body and good acidity to balance it. ($20.99)
(94) McPherson Cellars Dry Chenin Blanc 2017 (Texas). Sourced from 30-plus-year-old vines, and a perfect ABC (anything but chardonnay) alternative. Kim McPherson produces this High Plains in a classic French style. Off dry with fruit-forward notes, touches of minerality and balanced acidity. A crowd pleaser. ($24.99)
(94) Mad Violets Pinot Noir 2016 (Oregon). Just 200 cases of this fantastic Willamette Valley pinot were made, so grab it while you can. Sustainably produced, the silky tannins and deep raspberries hold up to anything, but give it a try with grilled pork. ($50)
(94) Boundary Breaks Riesling, Dry #239 (New York). Bright, clean and focused. A nose that is dense with fruit-forward aromas of yellow grapefruit, freshly squeezed lime, white peach and orange blossom. The palate offers flavors of grapefruit, orange blossom and hints of white peaches in the background. This wine finishes pleasantly dry, with a crack of acidity underpinned by notes of granite minerality. An elegant example of a domestic riesling, with all of the elements you would want from this variety. A first-class riesling from the Finger Lakes region. ($18.95)
(93) Wagner Vineyards Meritage 2012 (New York). A Finger Lakes blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. And, yes, you are reading this correctly: 2012 is the current release of this excellent example of what good grape growing, blending and patience can produce. ($24.95)
(93) Etude Rosé North Canyon Vineyard 2018 (California). Primarily pinot noir, this lively and supple, brightly salmon-colored rosé from Santa Barbara is a refreshing blend of various fruit signatures on the nose and palate. Beautifully structured and balanced, it finishes with a long, balanced and lingering finish. ($22)
(93) Dr. Konstantin Frank Grüner Veltliner 2017 (New York). Usually known as one of Austria’s iconic grape varieties, this grüner veltliner is an example of skilled and thoughtful grape growing and winemaking. Plenty of citrus and stone fruit characteristics float up to the nose and please the palate. Supple, bright and exceptionally versatile, this wine should be on every shelf and wine list. ($14.99)
(93) Vista Reserve Cab 2017 (California). Inviting red cherry and currant jam aromas complement notes of vanilla and caramel in this Napa Valley cab. Chewy tannins frame bright cherry and berry flavors that carry through the long, smooth finish. ($29.99)
(93) 1858 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso 2017 (California). This Paso Robles wine is chock-full of dark, black fruits, baking spice, hints of vanilla and silky tannins, with a terrific balance and a finish that seems to go on for minutes. One of the most versatile cabernets that shows off the iconic pedigree behind this wine. ($34.99)
(93) Kendall Jackson Chardonnay Winemakers Block 2018 (California). The nose on this wine explodes with freshly baked apple pie and caramelized Bartlett pears. Cinnamon, nutmeg and butterscotch give this wine an enticing appeal. Truly another classic from one of the icons of the region. ($17.99)
(93) Sonoma Loeb Chardonnay Sonoma County 2017 (California). Incredibly balanced, this Sonoma County chardonnay starts with an enticing nose of perfectly ripe apples and pears, with a backdrop of white flowers. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied and boasts great acidity, fruit and butterscotch, with just enough oak to hold it all together. Exactly what you want from a great chardonnay. ($27.99)
(92) Midnight Cellars Chardonnay 2017 (California). A perfectly balanced chardonnay from Paso Robles. Just enough oak; spice laced with citrus and pear. Very versatile: Sip or pair it with chicken florentine. ($17.95)
(92) Millbrook Proprietor’s Reserve Tocai Friulano 2018 (New York). Lovers of pinot grigio and falanghina should try this tasty white from New York’s Hudson Valley. Not too dry, not too sweet. Refreshing aromas and flavors of pear, citrus and kiwi make this a versatile treat with apps, salads, fish and Asian cuisine. ($15)
(92) Pedernales Viognier 2017 (Texas). Great floral bouquet dominates this High Plains blend. Sourced from two of the best vineyard designates, and then blended for a perfect match. Lighter style, with soft fruit notes. The “chardonnay” of Texas. Great as an aperitif, but better with Southwestern cuisine. ($21.99)
(92) Valravn Cabernet 2017 (California). At under $25, the 2017 cabernet sauvignon is velvety and opulent without any hard edges. ($19.99)
(92) Soter Planet Oregon Pinot Noir 2017 (Oregon). A 100% Willamette Valley pinot nior. Aged in previously used oak barrels to impart richness without adding oak flavor. This wine explodes from the glass with loads of raspberry, strawberry and rhubarb notes, all backed up by vibrant acidity. ($18.99)
(92) Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red (Washington). An interesting Columbia Valley blend of several red grape varieties. An attractive saturated red color in the glass. The nose is a combination of dark red fruit, with hints of toast and spice. Elegant on the palate, with lush fruit and spice, and a velvety texture. ($19.99)
(92) Bailarin Love Vineyard Russian River Zinfandel 2015 (California). A rich and savory California zinfandel, yet the balance gives this wine remarkable elegance. Not many zinfandels over 15% ABV have such control. ($35)
(92) Round Pond Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (California). Bright and fresh melon are balanced with a gentle grapefruit mid-palate. The acidity offers a nice pop, and the finish is delightfully refreshing and satisfying. ($30)
(92) Ashler Vineyard Chardonnay 2017 (California). This Carneros, Napa wine has beautiful green apple and Bartlett pear sensations on the nose and palate. The ripe fruit notes are well balanced using French oak to give slight vanilla spice flavors that improve upon the fruit complexities. ($29.99)
(92) Meiomi Pinot Noir 2017 (California). If you like French Burgundy, give this one a try. Medium-bodied, elegant and smooth with a palate-pleasing finish of ripe red berries and just a whisper of spice. ($18)
(91) J. Lohr Valdiguie Wildflower (California). Hard to pronounce but easy to enjoy. Just ask for J. Lohr “Wildflower.” If you like Beaujolais and lighter style reds, you’ll love this one. Smooth and easy to enjoy, with lots of jammy raspberry and red cherry. Affordable red for any occasion. ($8.99)
(91) Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc-Viognier 2017 (California). A go-to white for any occasion. Crisp and refreshing citrus flavors with a subtle finish. Excellent with seafood, but great on its own for sipping. ($12)
(91) N.V. Gruet Brut Rosé (New Mexico). This perennial favorite sparkler has a delicate, fine mousse and inviting aromas and flavors of wild strawberries. Easy acidity on the finish. Fun for celebrations, and a friendly sipper with lighter meals. ($17)
(91) Newsom Vineyards Tempranillo 2015 (Texas). Nolan Newsom heads up the next generation of former cotton farmers who have established their High Plains vineyards as one of the premier sites for the best in Texas fruit. Rich fruit notes, medium bodied and perfect with Texas barbeque! ($44.99)
(91) Crossfork Creek Merlot 2017 (Washington). This densely layered, complex merlot from Yakima Valley radiates a gorgeous aroma of black fruit notes. As a powerful merlot with black currant and wild berry flavors, this wine punches well above its weight. ($19.99)
(91) Paso Ranches Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (California). Aromas of blackberry, blueberry and plum jam are accented by subtle notes of espresso and chocolate. This Paso Robles wine has a beautiful smooth texture that complements its explosive dark fruit notes. ($19.99)
(91) Santa Barbara Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016 (California). This fruit-forward and balanced pinot noir exemplifies the cool, elegant nature of the Santa Barbara region. Scents of spice accent the medium body for this smoothly textured pinot noir. ($17.99)
(91) Fend & Foster Pinot Noir 2017 (California). Ripe red fruit leads a plethora of aromas closely followed by the scents of soft spice. On the palate, black cherry and juicy red plums stand tall flanked by subtle notes of vanilla and spice. A classic Sonoma Coast pinot noir. (19.99)
(91) Mazzocco Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (California). The balance of dark berry fruit and firm structure give this wine depth and a rich finish. This wine is nicely balanced, and offers wonderful rounded mouthfeel. Get the grill ready: This wine is going to make any steak happy. ($26)
(91) Rickshaw Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (California). Dark purple in color. Gunpowder and soil for the nose. The nose also has a lot of nice earth tones. The mouth still has a bit of jam, but it’s not overpowering. ($16.99)
(90) Rickshaw Pinot Noir 2017 (California). Flavors of strawberries, blueberries, pomegranates, cola, vanilla and forest floor, with a supersmooth finish. ($16.99)
(90) Double Black Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (California). This is an approachable Paso Robles cabernet sauvignon laced with red fruits from beginning to end. It’s highlighted by concentrated flavors of sweet spice and oak that give structure and power, granting this robust wine a resounding finish. ($14.99)
(88) Brutocao Cabernet 2015 (California). Concentrated fruit flavors of blackberry, licorice, dark cherry clove and mocha. Rich, lush tannins offer a Mendocino wine that’s drinking well right now. ($23.99)
(86) Kuhlman Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (Texas). A little gem, not widely planted. Sourced from the Escondido AVA out in west, west Texas, near Ft. Stockton. The crisp acidity is preserved in stainless-steel fermentation, with soft floral notes. Pair this with fresh Gulf seafood, especially oysters. ($31.99)
WINE RATING SYSTEM
Five Stars (92-100 points). A top-flight wine. Superior in taste and character and providing an outstanding price/value relationship.
Four Stars (86-91 points). A superb wine and an excellent value. A wine for which consumers will keep coming back.
Three Stars (80-85 points). An above-average wine at a reasonable price, one that many consumers will enjoy.