More than 11,000 wineries dot the American landscape, a twofold increase in a decade’s time alone. For those keeping score, that’s over 2,000 more options than even craft beer currently provides in this country.
That means more opportunities to buy local and exciting new appellations from Virginia to Southern California. It also means continued remarkable wines from some of the nation’s most reliable producers. In 2021 America, you can be whatever kind of wine drinker you want to be. Prefer a homegrown Bordeaux blend? Check. Want a local orange wine as good as they make in the republic of Georgia? Check. Sparkling wine that can rival the best of Champagne? You got it.
A world-class wine scene does not happen right away. It takes generations of practice and boundary-pushing to reach that kind of excellence. In 2021, it’s pretty easy to argue that we’ve arrived at such a place.
Whether you’re looking to plot your next great wine country getaway or simply want to sample some amazing work next time you’re perusing a wine list or buying bottles online, these are the American labels to look for.
Easily one of the most exciting wine regions in the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia River Gorge is turning out options that are as breathtaking as the beautiful surroundings. Analemma is leading that charge, nestled in between Hood River and The Dalles in Oregon. Great wines come from wildly unique geographical areas and Analemma rests in the core of some incredible volcanic soils and a one-of-a-kind climate. That translates to memorable wines made from intrepid, Spanish-inspired plantings, like Mencia, Albariño, Grenache, and more.
Read more: Portland Travel Guide
Walla Walla Valley, Washington
Walla Walla is responsible for some of the best wines in the country. Force Majeure sums up the sterling scene that’s exploded in this small Eastern Washington town. The label works with some of the best vineyards in the state, including outstanding growing areas like the Red Mountain AVA. You can practically taste the passion poured into these small-scale wines and while they’re not always easy to find, they’re worth the hunt.
Since 2014, Tank Garage has been almost singlehandedly defining hip wine. Imagine a producer where the coolest music is always playing in the cellar and the labels are pieces of art in their own right. Oh, and the wine is delicious and inventive, ranging from daring white blends to carbonic maceration Pinotage. You’ll go for the eye-candy (including an actual vintage gas-station-turned-tasting-room) and stay to savor every single sip.
Hill Country, Texas
If you haven’t opened your palate to Texas wines, get with the program. The Lone Star State is carving out quite a reputation, especially in the Hill Country west of Austin. Southold Farm + Cellar knows as much, having left Long Island to relocate to this potential-filled stretch of central Texas. From varietal blends to field blends, Viognier to wines made from Portuguese grapes, this label is proving what Hill Country can do in the glass, and so far, it’s pretty impressive.
Healdsburg is the beating heart of Sonoma Wine Country, where any number of great producers get to work. Even in a crowded Northern California field, Idlewild sticks out, a fine Mendocino producer that’s deeply inspired by the storied wines of Piedmont in Italy. They’ve pinpointed the best places to grow grapes like Dolcetto and Arneis and assemble wines with the kind of poetic beauty you love to share with friends because the experience is one of true discovery and realization.
Read more: Sonoma County Wine Guide
Long Island, New York
Long Island is still in the midst of carving out its greatness, finally joining the conversation with fellow New York regions like the Finger Lakes. Macari is making its voice heard, with elegant concrete-fermented wines, zippy Sauvignon Blanc, expertly made pink wines, and great Merlot. The setting is about as unique as the wines in rural Mattituck; near the ocean and lots of inlets and vineyards overflowing with potential.
Read more: New York State Wine Guide
Trust us when we say wine fans will be hearing more and more about Virginia over the next several years. Labels like Rdv Vineyards are revealing why fashioning excellent wines from a still up-and-coming region. As it proudly says, Rdv is not Bordeaux or Napa. Instead, it is uniquely Virginia, steeped in all the layers and complexity you would expect from a good, full-bodied red.
This premium outfit is a colossal reason why the Sta. Rita Hills region is so coveted these days. Sourcing from one of the best West Coast vineyards around Sanford & Benedict, the label has become a real bar-setter in a Santa Barbara scene that has since erupted. If Burgundian classics like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are your thing, Sanford should move up your list of must-try’s. What the winery knew in 1971 when it was first planted is now being fully — and rightfully — celebrated.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
This longstanding label deserves its place on the list for one big reason especially: its ability to produce a fantastic yet affordable Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. The price of this lauded wine has crept up for years but this Oregon stalwart has kept from following the trend. Better, it has not sacrificed any effort or class in the cellar. For those who say there is no great $20 Pinot we mostly agree, except for McKinlay. But you’d hardly know it unless you’re close with your bottle shop owner or sommelier friend, as the label does not even have a website.
Read more: Willamette Valley Wine Guide
Napa Valley, California
Led by the immensely respected Cathy Corison, this Napa label does just about everything right. Corison specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, the still undisputed king of America’s most famous winegrowing valley. It is evocative stuff and worthy of extensive cellaring, should you feel like unlocking the real magic. Better still, it’s a great visit, touting wonderful tasting programs and all the great views and open-air goodness one associates with Napa.
Read more: Napa Valley Wines Guide
Southern Oregon continues to be a major hotspot for excellent wines, especially Rhone varietals. Quady North epitomizes that, made from coveted vineyards and poured in a stunning tasting room in downtown Jacksonville, a short drive from the California border. Owner Herb Quady is beloved in the industry and in addition to making great wines like Viognier and Syrah, he makes some of the better canned and boxed wines you’ll ever try as well if you’re looking for something deeply approachable.
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