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The Best USA Wines in All Styles

The Best USA Wines in All Styles

franco salzillo arriaga |

The United States is the largest wine consuming country on the planet, and it ranks 4th in production after France, Italy and Spain. The very definition of “New World” wine, American wine, shines for its fruit purity and robustness. Of course, winemakers in the country produce everything, from premium sparkling wine to the most astounding sweet wines. The quality of the North American wine is extraordinary.

These are some of the best USA wines in all styles, a fantastic collection of wine styles and grape expressions that paint the perfect picture of the American viticultural industry. Try them all!

1. Napa Valley, North Coast, California

Napa Valley is the single most famous wine region in the United States. The prominent area, tucked between the Mayacamas and Vaca mountains, extends from the San Pablo Bay inland and offers an immense range of microclimates.

Although producers in Napa Valley are keen on experimentation and will attempt to grow every grape at least once, the leading varietals in the valley are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Napa Valley’s wine is amongst the most coveted in the world. Let’s just say no expense is spared in the state-of-the-art wineries that dot the narrow valley.

Wine to try:

Overture by Opus One

Mount Brave Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

2. Stags Leap District, North Coast, California

The Stags Leap District lies within the Napa Valley and runs parallel to it, covering 1,100 hectares. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the vineyards in this exclusive region, but Chardonnay and even Syrah grow here with enormous success.

Two wine cellars dominate the area, whose names are inspired by the valley’s name, Stag’s Leap Winery and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Some of the most renowned Cabernets in Napa come from this small valley, including the now-famous Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, which defeated the most esteemed French wines in the 1976 ‘Judgement of Paris’ blind tasting.

Wine to try:

Stags Leap Petite Syrah 2010

Stags Leap Wine Cellars ‘Karia’ Chardonnay 2012

3. Carneros, North Coast, California

Carneros is a cold-climate wine region shared by the Napa and Sonoma counties. The icy breeze coming from the San Pablo Bay freshens the vineyards, making the region ideal for growing cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Where there’s Burgundian grapes, there’s also astounding sparkling wine. The foggy wine region is home to a few prominent European wineries, including Gloria Ferrer and the Maison de Champagne Taittinger.

Occupying more than half of the vineyards, Chardonnay is Carneros’ flagship grape, and despite the cold climate, the wines are often buttery, big and bold. These are amongst the most impressive white wines in the United States.

Wine to try:

Etude Carneros Napa Pinot Noir 2010

Hyde de Villaine Napa Valley Chardonnay 2016

4. Sonoma Coast, North Coast, California

Sonoma County is an immense region hosting a wide variety of American Viticultural Areas or AVAs. Some of the coldest viticultural areas call Sonoma County home, but also some of the warmest.

For cold-climate wines, there’s nothing like the ones coming from the cold, coastal vineyards overlooking the Pacific Ocean along the Sonoma Coast. Pinot Noir is king here and shares the land with Chardonnay. The coastal region covers 200 hectares of land, but only the areas closer to the coast truly deserve the AVA’s fame. The maritime influence helps producers craft wines with low alcoholic warmth and piercing acidity.

Wine to try:

La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2019

Williams Selyem Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2014

5. Dry Creek Valley, North Coast, California

This small region hugs the Dry Creek River in the heart of Sonoma County. What makes the Dry Creek Valley special is its old soils and the gnarly Zinfandel vines — these are some of the oldest vines in the country.

A continental climate with warm days and chilly nights allows winemakers to make robust red wines with Zinfandel and light and crispy white wines with Sauvignon Blanc. And although the region doesn’t enjoy the popularity of neighbouring wine-producing areas, at least sixty wineries call the Dry Creek Valley home, and they all produce superb wine.

Wine to try:

Seghesio Home Ranch Zinfandel 2014

6. Russian River Valley, North Coast, California

Following the Russian River, from Sonoma’s mountains to the Pacific Coast, the Russian River Valley is known for its prestigious red wines made with Pinot Noir and its elegant Chardonnay. The AVA’s champions include Paul Hobs, Hartford Winery and William Selyem, some of the most talented American winemakers, who find in the cool-climate stretch of land a fantastic spot to grow premium grapes.

The Russian River Valley runs for 180 km, and it benefits from varied microclimates. Warmer areas are best suited for growing Cabernet, but the colder spots are home to the country’s best renditions of the Burgundian grapes.

Wine to try:

Hartford Court Russian River Pinot Noir 2014

7. Anderson Valley, North Coast, California

The Anderson Valley is a relatively narrow viticultural area 160 kilometres north of San Francisco. It is one of the northernmost regions in California, and that means the weather here is cold.

Wintry weather and increasing altitudes, together with a proximity to the Pacific Ocean, allow grape growers here to grow Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and even Gewürztraminer. The region is so cold, Roederer, the Champagne producer, built a winery in the area to make premium sparkling wine. The quality in this northern AVA is overall high, and so are the prices. These are contemplative wines worthy of any wine collection.

8. Paso Robles, Central Coast, California

The weather is warmer south of San Francisco. The Central Coast is much more arid and ruthless and has become a synonym with warm-weather varietals used to make wines inspired by the French Rhône Valley. Paso Robles is home to the most significant chapter of the “Rhône Rangers,” winemakers making Rhône style wine with Syrah, Grenache, Viognier and others. Still, not dissimilar to most of California’s vineyards, the leading wine grape in Paso Robles is Cabernet Sauvignon.

Paso Robles is a large area with 270,000 hectares and has distinct microclimates. Still, the southern AVA is best suited for big and bold red and white wines with rustic but sophisticated profiles.

9. Monterey, Central Coast, California

The “lettuce capital of the world” is also an excellent spot for affordable fine wine. Monterey is an AVA in California’s Central Coast within the San Luis Obispo region. With 40,000 hectares of vineyards, the warm area grows significantly colder inland into the hills.

Warmer areas in Monterey grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and other robust red varietals, and the coldest places specialise in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Wines here are an extraordinary value, and AVAs within the Monterey County, like Santa Lucia Highlands, are a source of some of the most impressive cold-climate wines in the New World.

Wine to try:

La Crema Monterey Pinot Noir 2018

La Crema Monterey Chardonnay 2019

10. Sta. Rita Hills, Central Coast, California

California’s coast takes a sharp turn East in Santa Barbara County. The maritime influence here is not to be underestimated as it invites winemakers to produce cold-climate wines from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The Sta. Rita hills is one of the most respected AVAs in the region, but it’s not alone. Other AVAs, including Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley and Happy Canyon, produce fantastic wine, all of a similar style. This is the coldest area on the Central Coast, and it’s gaining recognition fast.

Wine to try:

The Hilt Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2014

11. Lodi, Central Valley, California

Although California’s extensive Central Valley is better known for inexpensive supermarket wines, the Lodi AVA is a source for quality wine. One of the oldest wine regions in the state, Lodi’s vineyards are dotted with gnarly, old Zinfandel vines — over 40% of the country’s Zinfandel comes from this small, arid area.

The Pacific influence is not a factor here, but several rivers flowing through the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys allow for extensive agriculture. In rare cases, with Lodi as an example, the Central Valley also produces world-class wine.

12. Finger Lakes, New York

California might be the most significant wine-producing state in the USA, but it’s not the only one. In fourth place, after California, Oregon and Washington, New York’s northern vineyards offer a new face to the country’s wine. New York is Riesling country, as few other vinifera grapes thrive in such a harsh climate.

Although lesser hybrid grapes once dominated the region, today, winemakers cultivate extraordinary Riesling, a source of dry and lusciously sweet libations. Still a tiny region, the Finger Lakes is amongst the AVAs with the most potential, especially for Riesling lovers. If that weren’t enough, red wine in the area is taking flight.

13. Columbia Valley, Washington

Washington State is home to some of the northernmost wine regions in America. Still, the northern latitudes are countered by unique climatic conditions. The Cascade Mountains protect the Columbia Valley from the cold Pacific influence and its rain, creating an authentic cold-climate desert.

The Columbia Valley is an AVA, but it hosts a wide variety of smaller viticultural areas. What they all have in common is the perfect conditions for growing red and white grapes, from robust Cabernet and Merlot to fragrant Riesling and Chardonnay. Washington State has immense potential, and the wine is getting better every year.

Wine to Try:

Long Shadow Vintners Sequel Syrah 2015

14. Willamette Valley, Oregon

Oregon is known for one thing, but they do it very well: Pinot Noir. The Willamette Valley, nestled in the Cascade Mountains, shares many similarities with Burgundy, making it perfect for making old-fashioned Pinot Noir. Even Burgundian estates, including Domaine Drouhin, have founded wineries in the “Beaver State.”

As grape growers discover new micro terroirs along Oregon’s hills, new and exciting AVAs are popping up, all offering unique expressions of the thin-skinned grapes, just like in Burgundy. The Willamette Valley is still a young wine region. Pioneer winemakers planted Oregon’s first vineyards in the 1960s, but the state has a bright future.

Wine to try:

Resonance ‘Willamette’ Pinot Noir 2017

The United States, A Wine Powerhouse

The United States is not only a massive market for wine but an authentic wine-producing powerhouse, making an enormous range of wines of all styles with a myriad of varietals. From inexpensive wines for everyday enjoyment to collector’s items, there’s an American wine for all palates and budgets.

When it comes to wine, there’s no doubt the USA is doing everything right, and the wine is better than ever! Enjoy your favourite American wine and compare it with wine from other countries and wine regions! That’s the beauty of it. No two wines taste the same.