Our Wine Panel’s Favorite American Wines of 2020

For this latest round of StateWays wine reviews, we tasked our panel of independent experts to taste and rate American wines. The write-ups below represent a wide range of styles and areas, giving readers a broad look at what has defined the U.S. in recent years.

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 editor Kyle Swartz at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or 203-855-8499 x225.

Five Stars

(97) Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvée 2010 (CA)

A combination of pinot noir and chardonnay, the wine sat in the bottle, after its secondary fermentation, for over eight years. This provides a level of complexity and elegance rarely seen in a domestic sparkling wine. Whether you have a special occasion to celebrate (maybe when the kids return to school?), or not, you owe yourself the opportunity to open a bottle. Enjoying this superb bottle will be a celebration, all by itself. ($80)

(96) Foppiano Vineyards Petite Sirah 2016 (CA)

From one of the “masters” of this variety, the Foppiano family has been producing and bottling petite sirah for generations. Their dedication to the variety — and attention to detail in the vineyard and winery — is all on full display here. The wine is dark in the glass, with a touch of purple hints. On the nose, and in the mouth, lots of dark fruit are accented by spice, and hints of dark chocolate. The balanced tannins supply a velvety texture, adding to the wine’s allure. ($24.99)

(96) Hall Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon-classic Paso Robles Cab 2017 (CA)

Big, smooth tannins with layers of dark berry, touch of toasty oak and a wisp of dark chocolate. ($20)

(96) WindVane Estate Pinot Noir (CA)

A wonderfully balanced pinot noir, from a well-known pinot-producing region. Brilliant ruby in the glass, with subtle garnet hints. The nose and palate burst with elegant red fruit. The acidity carries through the long and graceful finish. A wine to match with a wide variety of foods, it is exceptionally versatile. ($30)

(95) Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay 2017 (CA)

A rich and delicious chardonnay masterpiece. Layers of savory butter and vanilla are intertwined with gentle hints of lemon. The creaminess and acidity are balanced and elegant. ($37)


(95) Mad Violets Pinot Noir 2015 (OR)

Pommard and dijon clones from three AVAs blend to produce this gorgeous pinot noir. Rich strawberry and forest notes create a lush, perfect Oregon example. Only 400 cases produced.($45)

(95) Two Angels Petite Sirah (CA)

Intensely dark in the glass, with lots of purple tone. You can tell by the color that this wine is a powerhouse. The nose and palate confirm that assessment, with plenty of saturated dark fruit, with spice and hints of vanilla. Pair it with an identically intense dish and you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful flavor combination. ($26.99)

(95) Hall Ranch Zinfandel 2018 (CA)

If you haven’t found a Zin you like, try this one! Dense, soft tannins with dark cherry and a hint of black bramble and cinnamon. Serve with something off the grill or a nice soft goat cheese. ($19)

(94) Ironstone Vineyards, Petite Sirah 2018 (CA)

Nearly all petite sirah, with a small amount of zinfandel, the wine is nearly opaque in the glass, with hints of purple. The nose and palate share a similar profile of dark fruit, with hints of spice. The finish is long, with a lush texture. A great bargain! ($13.99)

(94) Hall Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (CA)

Beautiful, aromatic wine from one of Paso Robles’ premier estates. Crisp but with a rich mouthful of pear, fragrant citrus and a touch of Asian lime. Sip as an aperitif or have with seafood. ($18)

(94) Le Cerf Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (CA)

A bold and most-welcome attack on the nose and palate of strong blackberry, blueberry and chocolate flavors. This powerhouse doesn’t let off the gas with a rich finish that will bring you back. ($49.99)

(93) Le Cerf Pinot Noir 2017 (CA)

Ripe and luscious cherry and strawberry notes are complex and powerful. With lifting acidity and a lengthy finish, this is a strong showing from the Russian River Valley, even among the steep competition. ($44.99)

(93) Foppiano Estate Petite Sirah 2016 (CA)

Deep and brooding — everything a petite should be. Concentrated aromas and flavors of blackberries, raspberries, dark chocolate and a touch of spice. Easy tannins. Elegant long finish. A keeper for the cellar because it’s only going to get better  ($25)

(93) Macchia Mischievous Zinfandel 2018 (CA)

A powerhouse of a zinfandel with mouth-filling blackberry and raspberry flavors. There is a nice spicy backdrop here, and the finish is lengthy with dark fruit notes that just keep going. ($23.99)

(93) BlueWing Vineyards Cabernet 2017 (CA)

An elegant Sonoma wine full of dark blackberry and cherry notes with an elegant acidity that dances throughout the mid-palate and finish. Oak helps hold the fruit notes together and gives the wine complexity. ($19.99)

(93) Hall Ranch Zinfandel 2018 (CA)

For those seeking a well-rounded, all-American zinfandel, this is it! The wine exhibits pronounced spicy red fruit aromas backed by vanilla oak, campfire and cinnamon candied apples. Brambly black fruits glide over your palate, reminiscent of blackberry pie, plum and black cherry fruit roll-up. The fruit is pleasantly wrapped in baking spices and hazelnuts, with a long cherry spice finish. It is a delightful seductive balance of jammy fruit and elegant acid, with the spiciness of the oak. ($19.99)

(92) Vennstone Pinot Noir 2019 (CA)

Dense blackberry and cherry notes are powerful on the nose and luscious on the palate. This rich and full pinot noir has a beautiful texture and a smooth finish. ($19.99)

(92) Grove Pinot Noir 2017 (OR)

This pinot noir screams Oregon with elegant red cherry notes and spice notes that add depth. The fruit and spice are backed up by a lovely acidity and a plush texture. ($19.99)

(92) Petites Secondes Pinot Noir 2017 (OR)

Dark cherry and blackberry aromas jump out of the glass along with some spice complexities. The dark fruit and spice flavors continue to the palate with a velvety texture and a lengthy finish. ($29.99)

(92) BleuWing Vineyards Chardonnay 2018 (CA)

Tropical fruit notes are laden on the nose and palate, giving the wine a round yet zippy texture. Bright green apple flavors provide elegance and a lengthy finish. ($19.99)

(92) Iter Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (CA)

Full bodied and fresh, this Napa Cabernet is ripe and explosive with raspberry, blackberry, cherry and vanilla notes on the nose and palate. The finish is impressive and the texture is smooth. ($19.99)

Four Stars

(91) River Road Chardonnay (CA)

With a slight creamy texture and a nice balance this wine is sure to please. Bartlett pear and ripe apple notes are plentiful on this wine and show it to be a true Sonoma classic. ($16.99)

(91) Iter Chardonnay 2019 (CA)

This very tropical chardonnay is ripe and energetic on the palate and the finish is lengthy. Fresh and fun, the smooth creamy texture works to give the wine a beautiful balance. ($13.99)

(91) Revelry Cabernet 2017 (WA)

Dark cherry, blackberry and graphite aromas lead into a nice palate of leather and chocolate. The tannins on the wine are coming together nicely and should provide incredible value as a daily drinker. ($17.99)

(91) Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel 2018 (CA)

Deep and lingering berry fruit are the backbone of this zinfandel. Gentle-yet-firm structure combines with rich fruit and hugs your palate with a blanket of richness. The finish is not heavy handed, allowing it to pair beautifully with a large assortment of grilled meats. ($22)

(91) Carol Shelton “Pizzaz Zin” Zinfandel 2018 (CA)

Made by the “Queen of Zinfandel” sourced from a fine old vine vineyard in Lodi. This wine delivers loads of dark red fruits with an undeniable, heady creamy chocolate and coconut finish that lingers. ($22)

(91) Double Black Zinfandel 2018 (CA)

Intense and medium bodied with grippy tannins on the finish. This spice-driven wine has powerful raspberry and dark-cherry flavors that are punctuated with the spice notes. ($13.99)

(91) Buttercream Chardonnay 2018 (CA)

True to its name, immediately your nose and palate are immersed in buttery, oaky, creamy flavors and textures. The wine is intense, fun and smooth from start to finish. ($13.99)

(91) Cherrycream Pinot Noir 2018 (CA)

Fresh and bright, this raspberry- and red cherry-loaded pinot noir is smooth and energetic. A fine balance between fruit and texture gives this approachable wine depth. ($13.99)

(91) Olema Chardonnay Reserve 2017 (CA)

An energetic chardonnay chock full of green apple notes along with uplifting citrus flavors that brighten up the nose and palate. Well balanced and fun, the lengthy flavors continue on the finish for quite some time. ($19.99)

(91) Muirwood Chardonnay 2018 (CA)

Pear and citrus notes are all over this Arroyo Secco wine. Combined with a creamy texture and zesty acidity, this wine is well balanced, shows depth and is approachable. ($14.99)

(91) Santa Barbara Vineyards Pinot Noir 2017 (CA)

Elegant bright cherry notes are the centerpiece of this pinot noir, but are backed up and held together by some subtle oaky vanilla notes. Beautiful plush texture and powerful finish. ($15.99)

(90) Firebrand Chardonnay Reserve 2019 (CA)

Green apple aromas jump out of the glass and follow onto the palate with oak vanilla flavors for structure. The wine is fun, energetic and approachable. ($12.99)

(90) Cloud Break Chardonnay (CA)

Ripe apple flavors dominate this juicy chardonnay. Easy drinking and fun, with a nice backbone of acidity that gives energy to the wine. ($8.99)

(90) Buttercream Rosé 2019 (CA)

Crisp and clean with nice strawberry and raspberry notes. This rosé is light in texture and still very fruity and rich in flavors all complemented by a brightness that balances the wine nicely. ($13.99)

(90) Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Claret 2017 (CA)

This is a wonderful expression of cabernet sauvignon. The balance of tannin and acidity allow the rich berry fruit and plum to be the star of the show. One of the best values in California! ($19)

(90) Hall Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (CA)

Lightly chill this fresh and inviting sauvignon blanc to open its aromas of Meyer lemon flowers and tropical fruits. Light bodied and easy to enjoy; balanced acidity. Great with summer salads, shrimp cocktail or just by itself. ($15)

(90) Millbrook Proprietor’s Special Reserve Dry Riesling 2019 (NY)

Opens up with balanced ripe tropical fruits and acidity. Aromas of honeydew and ripe apple. Ends with a pleasant, crisp finish. Great with Asian food. ($16)

(90) A-Z Rosé 2019 (OR)

This sangiovese-based rosé is a year-round go-to. Juicy, fresh and crisp, with inviting aromas and flavors of watermelon and wild strawberry. Very food friendly. ($16)

(90) Double Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (WA)

Red current, coffee, cherry and cassis work to create a complex cab with a bright, elegant finish. A steal for the price. ($18.95)

(90) Bucklin “Old Hill Ranch” Sonoma 2017 (CA)

Grown in a vineyard planted in the mid-19th century with over two-dozen varietals, with about 65 percent being zinfandel. Classy and refined, with notes of wild cherries, cracked pepper, herbs and forest floor. ($29.99)

(90) Rickshaw Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (CA)

The 2018 cabernet — sourced from Sonoma, Paso Robles, and Lake County — has everything you’re looking for in a $15 wine. Black cherry and plum on the nose, and a silky smooth palate. (14.99)

(89) Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (CA)

This could easily be labeled a “Fume Blanc” due to its use of premium French lumber (read: great oak). A heady, full-bodied white finishing with a clean lemon zest note. ($45)

(88) Hogwash Rosé 2018 (CA)

A pale pink rosé made of generally sourced, select grenache is a perfect fit for spring and summer. Rose water and watermelon with a bright, crisp finish. Drink it with just about anything. ($18.95)

Feature photo by John Cameron on Unsplash.


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