Our Favorite American Wines for 2021

For our latest wine reviews of 2021, we asked our panel of wine professionals to taste and rate wines from around the United States. This includes states cultivating grapes from coast to coast.

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.

Rating System

Five Stars (100-92): A top-flight wine, superior in taste and character, and providing a superior price/value ratio.

Four Stars (91-86): A very good wine and an excellent value. A wine for which customers will keep coming back.

Five Star Wines

(95) Smith-Madrone Estate Riesling 2016 (CA)

The wine is 100% riesling and produced from the same Spring Mountain vineyards, in the same way every year, yet the wines continually offer new characteristics every vintage. This riesling has a light straw core with light legs. The nose offers wet rocks, white flowers, cream and whiffs of petrol. The palate has medium intensity with flavors of Granny Smith apples, orange blossoms and Bosc pear that jump into medium-plus acidity and tinges of honeysuckle. The finish is balanced and lip-smacking with touches of lime custard, minerals and petrol. A classically beautiful Riesling. WOW! ($29.99)

(95) Smith-Madrone Estate Riesling 2016 (CA)

This Spring Mountain wine is 100% Riesling, offering flavors of Granny Smith apples, orange blossoms and Bosc pear, with medium-plus acidity and tinges of honeysuckle. Wet rocks, white flowers, cream and whiffs of petrol lay on the finish. A classically beautiful riesling. ($30)

(95) Lavinea ‘Lazy River Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2017 (OR)

Willamette Valley is quickly becoming my go-to for spectacular chardonnay. Lavinea is making some of my favorite New World chardonnays. The winemaker is Isabelle Meunier (Evening Land, Domaine Vougeraie and Felton Road), who apprenticed under famed Bourgogne winemaker Dominique Lafon. This wine is 100% chardonnay from Lazy River Vineyard, located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA perched at the foothills of the Coast Range on a south-facing slope with red iron volcanic Jory soils. The wine aged in 20% new French oak. This chardonnay is sneaky good. Flavors of ripe apple and lemon citrus hit the palate with medium intensity. The wine is linear, yet plush with hints of dried white flowers wafting throughout the palate with a backbone of minerality. The finish is light and fresh with hints of grilled nuts, crushed wet rocks and just a whiff of exotic spice. Yum! ($34.99)

(94) L’Ecole No 41 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc Blend 2019 (WA)

You’d swear you were in Bordeaux, only better. Mostly semillon, the fragrant nose and mineral palate make this Columbia Valley blend the perfect food wine. Grilled chicken, anyone?  ($16.95)


(94) Blue Rock Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (CA)

Blue Rock is an all-estate-produced winery located in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. The 2017 vintage was absolutely stunning with excellent depth and concentration. The winery is focused on showing the quality of terroir and offering balanced wines that reflect the soil. Blue Rock shows dark purple color with medium intensity. The palate offers voluptuous flavors of blueberry and black cherry that sink into a plush core of currant. The wine is silky smooth and bright with complex notes of cedar, vanilla and baking spices on the mid-palate. The finish is rocking with blackberry cobbler and cigar box wrapped into a velvet finish. Layered and lively. ($42.99)

(94) Decoy Limited Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (CA)

There is dark and savory berry fruit that balance brilliantly with the controlled tannins, giving this cabernet almost a creaminess. From start to the finish this wine does not disappoint. One of the best cabernets of 2019, especially for the price. ($27.99)

(94) Snowden ‘Lost Vineyard’ Merlot 2018 (CA)

Merlot has had to overcome quite a stigma over the past decade, but wineries that continued to produce quality merlot are making some of the best in the world. Randy and Scott Snowden had sold their grapes until 1993 to the likes of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Silver Oak, Caymus, Frank Family, Viader and Ramey. They decided to start making wine in 1993 and allowed Diana Snowden (Scott’s daughter, one of my favorite winemakers) to take the helm of winemaking in 2005. Lost Vineyard is a two-acre block located on perlite and sand soils. This wine was hand-harvested and fermented with native wild yeast and aged in 50% new French oak barrels for 14 months while being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The wine is 95% merlot with 5% cabernet sauvignon. Diana knocked this merlot out of the park! It has beautiful structure and intensity, with loads of fruit and velvet texture. Bright flavors of red cherry and currant pop into the palate with silky finesse and elegant balance. The mid-palate is balanced with ripe red fruit, with touches of spice and whiffs of earthy underbrush. Notes of plum, vanilla and cedar are prevalent with hints of tealeaf on the long, lingering finish. ($37.99)

(94) Macari Red Blend Alexandra 2015 (NY)

Beautiful red fruit aromas radiate out of the glass of this Long Island wine. The palate shows defined layers of raspberries, cherries, black tea and a savory characteristic. This merlot-centric, Bordeaux-style blend is full of power and balance from top to bottom. ($69.99)

(94) Janzen Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (CA)

Winemaker to the stars Kirk Venge molded this Napa wine and showed his handprint throughout. The 2018 vintage has produced full, meaty wines with quite an abundance of fruit and flavor. This 100% cabernet sauvignon has combined mountain fruit with the finesse of Oakville and Rutherford. Thick hedonistic flavors of blackberry and cassis sink deftly into silky tannins and a creamy core. The mid-palate offers loads of currant, dark chocolate and hazelnut with smidgeons of sandalwood. The finish is dangerously smooth, with toasted cedar and vanilla from new and used French barrels and a long, lingering mouthfeel that offers a whiff of tobacco pipe. Janzen is a cabernet that you open when you really want to impress your guest. TLC (Texutured, Layered, Complex). ($44.99)

(93) 22 Pirates Red Blend 2018 (CA)

Powerful, bold dark fruits on the palate are wrapped nicely in French oak. ($19.99)

(93) Three Sisters Cabernet Franc 2018 (GA)

This modest winery just outside of Dahlonega in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia produces one killer cab franc. Dark fruit, smooth tannins and plenty of back bone. Bring your lunch and sip a bottle on their outdoor patio! ($28.95)

(93) The Calling Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch Chardonnay (CA)

The gentle butter and light tropical fruit are perfectly intertwined. The wonderful acidity is such a complement to the savor and richness of this wine. A must-have for any creamy pasta dish or cheese platter. ($25.99)

(93) Clos LaChance Cabernet 2018 (CA)

Dense black fruit and fresh plum on the nose lead to a structurally sound palate that has nicely integrated tannins and a hint of cocoa and chocolate on the finish. ($19.99)

(93) Crossfork Creek Merlot 2019 (WA)

Powerful and controlled from start to finish, the beautiful cherry and blackberry flavors are only enhanced by a tasty layer of baking spice flavors. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, this Yakima Valley wine delivers. ($19.99)

(93) Paumanok Cabernet Franc 2018 (NY)

Blackberry and cherry notes dance along the nose and palate, with herbal and floral flavors that make this Long Island wine shine. A dash of merlot blended in gives it an edge of beauty, with fruit and a smooth texture to tie everything together nicely. ($24.99)

(93) Wagner Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 2020 (NY)

Floral and citrus notes all over the nose, with hints of pear, add complexity on the palate. This Niagara wine is sweet, clean, ripe and has a light beautiful texture that defines its character. ($29.99 per 375-ml.)

(92) Wagner Riesling Dry 2019 (NY)

A mineral-driven wine that is sharp and exudes bright, clean orange and citrus notes. A white pepper flavor, combined with the lifting acidity and minerality, make this savory fruit-forward Niagara wine over-deliver all day long. ($14.99)

(92) Verada Cabernet Tri-County 2019 (CA)

Plush and powerful, laced with energy, this wine is packed with red fruit, and punches above its weight class. The mid-palate and finish are strong and balanced with tannins to add to the beautiful structure. ($16.99)

(92) Verada Merlot Tri-County 2019 (CA)

Blueberry, blackberry and dark cherry notes roll across the nose and palate, accompanied by a beautiful tea element that is reminiscent of a strong merlot blend from St. Emilion. The complexity is complemented by a nice texture and grip that keeps the finish going for quite a long time. ($16.99)

(92) Ravines Pinot Noir 2017 (NY)

A beautiful nose of bright, ripe fruit and earthy underbrush grabs your attention in this Finger Lakes  wine. Concentrated cherry, dark plum and raspberries show a plush texture on the palate, with just the slightest hint of dark chocolate showing through on the long creamy finish. Cool-climate pinot noir that can fool you into thinking burgundy, but at a fraction of the price. ($24.99)

(92) Shady Lane Cellars Semi-Dry Riesling 2017 (MI)

A glorious nose of tropical white flowers lures you into the ripe apricot, green pear and candied lemon that cascade down on the palate. A beautiful balance of ripeness and acidity is exhibited on the long, elegant finish that refreshes rather than burdens the senses. Begs to be paired with shellfish, sushi, salads or just warm summer nights all by itself. ($16.99)

(92) Stone Hill Winery Chambourcin 2013 (MO)

Established in 1847 this is a winery with great history. A French American hybrid grape, this wonderful wine shows a dazzling array of ripe dark fruit with blackberries, black currants and juicy plum filling the mouth. A toasty oak finish is kissed with a touch of cocoa. Hearty enough for barbeque, pizza and burgers. A Midwest treasure. ($19.99)

(92) John Legend Signature by LVE Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (CA)

A keen balance of red and blue fruits that jump from the glass to the palate. All the blueberry and raspberry flavors are made more elegant by soft tannins that lightly grip just enough to show off the flavor intensity. ($19.99)

Four Star Wines

(91) John Legend Signature by LVE Chardonnay 2020 (CA)

Bartlett pear and a hint of bright Granny Smith notes give this Sonoma County wine life and zesty drive. Light vanilla flavors provide the fruit with direction and balance, but stay subtle and keep the wine’s complexity and smoothness. ($14.99)

(91) Kaleidoscope Red 2019 (CA)

Bright strawberry notes dance from the nose to the palate while bolder black fruits give this red a smooth mouthfeel. With depth and zip, this fruit-forward wine finishes with chocolate flavors that linger nicely. ($13.99)

(91) Crimson Ranch Red Blend 2018 (CA)

Juicy and smooth, hints of cocoa add an extra tasty element to the dark cherry fruit-forward flavors that dominate the wine. Floral aromas, and an energetic structure on the palate, give this red blend an edge, and keeps it interesting. ($14.99)

(91) Thirsty Owl Riesling 2019 (NY)

White flowers and lychee on the nose and palate, this approachable, fun, Finger Lakes wine has a good balance. Crisp texture with powerful fruit flavors, this wine is bright, off-dry and over-delivers from start to finish. ($10.99)

(91) Kudos Pinot Noir 2019 (OR)

Fun and bright, this punchy pinot is soft, savory and interesting, with a medley of red cherry and ripe raspberry notes. The Willamette Valley wine walks the line of approachable, fun and shows spicy savoy notes that give everything a certain depth. ($14.99)

(91) Dr. Konstantine Frank Salmon Run Chardonnay 2019 (NY)

This unoaked chardonnay is a very easy drink, with lovely fruit and balanced acidity. Sourced from younger vines on the Dr. Frank estate in the Finger Lakes, it is delicate yet round on the palate, with aromas and flavors of green apples, lemon zest and stone fruits. Perfect for grilled seafood such as shrimp or, well, salmon. ($12.99)

(91) Hosmer Dry Riesling 2019 (NY)

This is the summer go-to wine for food. Crisp acidity, balanced by notes of ripe cantaloupe. The finish is straightforward, almost mouthwatering. Great example of less than 1% RS in a NYS riesling. ($15)

(90) Joel Gott Palisades Red Blend 2017 (CA)

This cabernet-led red resembles a field blend, seasoned with several varietals such as petite syrah, alicante bouschet and malbec. Striking dark purple in the glass, with boisterous aromas of dark, baked-fruits balanced with spice notes and a hint of licorice and red flowers. Still moderately tannic, the dark berry and leather flavors give way to softer red fruits and baking spices on the medium-length finish. ($14)

(90) Analemma “Oak Ridge” Pinot Noir 2017 (WA)

Organic fruit from the base of Mount Adams produce a bright ruby-colored ethereal wine that has cranberry tones laced with an intriguing spice note that lingers. ($38)

(90) Cru Unoaked Chardonnay 2018 (CA)

Fresh and vibrant, the palate of this Monterey wine is medium with zingy citrus and an underbelly of stone fruit. Screw top. Made for the beach! ($17.95)

(90) Boundary Breaks Vineyard OLN Riesling 2017 (NY)

This medium-dry Finger Lakes riesling has a beautiful and energetic pop of fruit and acidity. Gentle tangerine and a hint of pineapple give way to a fresh and clean finish. Perfect for a warm up to the backyard or the lake. ($15.99)

(89) A by Acacia Unoaked Chardonnay 2019 (CA)

Pleasant tropical notes on the nose, even getting a bit of pineapple. Dry and smooth, a refreshing white, yet it still has some body to it but without the heavy oak. Bonus that it is a Stelvin closure. ($13.99)

(89) Empire State Riesling 2018 (NY)

Medium bodied with tangy apple and orange blossom on the nose. The palate is dry with lingering apple and earthy pineapple. ($22.99)

(89) Seventh Hill Farm “Left Foot Charley” Riesling 2017 (MI)

This Old Mission Peninsula wine is reminiscent of a dry Clare Valley riesling with stone fruit, honeysuckle and florals — and a touch of TDN (that squeaky new pool toy aroma). ($24.99)

(88) Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Franc 2015 (NY)

A light and refreshing, earthy and spiced red crafted from vines planted in 1974 from a producer in the game for over 60 years. ($24.99)

Feature photo by Daniel Salgado on Unsplash.


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