Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Best American Wines Over $20

These bottles definitely take us out of the everyday wine experience, at least for my budget. And while some are not too pricey -- the zin for $32 or the sauvignon blanc for $30 -- others I am sure will never pass my lips.

Nonetheless, as a companion posting to my Best American Wines Under $20 (below), it seems appropriate to give the complete picture of these 2010 Food & Wine awards. Unlike the earlier, less expensive list, if you want to try any of the higher-priced winners, you'll probably have to shop online or in a very well stocked store.


Sauvignon Blanc

2009 Merry Edwards ($30)
One of California's surest hands with pinot noir, Edwards also makes this perfumed, arresting Sauvignon. Assembled from several Russian River Valley vineyards—some planted to the aromatic Musqué clone—the wine combines tangerine and peach with Musqué's hard-to-define, not-quite-honeysuckle aroma.


2007 Hanzell ($70)
One of California's first post-Prohibition chardonnay producers, Sonoma's Hanzell has long gone its own way, preferring an Old World sense of proportion over showy richness. That balance is epitomized in its long-aging Chardonnays, like this creamy, floral bottling from talented winemaker Michael McNeill.


2006 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs ($36)
This all-Chardonnay bottling was the Davies family's original sparkler back in 1965; Richard Nixon served it on his 1972 trip to China. For the 2006 vintage, the wine was aged in the bottle for two years on its lees (spent yeasts), giving complexity to its flavors of yellow apple, pear and melon.


Pinot Noir

2008 Brewer-Clifton, Mount Carmel ($63)
There are easier places to grow grapes than this steep, ocean-cooled vineyard in Santa Barbara County, but Steve Clifton (also of Palmina) and Greg Brewer (Melville) started farming it themselves in 2004 anyway. Their 2008, an opulent Pinot with floral berry notes, makes it clear their work was worth it.


2007 Pepper Bridge ($50)
In the excellent 2007 Washington vintage, Swiss-born winemaker Jean-François Pellet produced this cellar-worthy Merlot by combining fruit from the winery's two estate vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley—Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills.


2007 A. Rafanelli ($32)
Because it sells exclusively from the winery rather than stores, this small, family-run Sonoma operation isn't broadly known except to Zinfandel lovers. Winemaker Rashell Rafanelli-Fehlman holds to the family style here—bright, lifted and juicy.


2006 Qupé, Bien Nacido Hillside Estate ($40)
This wine, from the chilly 2006 vintage, suggests so. Bob Lindquist is one of the greatest interpreters of Syrah from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard, and his winemaking shows the grape's full potential.

Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Buccella ($150)
Overseen by Chris Justin and consultant Celia Welch (F&W's Winemaker of the Year in 2008), Buccella has swiftly become a top Napa Cabernet producer. The great 2007 vintage played to Buccella's strengths, resulting in a cassis-inflected wine of extraordinary polish.

Bordeaux-Style Blend

2007 Continuum ($140)
Robert Mondavi's children Tim and Marcia have moved on after the sale of the family winery. Their Cab-Sauv–based, gorgeously fragrant red comes from Pritchard Hill and Oakville vineyards, two of Napa Valley's most sought-after Cabernet locations.

Courtesy Food & Wine, copy by Richard Nalley

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