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Wine Reviews: American Wines

For this panel, we asked members of our wine trade tasting panel to sample and rate American wines. These could be any style from anywhere in the country.

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, prices reflect a 750-ml. bottle. If you are a beverage professional with a specialty in wine who is interested in participating in the panel, please contact Kyle Swartz at or 763-383-4447.

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.


(98) Bending Branch Tannat 2019 (TX)

Dr. Robert Young brings a decidedly scientific approach to the art of Texas winemaking utilizing cyro maceration, whole-berry fermentation and flash détente to highlight his signature varietal: tannat. Rich and bone dry, almost chalky with strong minerality. Black fruit notes add to the deep-inky coloring. Smooth lingering finish makes a perfect pairing for a thick rib-eye right off the grill. ($59.99)

(98) Newsom Inception 2019 (TX)

Nolan Newsom . . . no, not that Newsom fella in California. This is the 8th-generation Texan, 3rd-generation grower who took the seed of growing grapes, not cotton, in the High Plains (3,700 ft. elevation) from the first two acres of cab ever grown in 1986 to the 160 acres today, with over 19 varietals. This is their flagship and the only blend in his portfolio, Nolan’s version of the classic Bordeaux style. This vintage highlights syrah (48%) and sangiovese/tannat (40%) with small amounts of seven other varietals for complexity. Rich and full bodied, it starts out lush and finishes bone-dry. 30 months of oak aging helps smooth things out with a fruit-forward style. An end cut of prime rib, double baked potato, and a bottle of Inception — perfection! ($49.99)

(97) Foley Estate Pinot Noir 2021 (CA)

A wonderful example of Central Coast pinot noir, balancing rich fruit with acidity and elegance. Brilliant dark ruby, the nose and palate share a common thread of bright and slightly spicy red fruit. The finish lingers for quite some time, with notes of warm spice. ($61)

(96) Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (WA)

Mostly cabernet, with some merlot, a bit of cabernet franc and petit verdot added in, this wine is a dense, brilliant red. The nose is dominated by dark red fruit, with an intriguing baked spice aspect. With plenty of weight on the palate, the finish is quite lengthy and well balanced. ($64.99)

(96) Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (CA)

Using a combination of fruit from some of the region’s top vineyards, in addition to estate fruit, the quality of the wine is apparent from the start. In the glass, the bright-red color is nearly opaque. The nose and palate exhibit lots of appealing dark fruit, with spice notes. The wine is very full bodied, with a long finish. ($55)

(96) Slate Theory Montepulciano 2019 (TX)

One of the new releases from this up-and-coming winery. This is a really big wine that showcases their varietal approach using old world varietals from Italy for this effort. New and neutral French oak adds subtle smoothness to complement rich black fruit and vanilla notes ($59.99)

(96) Bending Branch Petite Sirah 2019 (TX)

Grape sourcing is critical in Texas winemaking, and it doesn’t get any better than Newsom fruit. Dr. Young takes full advantage, utilizing his next-level scientific approach coupled with a specific aging program of 32 months in French and American oak. Rich and full-bodied with beautiful color extraction. Dark fruit notes, and touches of black pepper, anise and Texas cedar. Try this with grilled pork tenderloin with a red wine reduction! ($39.99)

(95) McPherson Cellars La Herencia 2019 (TX)

One of the original proponents of the classic tempranillo grape, Kim McPherson adds complexity by blending small amounts of graciano (16%) and carignan (3%). Fermenting in stainless steel preserves the purity of the fruit while aging in French oak for 11 months. Very integrated fruit with hints of dark fruit, plum and white pepper. Beautifully pairs with Texas beef off the grill! ($19.99)

(95) Hendry HRW Pinot Noir 2020 (CA)

Dazzling aromas of sagebrush, black currants and espresso blossom out of the glass. Bold yet delicate flavors of blackberries, coffee bean and raspberries lay down a river of enticing flavors leading to a finish showing hints of toast and chocolate flakes. A beautifully crafted wine from this prestigious winery. ($24.99)

(95) Rex Hill Jacob Hart Pinot Noir 2017 (OR)

Elegant, with dusty tannins, this wine is worth every dime.  Blue and black fruit over cedar, baking spices, cherries and mushrooms make this complex pinot a perfect partner for grilled salmon. ($75)

(95) Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvée 2015 (CA)

The Royal Cuvée with a blend of 2/3 pinot noir, and 1/3 chardonnay enjoys an extended time in bottle for its secondary fermentation, resulting in wonderful complexity and a delicate mousse. The nose and palate reveal lots of apple and citrus notes, as well as bight, clean fruit in the mouth. The finish is very long and quite expressive. ($65)

(94) Ramey Russian River Chardonnay 2021 (CA)

Another great vintage for the Ramey folks. A cuvee of juice, some from 1978, produces toasty nuances with a creamy finish.  A palate of lemon, green apple, oak, spice and blood orange make this wine perfect for baked chicken with lemon cream sauce.  ($48)

(94) Katherine Goldschmidt Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (CA)

Inviting aromas of red cherries and caramel with tons of red fruit to seduce the palate. A gentle kiss of dark, powdery chocolate wrapped in silky tannins shows wonderfully on the long, generous finish. Another Nick Goldschmidt creation, this one surely overdelivers for its modest price. ($29.99)

(94) NV Piper Sonoma Reserve Brut (CA)

Nearly all chardonnay, with a balancing dollop of pinot noir added, the wine is brilliant gold in the glass, with a touch of green. The nose is dominated by bright tropical and citrus fruit, with hints of spice. In the mouth, the elegant sparkling wine is refreshing and delicious. A versatile, lovely wine. ($27)

(94) Luke Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (WA)

100% sauvignon blanc. The nose is dominated by tropical fruit, with hints of grass. In the mouth, it showcases the typical aspects of bright citrus and stone fruits, with amazing focus and balance. Its great acidity makes it a wonderful paring with a wide variety of foods. ($20)

(94) Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (CA)

Oberon has been producing outstanding wines from Napa Valley for decades. Their first release from Paso Robles demonstrates that given good fruit, they can create a great wine from other regions. The nose and palate share a spicy dark fruit character, with subtle hints of baking spices and cocoa. A lovely example of classic cabernet. ($25)

(94) Caymus-Suisun Grand Durif 2020 (CA)

This is a super-dark, almost-inky wine in color with a very sumptuous plum and cherry cola palate. The finish has soft tannic notes that are mature and not overwhelming. This wine would be really food friendly but also easily drinkable on its own. ($59.99)

(93) Sonoma Bench Pinot Noir 2021 (CA)

This full-bodied pinot noir is a saturated deep red in the glass, with lots of red fruit on the nose, with a hint of spice to add to its complexity. The lengthy, well-balanced finish showcases its quality. ($30)

(93) Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs NV (CA)

This lovely, 100% chardonnay sparkling wine reveals lots of bright apple citrus fruit, with subtle floral hints. In the mouth, the wine’s energy is apparent, with lovely effervescence and plenty of fruit. The finish is quite lengthy, with excellent balance. ($35)

(93) McPherson Cellars Picpoul Blanc 2022 (TX)

Continuing his mission to highlight Mediterranean varietals, Kim McPherson works his magic with picpoul blanc. The 100-degree Texas heat shifts this from lip stinger to lip-smacking good. Lower alcohol and stainless-steel fermentation accent the great acidity and clean finish. Fresh Gulf shrimp in a lemon wine sauce is the perfect pairing. ($19.99)

(93) Daou Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (CA)

Stunning melon and floral notes leap from the glass with zippy flavors of green apple, melon and just the right amount of grapefruit to let you know you are drinking sauvignon blanc. A fully loaded package with a bright, juicy, refreshing finish. ($19.99)

(93) Smith Bench Chardonnay 2021 (CA)

From the Wente family, this chardonnay has a medium-yellow color. Tropical and apple notes elegantly balanced with oak and a kiss of spice. Think lobster and butter sauce. ($24.99)

(93) Newsom Albariño 2021 (TX)

Nolan Newsom works his winemaking magic with this classic varietal. Utilizing malolactic fermentation, he tames the acidity and creates a rich buttery white, perfect for hot Texas summers. Great minerality with hints of melon, butterscotch and vanilla. Time for a bottle with mussels in a lemon wine sauce. ($24.99)

(93) House of Brown Chardonnay 2022 (CA)

Great depth and concentration with plenty of Golden Delicious apples, pear, lemon and candied orange notes to please the palate. A gentle kiss of buttered brioche on the lengthy finish is the perfect touch. Nothing seems forced or manipulated on this well-balanced beauty. ($24.99)

(92) The Walking Fool Red Blend 2021 (CA)

This wine is dark, brooding and downright decadent. Candied cherries, spice and stewed berry notes make this a hardy wine to stand up against grilled meats, steak and lamb. ($37.99)

(92) Paso Highlands Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2022 (CA)

This wine is a step away from the super fruit-forward cabernets from Paso Robles. This is an elevated, subtler example of the region. Refined earth notes on the nose with blackberry and currants on the palate. ($19.99)

(92) Kudos Winemaker’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2020 (OR)

Rich ruby color in the glass, this is quintessential Willamette pinot noir. Complementary notes of tart cherries, red currant and dried herbs fill the nose and carry into the palate. A burst of acidity in the mid-palate keeps this complex wine fresh and light on its feet. ($27.99)


(91) L. Prima Chardonnay 2021 (CA)

From the Wente Family, this chardonnay has a pale-yellow color. Classic California chardonnay with notes of apple followed by oak, vanilla and nice creaminess. ($17.99)

(91) Medina Gap Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (CA)

Classic example of a Paso Robles cabernet. Bold, fruit forward and a people pleaser. This is a super-approachable wine with blackberry, earth, black currant and plum notes. ($17.99)

(91) Caliveda Pinot Noir 2021 (CA)

Bursting with flavor, this pinot has medium-purple color with notes of juicy black cherry and pomegranate cola rounded out with an enticing vanilla note. ($19.99)

(91) Parr Vineyards Viognier 2022 (TX)

Texas doesn’t need to grow chardonnay when they grow viognier this great. Robert and Dilek have supplied great fruit to top Texas wineries (William & Chris and Lewis, to name just a few) and have made the transition to producing their own estate-sourced wines. Floral and fresh, with a smooth clean finish. Hints of banana and kiwi. Their 20-acre vineyard is in the heart of the newest Texas AVA: Hickory Sands (pending TTB final approval). ($35.99)

(91) Samuel Roberts Pinot Noir 2021 (OR)

Gorgeous maroon color. Notes of grilled meat and herbs — with subtle and soft red fruit like ripe raspberries — fill the glass immediately. This wine is smooth but has a backbone and acidity that lends itself to compliment any meal. ($17.99)

(90) B. Lovely Gracious Red (WA)

Dark ruby in color, this wine is characterized by a bouquet of dark berries on the nose, with a lush palate of ripe raspberry, plum and cherry cola. The finish is full and sweet, making for an easy-drinking, versatile red wine. ($17.99)

(90) Iter Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (CA)

Very light lemon color. Fresh-squeezed lime with notes of melon. Crisp and clean, this wine pairs nicely with seafood. ($14.99)

(90) Verada Pinot Noir 2019 (CA)

Red cherry and raspberry notes complemented by a hint of floral and a touch of oak to round out the finish. Perfect for a charcuterie board. ($19.99)

(90) Ryer Red Blend 2019 (CA)

This dry red blend has a pale ruby color. Dark berries and blueberry evoke the aroma, followed up with blackberry on the palate with a solid structure and smooth tannins. Pair with barbecue. ($14.99)

(90) Double Black Cabernet Sauvignon 2022 (CA)

A stunning Paso cab with a medium-purple color. Notes of fresh black raspberry and crushed blackberries. Smooth tannins round out the finish. ($15.99)

(90) Iter Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (CA)

There are still great values to be found in Napa. Full-bodied with robust blackberry and oak that adds structure and spice to round out the finish. Pair this with your weekend steak. ($24.99)

(90) Radius Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (WA)

This easy-drinking cabernet has a pale ruby color. Soft and smooth, this cabernet offers notes of red fruits complemented by a touch of oak and vanilla. Great wine for entertaining. ($21.99)

(90) Matchbook Arsonists Red Blend 2020 (CA)

Full bodied, velvety and lush, this wine sees 24 months in oak. Blackberry and cherry with dark plum, chocolate, tobacco and sage. If you’re in the mood for grilled ribs, grab a bottle; your friends will thank you.($18)

(90) LYBL Sauvignon Blanc (CA)

Sustainably farmed, gluten free and vegan friendly. This sauvignon blanc is also low alcohol at 9%, and has less than one gram of sugar. Aromas of melon and grapefruit hit your nose immediately and follow through on the palate with additions of tart green apple and pineapple. ($19.99)

(90) Conscious Pinot Noir 2021 (OR)

This is smooth and medium-bodied with notes of dark cherry and raspberry compote. Tertiary notes of earth and mushroom fill out the palate as it finishes with silky and light tannins. ($15.99)

(90) Oak Ridge Ancient Vine Zinfandel 2021 (CA)

Made from a blend of old vines from different Lodi vineyards, this zin is toned down with red fruits complemented by nice floral notes. Fresh and vibrant, this is easy to drink. ($19.99)

(90) LYBL Cabernet Sauvignon (CA)

Those searching for a “better for you” alternative to cabernet sauvignon need look no further. Low alcohol, low sugar, gluten free and vegan friendly. Dark fruit compote with tart blackberry notes at the finish. ($19.99)

Want more reviews? Our wine panels in the past year have included:

Rosé for 2023

South American Wines

Spring and Summer Wines

French Wines

American Wines

Sparkling Wines

The Best Wines Under $30

Feature photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash.

The post Wine Reviews: American Wines appeared first on Cheers.

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