25 California Wineries Every Enthusiast Should Know

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While winemaking in California can be traced as far back as 1769, according to UC Davis, Napa took nearly two centuries to gain the recognition it deserved as a bonafide high-end wine destination. May 24, 1976, was a fateful day for the state's winemakers, as that's when The Judgment of Paris took place, putting Californian and French wines head-to-head in a blind taste test of an all-French panel. CNN says that Californian winemakers creamed their French competitors in the white wine tastings, while a 6-year-old winery beat out Bordeaux's Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in the red category. Fifty years later, California — particularly Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Paso Robles — is renowned for producing some of the world's most respected and top-rated wines that are on par (or outrank) some of the world's most prestigious labels from France and Italy, Wine Enthusiast explains.

The following California wineries are essential for every enthusiast to know, whether you're building a spectacular collection, visiting Northern California or Paso Robles for a wine-centric vacation, or are embarking on a journey to discover the wonderful world of wine. From Napa Valley icons whose wines have endless waiting lists for $400 bottles, to hip newcomers who are changing the way we think about California wine, this list offers a robust glimpse into the amazing wineries of the Golden State, which are among the best in the U.S. 

1. Far Niente

Far Niente is a quintessential Napa Valley winery producing some of the best cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay in the region, many earning scores of 95 points or higher from the likes of Jeb Dunnuck. Like several storied California wineries, Far Niente was a thriving business until Prohibition swept the U.S. in 1919. It finally got a second act 60 years later, when it was purchased by Gil and Beth Nickel, who restored the dilapidated winery into a now-legendary Napa Valley wine estate.

Far Niente was originally built in 1885, and the name for the winery, which means "without a care" in Italian, comes from a stone etching from the original structure. The brand preserves the name by creating wines that transport sippers to a bygone era of simpler, more carefree living. Far Niente also has several sister brands that also produce noteworthy bottles: Nickel & Nickel, Post & Beam, Dolce, Bella Union, and Enroute. The company practices organic farming across its entire family of brands, and it is both solar-powered and has a net-zero use of electricity, pushing far beyond the basics of sustainable viticulture. 

A great introductory bottle would be the 2019 Far Niente Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $150 and features fresh, fine-grain tannins and a long silky finish for an indulgent sipping experience. Far Niente's Napa Valley Cabernet is its heritage wine and speaks to the winery's 40-year legacy of producing some of the best in the region.

2. Dominus Estate

Dominus Estate is the brainchild of revered winemaker Christian Moueix and has been dedicated to making some of the best Bordeaux-style California wines possible since 1983. However, Dominus Estate's origins go much further back, as its prestigious Napanook vineyard was the site where George Yount fatefully planted Napa Valley's first vines exactly a century before the winery's founding.

The Napanook vineyard where Dominus Estate's grapes are sourced is organically dry-farmed to best preserve the historic destination, restore the environment and biodiversity, and make exceptional bottles of wine. Grape clusters are sorted by hand and gentle pump-overs reveal the grape's aromas and tannins to help create wines that seek to be profound, powerful, and pure. The brand seems to achieve just that as the 2018 Dominus Estate was ranked the No. 1 wine of the year in 2021 by Wine Spectator.

Dominus Estate wines aren't exactly the kind you'd stock up on for a dinner party, but they are an experience in their own right. The 2018 Dominus Estate, which received 100-point ratings from Jeb Dunnuck and James Suckling (via Wine.com) retails for $420 and makes an excellent cellar pick for the most discerning collectors.

3. Corison Winery

Corison Winery is the passion project of Cathy Corison and William Martin and is located on an idyllic family farm in the heart of the Napa Valley. The pair produces wines that are elegant, powerful, and age-worthy — designed for both memorable nights around the table and cellar storage.

Corison Winery has been dedicated to producing the best small-batch cabernet sauvignon, and it has certainly succeeded in offering some of California's most revered. Cathy Corison has been nominated for several James Beard Awards, while Wine & Spirits Magazine recognized Corison Winery as one of the most popular cabernet sauvignons among U.S. restaurants. In 2017, The Daily Meal considered it to be one of the best wineries to visit in the country to boot.

The winery suggests trying the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $110 and boasts natural acidity and wildly complex flavors and aromas. You'll find Corison's signature velvety tannins that bring the texture needed to create a truly experiential bottle that is worth its label.

4. Larkmead Vineyards

Larkmead Vineyards is a fourth-generation family winery that has been around for nearly 130 years and has seen the Napa Valley transform from a rugged farm country to a luxurious tourist destination. Larkmead grows seven types of grapes on its property, with more than half being cabernet sauvignon. The winery's 2018 vintage received an average 96-point rating, International Wine Report notes, but it's also known for top-rated red blends. 

According to Vine Pair, Larkmead Vineyards takes sustainability seriously, functioning as its own ecosystem. Not only does the winery practice organic farming but all of its water comes from estate wells, and it is recycled for reuse in the vineyard. Larkmead's wines are more than just highlighting the estate's unique microclimate and distinctive terroir — they are about preserving the land where they come from. The new head winemaker, Avery Heelan, has also worked closely with the team to develop a proprietary yeast strain for the estate in order to stop relying on commercial options.

Larkmead Vineyards' current release wines are available for purchase through its membership program, mailing list, and a visit to the gorgeous property. The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $125, is the brand's recommended Larkmead introduction as it is one of the staff's favorite and most approachable wines on release but can easily hang in the cellar for 10+ years.

5. Mayacamas Vineyards

Napa Valley's Mayacamas Vineyards is a historic and memorable winery for a reason. The brand prides itself in carrying on its more than 130-year legacy by relying on original techniques and old-world philosophies to produce stellar wines, and it even still uses century-old aging vessels as part of a large-cask aging process that is unique to the brand.

Since new ownership took place in 2013, much of the estate has been replanted to rely on organic and dry farming techniques that will make Mayacamas more sustainable over the years and bring its wines to an even higher quality. The brand is also working on revamping its visitor experiences for guests to have the full Mayacamas experience, discovering its past and present before tasting its most exceptional vintages.

The brand is best known for its classically produced cabernet sauvignon, the most recent release being its 2017 vintage. Those interested in purchasing wine from Mayacamas can join their mailing list or membership allocation for spring and fall purchases, or contact the winery for purchase outside of the online offering windows.

6. Schramsberg Vineyards

Schramsberg Vineyards was first founded in 1862 and has become known for producing some spectacular sparkling wines made in the Méthode Traditionelle style. The winery is considered a historical monument by the California Historical Society, and it certainly is making history with its Napa Valley bubbly that has garnered as high as 97 points, according to Wine Enthusiast.

Schramsberg makes a variety of sparkling wines from rosé to blanc de noirs and some cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. It was designated as "Winery of the Year" in 2016 by Connoisseur's Guide to California Wine for its impressive bottles across all the varietals Schramsberg produces — not to mention it has received more starred recommendations by the guide than any other sparkling wine producer.

The winery recommends starting with a bottle of the blanc de blancs, which retails for $41, and is the most popular bottle in Schramsberg's portfolio. This type of bubbly is made entirely from chardonnay grapes and is vibrant, fruit-forward, and offers a clean, bright finish.

7. Ridge Vineyards

Located in Cupertino, Ridge Vineyards is one of California's most legendary wineries. For six decades, the winery has received some of the highest acclaim possible from becoming a 21-time Top 100 Wineries winner by Wine & Spirits Magazine, to having its 2014 East Bench Zinfandel served at President Obama's last state dinner in 2016, The Mercury News reports.

Ridge deems its winemaking process as "pre-industrial," as the winery's methods are based on 19th-century practices from the best wineries in California and Bordeaux. The winery prides itself on using natural rather than commercial yeast strains, avoiding commercial enzymes and nutrients, and providing the utmost transparency by labeling every ingredient that goes into each bottle.

Begin your sipping journey with Ridge's 2019 Boatman Zinfandel, which retails for $37, as an introduction to the brand's unique offerings that is drinkable now. You'll find notes of black cherry, fig, and baking spices, and enjoy soft tannins with a long, smooth finish.

8. Ehlers Estate

Amid Saint Helena's opulent wineries and glamorous dining destination lies the understatedly elegant Ehlers Estate, which feels like a breath of fresh air. This winery sits on a late 19th-century property with organically farmed vineyards run by Laura Diaz Munoz since 2018. However, the winery began receiving recognition after French philanthropists Jean and Sylviane Leducq purchased the property in the '90s, seeing the incredible potential for Bordeaux-style wines at this site, and the first vintage was released at the turn of the 21st century. While they no longer own the property, Munoz carries on the Leducq's vision by making exceptional wines from ​​cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and sauvignon blanc.

Ehlers Estate sits on an Old World-style property unique to the state, which allows the team to control every aspect of growth and production, leading to the most exceptional wines possible. It's considered one of the best wineries in Napa to visit, according to Reader's Digest, and an afternoon here offers an inside look at the care and dedication behind every bottle.

The winery recommends introducing yourself to the label with its 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $72. This medium-to-full-bodied wine offers endless layers of complexity with an earthy, mineral-like first sip and a rich, fruity finish.

9. Opus One Winery

Opus One is a partnership between legendary wine visionaries Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Napa Valley's Robert Mondavi. The mission behind the union was to put all of their knowledge, focus, and passion into high-quality wine. The pair's first vintage under the Opus One Winery name was released in 1979, and it became the first ultra-premium California wine to be sold on the international market, International Wine Report adds and has since produced numerous 99-point bottles.

Opus One's estate vineyards are located in Napa Valley's Oakville AVA and are within the famed To Kalon Vineyard. Winemaking hasn't changed all that much in the last four decades of operation, and the winery still prioritizes hand-harvesting and traditional methods while integrating modern techniques when it benefits the process, environment, and, of course, the quality of the wine.

Opus One 2018 is the current vintage available and retails for $365. The bottle features aromas of rich, dark fruits, smooth tannins, fresh acidity, and a long, lingering finish that is a hallmark of the storied label.

10. Charles Krug Winery

While storied wineries are abundant on this list, Charles Krug Winery is the oldest wine estate in Napa Valley, dating back to 1861 — and it's also home to the first tasting room, which opened in 1882. The Mondavi family purchased the estate in the '40s, naming it after its founder, Charles Krug, and the 147-acre estate was the beginning of a vintner dynasty built on family values and European winemaking traditions.

Charles Krug Winery has been the site of many innovations by the Mondavi family over the years. It was here that Peter Mondavi Sr. pioneered the cold fermentation technique for white varietals, while the winery was the first in Napa Valley to utilize French oak barrels in the aging process of its red wines. Four generations later, Charles Krug remains a pillar of the Mondavi legacy, featuring expressive, elegant, sustainably farmed wines that speak to the diversity of the region's terroir.

The Charles Krug 2018 Pinot Noir, which retails for $28, makes an excellent introductory wine, as it highlights the success of the Mondavi family's efforts to begin planting Burgundian varietals in the now-iconic Carneros AVA. This wine offers a bouquet of cola, dried berries, toasted brown sugar, and flavors of baked cherries and tobacco leaf with a bright, lingering finish.

11. Paul Hobbs Winery

Deemed "The Steve Jobs of Wine" by Forbes, Paul Hobbs has built his winemaking career on the lessons he learned growing up on a farm in upstate New York. Understanding the importance of terroir, traditional farming methods, and respect for the land at a young age, Hobbs went across the country in the '70s to intern with Robert Mondavi, and the rest is history. After jumping onto the Opus One project with Mondavi and Baron de Rothschild, he was hooked on wine and began dreaming of a label of his own. 

Hobbs launched his eponymous winery in 1991, and he helped popularize native yeast fermentation, zero filtration, and other natural winemaking methods that weren't en vogue in California 30 years ago. Paul Hobbs Winery prides itself on crafting the best wines from the best sites across the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, and Napa Valley that offer the best expressions of chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc. 

Trying the 2018 Hyde Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir, which retails for $90, speaks to the winery's legacy, as Hyde Vineyard is one of the first Hobbs sourced from when the winery was founded. It offers a clean earthiness, aromas of dark fruits and cherry with firm tannins, and a touch of acidity before a long finish. You'll have to join an allocation list to enjoy the latest release.

12. Stags' Leap Winery

Stags' Leap Winery is one of the oldest wineries in Napa at nearly 130 years old. It also resides in the prestigious Stag's Leap District AVA, which is a small but mighty (and prestigious) group of 17 wineries and 10 growers — many of whom are Napa Green Certified, (via Napa Valley Life Magazine). One of those wineries is Stags' Leap. The winery prides itself on producing top-rated Petite Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, among other Bordeaux varietals, and a best-selling rosé.

Stags' Leap Winery's head winemaker and general manager, Christophe Paubert, employs traditional, simple, and hands-on practices inspired by his education in France to make wines that are both intense and yet full of finesse. The winery itself embodies that sense of understated French elegance and is considered one of the most beautiful in the valley, according to VERANDA, which is saying something these days.

Stags' Leap Winery has become well-known for its Ne Cede Malis Petit Syrah, Stags Leap District Winegrowers notes, and the current 2017 vintage release was awarded 95 points by Wine Advocate. The publication says the bottle offers a full-bodied palate, firm yet approachable tannins, and a lingering, flavorful finish, making for a Petite Syrah aficionado's dream bottle.

13. Quintessa

Rutherford's Quintessa is all about cultivating grapes that reflect the 280-acre site's unique geology, biodiversity, and microclimates to make impeccable red blends. Its founders, Agustin and Valeria Huneeus, saw the potential this land had to become a world-renowned wine estate, and it has certainly proven itself. Quintessa's current vintage, the 2018 Quintessa, received a 98-point rating from Wine Enthusiast and a 99-point rating from James Suckling, according to wine retailer KLWines.

The winery grows cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot, and carminénère across 26 wine blocks. The Huneeus' are committed to organic, biodynamic farming, and each block is individually harvested and vinified to preserve and highlight its nuances. 

After 15 vintages, the winery believes it just may have found its most spectacular in the 2018 Quintessa, which retails for $210. While the brand is sold out of the highly sought-after bottle, you may still be able to experience it by shopping high-end secondary retailers online. The Quintessa team particularly loves this vintage as it is the product of a "perfect growing season" with both intense notes of dark fruit and more savory characters like sage and thyme. 

14. Heitz Cellar

Heitz Cellar is one of several Napa revolutionaries on this list. The winery is led by a commitment to producing organic and biodynamically farmed wines from 100% Napa Valley fruit, which leads to wines that are a lively experience of the region. Joe Heitz, the winery's pioneering vintner, helped bring Napa winemaking into the modern age with the valley's first vineyard-designated cabernet sauvignon and the now-iconic Heitz Cellar Martha's Vineyard.

Heitz Cellar's vineyards are located in some of the best sub-appellations Napa has to offer: Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Howell Mountain, Oak Knoll District, and Calistoga, which allows the winery to highlight the region's diversity and showcase the best fruit. And this is certainly the case, as the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Martha's Vineyard earned the No. 3 spot on Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2021 list.

Besides the Martha's Vineyard, the winery suggests trying the 2016 Lot-C Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, which retails for $100 (and is one-third the price). This historic wine highlights Joe Heitz's vision of creating an exceptional wine with grapes sourced exclusively from Heitz Cellars' prized single vineyards and boasts unique savory elements and a harmonized yet complex finish.

15. Caymus Vineyards

Caymus Vineyards has become one of the most recognizable names in California wine as it is one of the most popular restaurant wine-list brands, (via Wine & Spirits Magazine). This family-run winery is part of the Wagner Family of Wine and was founded nearly 50 years ago by Chuck Wagner in Rutherford. The Wagner family's roots in Napa Valley go back to the 1850s, and their winemaking legacy is as strong as ever considering Caymus's Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon is the only wine to have been twice-named "Wine of the Year" by Wine Spectator. Chuck Wagner and his father, Charlie, were honored with the publication's Distinguished Service Award, according to Napa Valley Vintners, for their role in pioneering American winemaking.

The Wagner family has been part of the tiresome journey to establish California wine, particularly cabernet sauvignon, as a rival up there with the best Old World names. Their efforts have paid off over the decades, as Wine Pros deemed Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon the best red wine under $100, beating out bottles from France, Italy, and Spain, not to mention Australia's Penfolds. 

Caymus's current release, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $82, makes a great introduction to what the brand is all about: Showcasing the best of the Napa Valley with grapes from eight of its sub-appellations. Drinkers will experience layered, lush aromas with rich flavors that include cocoa and ripe dark fruit. 

16. Aperture Cellars

Founded by father-son duo Andy and Jesse Katz, Healdsburg's Aperture Cellars is causing quite a stir in the wine industry with 98-point cabernet sauvignons that showcase the best of Sonoma. While son Jesse has become acclaimed for producing the world's most expensive bottle of wine and making bottles for the stars, Riff Magazine reports, his real passion is in the more accessible offerings under the Aperture label — and the spectacular new art-filled estate where oenophiles can experience the brand in real life.

Jesse Katz is passionate about Bordeaux varietals, and he has searched high and low for the best cool-climate spots to grow sauvignon blanc, malbec, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, among others for the winery's impressive portfolio. The brand recommends trying its latest release, the Soil Series 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $70 and has received 95-to-97 points from Robert Parker's "The Wine Advocate." It is Aperture's 11th vintage and the first red wine in the series to be made completely from the vineyards at Aperture Estate.

17. To Kalon Vineyard Company

To Kalon Vineyard Company is named after the iconic vineyard that has provided some of the best cabernet sauvignon in the state and is considered by Food & Wine to be one of the most important California vineyards. The vineyard was first cultivated in the 1860s and was so fertile that founder H.W. Crabb named the wine produced from its bounty "To Kalon" or, "highest beauty," in Greek. To Kalon Vineyard Co. is focused on preserving that legacy that allows discerning oenophiles around the world the ability to taste the fruits of this storied destination. 

Winemaker Andy Erickson has worked for some of the biggest names in wine across California and Chile (including Paul Hobbs), and the three wines under the To Kalon Vineyard Co. label pay tribute to Crabbs and his preservation of this ideal stretch of land. While wines from the likes of Opus One are also sourced from this vineyard, Erickson and the winery are working their way to legendary status among Mondavi and Hobbs's labels as several of its vintages have earned 97 points or higher, according to Wine.com and retailer Woodland Hills Wine Company

The brand's 2018 Highest Beauty Cabernet Sauvignon, which retails for $200, is crafted from 100% cabernet sauvignon. It highlights 2018's perfect growing season with soft tannins, richness, and complex aromas that will elevate any occasion.

18. Patrimony Estate

Brothers Daniel and Georges Daou built a Paso Robles wine empire with their first wine venture, DAOU Vineyards, one of the top-rated California cabernet sauvignons on the market, Vivino says, and offered at a staggeringly lower price than its competitors. However, the brothers' latest project, Patrimony Estate, is proving even more impressive. They are working to create world-class Bordeaux-style wines that rival the best of the region, and are doing just that as their 2017 cabernet sauvignon received a 99 rating from Jeb Dunnuck.

These pioneers of central California wine country speak to the brothers' Old World upbringing, their passion, and their deep respect for the distinct terroir they searched high and low for across the state. The brand ferments the grapes with wild yeast, the wine is made from 100% free-run juice, and the wine is aged in rare French oak barrels that were sourced from a forestry initiative spearheaded by King Louis XIV for 30 months to create Patrimony Estate's highly lauded wines.

Introduce yourself to the world of Patrimony Estate with the 2018 cabernet sauvignon, which retails for $270. This wine boasts a full-bodied, silky palate and an intense range of aromatics from lilac, cedar, cooked dark berries, and dark chocolate. You'll have to join a waitlist to snag a bottle from the estate, but it will be worth the wait with a celebration, and you can always enjoy the $25 DAOU Cabernet Sauvignon in the meantime.

19. JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery

JUSTIN is the second of two Paso Robles wineries on this list that have helped to establish this area — and the Central Coast as a whole — as a tour de force in the industry. Its first vineyards were planted in 1981 with a mission to make widely respected Bordeaux-style blends made with the best of Old World traditions and New World technology. Just over four decades later, JUSTIN is producing numerous 94+-point bottles that have earned the winery, and Paso Robles, lots of attention.

While the brand is best known for its Isosceles blend, its Syrah-forward rosé has begun receiving wide acclaim in recent years from publications like Town & Country and Oprah Daily. JUSTIN's winery has also become a must-visit destination for both tastings and a meal at The Restaurant at JUSTIN, which Michelin Guide says is an understated yet elegant celebration of the seasons and its ingredients. 

Start your JUSTIN journey with the 2019 ISOSCELES, which retails for $85. This vintage is led by cabernet sauvignon and supported by cabernet franc and merlot, which is excellent for drinking right now while stocking up on a few for the cellar. 

20. Hirsch Vineyards

Hirsch Vineyards is a second-generation family winery that is producing some of the finest pinot noirs in the New World, Cru Wines adds. Hirsch houses the oldest pinot noir plantings on the Sonoma Coast and pioneered the area as a prime pinot noir and chardonnay destination. Founder David Hirsch's daughter, Jasmine Hirsch, is now at the helm as general manager and winemaker, seeking not only to produce some of the best wines in California but wines that come from organic and biodynamic farming practices.

The brand has been producing its estate chardonnays and pinot noirs since 2002, and the winery is built in the center of the ranch, allowing a full immersive winemaking experience that involves the makers and growers in every step of the process. The dedication to the craft is worth it, as The Wall Street Journal calls the ranch a "pinot paradise" that makes some of the most distinctive and best wines.

Jasmine Hirsch recommends introducing yourself to the brand with a bottle of its flagship wine. The 2019 Hirsch "San Andreas Fault" Estate Pinot Noir, which retails for $60, offers a real taste of the ranch, as it is made from fruit across 36 of its distinct farming blocks.

21. Gundlach Bundschu Winery

Affectionately known as GunBun, Gundlach Bundschu Winery is California's oldest family-run winery, dating back to 1858. The wines are sourced from the family's Rhinefarm estate in the Sonoma Valley, and the brand has become known for its Gewürztraminer. However, it focuses on Bordeaux-style varietals, with its Mountain Cuvée being the sixth most popular by-the-glass red blend in the U.S., according to the brand. GunBun also prides itself on being the top Uber destination in all of Sonoma County.

This sixth-generation family winery makes terroir-driven, sustainably farmed wines with a goal of achieving a Regenerative Organic Certification in 2023, and one visit to the winery will show you why it is the top Uber destination in the area. There are nearly a dozen different types of tasting experiences on the property, and you can find some incredible live music playing throughout the year, as the family is equally as passionate about music as it is about wine.

Get a taste of GunBun's 160-year history with the 2021 Gewürtztraminer, which retails for $27, and is one of the original varietals planted by the Bundschu's great, great, great grandfather in the mid-1800s. This full-bodied white wine offers aromas of lychee and rosewater while featuring a crisp, tart minerality that will have you hooked upon the first sip.

22. Scribe Winery

The youngest pick on this list, Scribe is Sonoma's hottest winery, Architectural Digest notes. But it is more than just a pretty face: Scribe produces highly sought-after terroir-driven wines on a property that pioneered pre-Prohibition winemaking in the region. Brothers and fourth-generation California farmers, Andrew Mariani and Adam Mariani, are at the helm of this buzzy brand that produces classic varietals, exciting Pét-Nats, seasonal vermouths, and even olive oil. 

Scribe's wines are made with low-interventionist, organic methods to support a healthy ecosystem while making the best site-specific wines possible. While the initial draw for a visit is to taste (and stock up on) the brand's unique range of wines and exciting expressions of popular varietals, its culinary program and incredible views from the lovingly restored hacienda will keep you lingering for hours, according to Bon Appétit. Who wouldn't want to stop by this beautiful winery and enjoy a glass of wine?

23. La Crema Winery

La Crema Winery was first founded in 1979 under the name La Crema Vinera, which means "best of the vine." The family-run winery is dedicated to producing expressive, elegant wines from cool-climate appellations in California and Oregon that are inspired by Burgundian-style chardonnay and pinot noir. However, the folks at La Crema began working with pinot noir grapes early on in California and have become well known for producing earthy, approachable, and affordable bottles of it, Wine Enthusiast points out.

The mission of La Crema winery is all about "letting the land lead," according to the brand's site, and it is part of the Sustainable Winegrowers Alliance, seeking to steward the land carefully and responsibly across its vineyards in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Head winemaker Craig McAllister aims to take the best of Bordeaux-style winemaking through a contemporary California lens to produce refreshing wines that pair excellently with delicious food and people you love. You'll experience it all through the winery's popular visitor experiences, which Forbes considers a must-see for oenophiles and culinary enthusiasts alike. 

Introduce yourself to the brand's portfolio with a bottle of the 2020 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, which retails for $23. Drinkers will experience a citrusy, botanical, and refreshing take on chardonnay that's far from many of the oaky bottles you'll find in Napa. 

24. Matthiasson Wines

Six-time James Beard Award-nominated Matthiasson Wines is run by husband-and-wife duo Steve and Jill Klein Matthiasson in Napa Valley. After many years working in the local food movement and sustainable agriculture, the couple pivoted to winemaking in 2003 with a mission to produce refreshing bottles that pair excellently with food, while having a lower alcohol content than many other California wines.

The Matthiassons have become pioneers of what is now called "new California winemaking," Chris Struck for JancisRobinson.com notes, aiming to produce more balanced wines the Old World way with traditional methods, while also making organic and sustainable farming a priority and championing the wellbeing of their employees as a crucial element of the business. You'll find plenty of cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel from the brand, but it also offers bottles made from rarer and less traditional grapes for California like pinot Meunier, schioppettino, and refosco.

There are so many offerings that deserve exploration to understand the breadth of the Matthiasson's mission and achievements, but the winemakers suggest trying the ever-popular 2021 Rosé California, which retails for $39 and is made with a blend of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, and counoise. Jill Klein Matthiasson says that it's a delicious, bright, and fun, but also a serious, wine that is extremely versatile in pairing with food. 

25. Realm Cellars

Realm Cellars may be one of the youngest wineries on the list, but its age certainly has no impact on the quality of its wines. Owner Scott Becker has seen the brand through bankruptcy, an early iteration as a virtual winery, and now an established spot in Napa's prestigious Stags Leap District that has gained serious traction. Through all the ups and downs of the early days, Realm is now producing some of the top wines in California, Wine-Searcher adds, and the brand is just getting started.

Realm Cellars seeks to balance the owners' shared passions for science, innovation, artistry, and emotion to create some of the state's top high-end wines. Its portfolio includes both single vineyard and proprietary blends, and, in addition to its own estate vineyards, Realm teams up with some of the best local growers and vineyard sites to achieve highly collectible, experiential wines that are worthy of the most discerning buyer's cellars.

Realm Cellars' flagship wine, The Bard, whose 2019 current release retails for $160, received a 98-point rating from James Suckling and a 99-point rating from Jeb Dunnuck, Wine.com explains, and it is an excellent introduction to the brand. This blend features the best grapes from across Napa Valley and is a dark, velvety, and complex wine that is both ready to drink and store.