The Best New Wineries in the U.S.
Between the cringe-worthy term mommy juice, "If you can read this, bring me wine" socks and snarkily branded bottles of subpar swill, American wine marketing hasn't exactly done itself any favors in recent years. For these and countless other crimes against the vine, U.S. wine has experienced something of an image crisis.
But thanks the work of forward-thinking growers and producers, an exciting new crop of domestic wines is making its way into homes and restaurants all over the country. And though they can't do much for the soul wearing the "Puppies, Wine, and I'm Fine" sweatshirt, they can shake up preconceived notions of oaky Chards and over-the-top Cabs. Here's a look at the new American wines to try right this second, from Northern California to Texas Hill Country.
Drawing upon their heritage—they both come from French wine families—Sebastien and Celine LeSeurre channel the terroir of Upstate New York into cool-weather varietals, including Cabernet Francs, Chardonnays and Rieslings. Their lineup ranges from drink-ASAP rosés to barrel-aged bottles meant for the cellar.
(North Coast, CA)
With seven vineyards scattered throughout Sonoma and Napa Counties, Steve and Jill Klein Matthiasson have parlayed their backgrounds in agriculture into some of California's most exciting new bottles. The Matthiassons recently rolled out their own sweet vermouth, which is made from a naturally fermented base that's been aromatized with homegrown cardoons, blood oranges and sour cherries.
(Santa Cruz, CA)
Kenny Likitprakong, who spent his teenage years surfing and skating, is a self-taught hobo winemaker who prides himself on remaining detached from any particular plot of land. Likitprakong doesn't grow grapes himself, instead choosing to source from around California. Much like his nontraditional background, Likitprakong's wines don't follow the typical methods or flavor profiles, making for bottles with a punk ethos—and some particularly appealing Pinots.
Texas Hill Country might be best known for barbecue and high school football, but the area is also home to the country's second-largest AVA, or designated wine-growing region. Ron Yates is a relative newcomer to the viticulture scene, but his family has been working the land for seven generations. Yates uses grapes grown on- and off-site to create masterful Spanish varietals, including Albarino, Garnacha and Tempranillo.
A trio of winemakers—Les Lunes, Ama Cellars and Populis—work collectively under a simple and straightforward premise: "Grow the grapes (without synthetic chemicals), make the wine (without yeast or additives), bottle the wine (with little or no sulfur), drink the wine (with friends). Repeat." Dry farming, old vines and French-oak aging lends their Sauvignon Blanc more of a chill Loire Valley vibe than the tropical-fruit explosion you may be used to.
This idyllic winery, situated east of Sacramento, is the brainchild of Hank Beckmeyer, a former member of the band Half Japanese, a pioneer in the art rock movement. Made from the minimal-manipulation ethos that brings so much character to natural wines, La Clarine's offerings are as lively as its vineyards, which buzz with plants and insects. Beckmeyer's laid-back approach can lead to happy accidents, like a 2016 One-Eighty, an unsuccessful attempt at sparkling wine that evolved into a lovely blend of Albarino and Marsanne.
Caroline Coral is a food and travel writer who splits her time between Philadelphia and the Caribbean. Follow her on Instagram at @caroline.f.coral.
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