A great bottle of wine can turn your day around and lift a good meal to new heights. These new release from some of the best winemakers in the United States are bottles to savor.
Crescere is one of the newest boutique wineries in Sonoma County, but already among the best thanks to legendary winemaker Philippe Melka. Founded by husband-and-wife team, Joe and Elena Reynoso, in 2016, their estate vineyard overlooks Alexander Valley and only 150 acres of the 500-acre estate are planted, a careful selection of the best plots of land for their cabernet sauvignon, syrah and sauvignon blanc. The former is the star in their second ever vintage, with deep cassis and coffee notes, along with a bouquet of spices from French oak barrels. This is a powerful wine with tight tannins that will become even more extraordinary in 10 or 20 years. Less than 200 cases were produced, so it's worth holding onto. London-based artist Yehrin Tong designed their wine labels, inspired by the Maori koru symbol, symbolizing new life, growth and peace – apropos considering that Joe's father immigrated from Mexico to work on farms in California's Central Valley.
More than 20 years after they burst onto the scene, Sonoma County's cult classic pinot noir keeps getting better. Their appellation blends are wonderful, but if you have a chance to try their single-vineyard expressions, don't pass it up. These wines are available by allocation only and an extraordinary example of terroir. There are nine pinot noirs (and a lone chardonnay) in their single vineyard series, and Gap's Crown is a personal favorite for its aromas of blueberries and honeycomb and a long, elegant finish that makes your mouth water. Chef Justin Sutherland recommends pairing it with smoked king crab risotto made with forbidden black rice and fried sunchoke. Here's a link to the recipe.
A pioneer in the Russian River Valley AVA, Gary Farrell is best known for small-lot, single vineyard pinot noir and chardonnay. Winemaker Theresa Heredia continues Farrell's legacy with a reverence for the land and precision in winemaking that has earned Gary Farrell wines hundreds of 90+ scores during her tenure. The Hallberg vineyard is located in Green Valley, the only official sub-AVA in the Russian River Valley, with distinctive dark fruit and earthy notes thanks to its proximity to the coast and how cool and foggy this vineyard tend to be. The current vintage has notes of black cherry and a hint of black truffle and porcini mushrooms with a strong acid backbone that should allow this bottle to age beautifully.
This estate grown cabernet sauvignon from one of Napa Valley's most iconic wineries is a beauty. Audentia is both intense and elegant, with flavors of blackberries, cassis and dark chocolate intertwined with floral notes of violet and star anise. A fatty steak like a ribeye or a sirloin will always be an ideal pairing as both cuts will stand up to the rich, robust flavors. If you’re not a meat-eater, a big, juicy grilled Portobello mushroom finished off with butter and garlic will make this cabernet shine. Only 800 cases of the 2017 vintage were produced, and the powerful wine should continue to age well over the next 25 years thanks to its fine-grained tannins and concentrated fruit.
Anderson Valley is known as one of the best regions in the world to grow famously finnicky pinot noir and when Dan and Margaret Duckhorn of Napa Valley's Duckhorn Vineyards founded Goldeneye in 1996, their goal was to make world-class pinot. More than 20 years later, all of their pinot noir is first rate, made from a blend of grapes from four estate vineyards, but Ten Degrees is considered the pinnacle of the portfolio, with notes of wild blueberries and cassis waltzing through an herbaceous forest. Winemaker Katey Larwood recomends pairing Ten Degrees with Mediterranean braised lamb shanks or a bowl of spicy ratatouille and a fresh baguettte.
American sparkling wine is reaching new heights, and Oregon is leading the charge. Oregon has long grown world-class pinot noir and chardonnay – two of the three grapes traditionally found in champagne – and the best sparkling wines from the region could be mistaken for Champange. Domaine Serene became the first winery in Oregon to build a winery dedicated solely for the production of sparkling wine and chardonnay with the 2018 opening of the “White Winery” which was quickly followed by the inaugural sparkling launch with the 2019 'Evenstad Reserve' Brut M.V. 1 Sparkling Wine. Winemaker Rachel Zasadini helms the sparkling program and her new 'Evenstad Reserve' Dundee Hills Brut Rosé M.V. 1 is her first brut rosé. It's been a long time in the making, aged for four years on yeast and received 94 points from Wine Enthusiast for its fine mousse, long finish and vibrant raspberry flavors.
This may only be Flâneur's second vintage producing sparkling wine, but their Chehalem Mountains extra brut is simply exquisite. All three traditional champagne grapes are used here – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinor meunier – but it's the oft-overlooked pinot meunier that leads the blend at 43%. Flâneur's hand-harvested and organically farmed grapes undergo a native yeast fermention with minimal intervention, allowing the terroir of the volcanic basalt soils to shine. Crisp Asian pear and a bright, briny minerality mean this wine pairs beautifully with a wide variety of food, with a fine, persistent mousse lingering on the tongue. Only 404 cases were made, so you'll need to be quick to get your hands on a bottle. In the future, Flâneur also plans to release blanc de blancs and 100% pinot meunier sparkling wines.
California has a long tradition of making great sparkling wine too. Cuvaison is an independent, family-owned winery in Carneros that works exclusively with estate grown grapes. Their latest champagne-method sparkling is a blend of 65% pinot noir and 35% chardonnay for a delicate copper hue with aromas of ginger, grapefruit and wild raspberries. Cuvaison’s longtime winemaker, Steve Rogstad, made the winery’s first vintage of Brut Rosé as an experiment in 2012, released to club members with wild acclaim in 2015. It's the only sparkling wine they make and there are only 604 cases of the 2017 vintage. Fortunately, they completed their 2017 harvest right before the Patrick Road Fire began, so they were spared any damage. The yeasty brioche flavors pair well with fresh oysters and Comté cheese.
Biodynamic and regenerative agriculture is a keystone in Brooks’ winemaking philosophy and their new bone dry sparkling riesling is no exception. In November, Brooks Winery released the second-vintage-ever of their new world sekt, aged for 44 months on lees before disgorgement and sourced entirely from Hyland Vineyard. “The combination of really old vines planted in volcanic soils gives us the layered complexity and minerality we enjoy in our favorite examples of sparkling riesling,” says assistant winemaker Claire Jarreau. The ripe fruit flavors combine with high acid tension and restraint to make this an excellent pairing for coconut shrimp or any spicy seafood dishes.