Check out the best wines from previous years here!
As 2023 comes to a close, we have yet another opportunity to reflect on the stellar cast of wines we’ve sampled this year at VinePair HQ. Bottles from around the world — from trusted classics to unexpected delights — pulled our hearts in every direction with their charm and verve.
White Cabernet Franc from Long Island? Sure! Vermentino from California? Why not! Refošk from Slovenia? Bring it on!
As always, every bottle we tasted in 2023 was considered for review, our popular buying guides, as well as this, our annual ranking of the 50 best wines of the year. Those tastings saw us traverse the U.S. and beyond, to Australia, France, Italy, Croatia, and more.
Some themes emerge with closer inspection of the list. We deepened our love of chillable reds, with enchanting bottles from Valpolicella and Beaujolais inspiring us to save a spot in the fridge for red wines, too. We developed a taste for juicy rosés from Austria. And we found treasure in the Willamette Valley, with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and sparkling wine from thoughtful producers all catching our attention.
Although classic California bottles continue to stand out, we discovered greatness in wines that push the boundaries of what exactly “California wine” is. Don’t expect jammy, over-extracted oak bombs. Prepare instead for vibrant Gamay from Sonoma, peppery Cabernet Franc from Santa Barbara, and two Zinfandels that show elegance and restraint.
The wines listed below were tasted and reviewed by VinePair’s tasting panel, which compiled an initial list of our favorite wines from 2023, then pared it down to 50 based on quality, value, and availability in the U.S.
Read on for VinePair’s 50 best wines of 2023.
50. Storm Point Red Blend 2022
This red blend from South Africa’s Western Cape region is an ideal weeknight wine. The combination of 50 percent Syrah, 40 percent Cinsault, and 10 percent Carignan provides impressive balance for a $15 bottle. The Syrah acts as the wine’s canvas, giving it great structure and complex savory notes. The Cinsault adds vibrant red fruit aromas, and the Carignan brings the bold, brambly berry flavors.
Average price: $15
49. Corey Creek White Cabernet Franc 2022
Corey Creek is a small-batch offshoot of Long Island’s popular Bedell Cellars. Under this label, winemaker Marin Brennan crafts experimental wines that go well beyond what’s expected from the North Fork AVA. Though Cabernet Franc is popular on Long Island, this wine provides a fresh take on the variety — fermenting the grapes without skin contact. This “Blanc de Franc,” if you will, showcases Cabernet Franc’s distinct herbaceous characteristics with aromas of green pepper and eucalyptus. The palate shakes things up with notes of soft white peaches and a unique waxy texture.
Average price: $30
48. Bodega Aleanna ‘El Enemigo’ Malbec 2019
El Enemigo is a collaboration between renowned producer Adrianna Catena and winemaker Alejandro Vigil in Mendoza, Argentina. And this Malbec might be the best deal going when it comes to the complexity available at this price. The wine is delightfully expressive with a great mix of dark fruit notes and an earthy, savory vibe. It has a plush mouthfeel while still offering great structure.
Average Price: $26
47. Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard Semi-Dry Riesling 2022
Hermann J. Wiemer is a leading winery in the Finger Lakes region, known for its expressive and precise Rieslings. While some shudder at the idea of residual sugar in wine, bottles like this semi-dry Riesling help crack even the toughest food pairings. It has a wildly aromatic nose, with notes of potpourri, honeysuckle, and orange peel, and the palate strikes a great balance between sweetness and acidity.
Average price: $20
46. Brigaldara Valpolicella 2022
Many associate Italy’s Valpolicella region with the big, bold wines of Amarone della Valpolicella. This wine is the complete opposite of that. Though from the same region, the base-level Valpolicella Classico DOC wines are made in a style that accentuates the lighter side of the local grapes, Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella. This bottle is a blend of all three varieties and immediately strikes with zesty, tart red fruit flavors. There’s raspberry, citrus, and an interesting note of red licorice, all lifted by a lively acidity. As one of our favorite chillable red wines of the year, we recommend throwing it in the fridge for a short while before opening.
Average price: $15
45. Gigondas LaCave Cuvée du Président 2021
Gigondas is a commune in the Southern Rhône known for its bold red blends, often living in the shadow of its more prestigious neighbor, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Though it might not be as famous, Gigondas offers a similar quality for a more approachable price. This bottle is a blend of 65 percent Grenache, 20 percent Syrah, 10 percent Mourvèdre, and 5 percent Cinsault. Deep fruit notes of blackberries, raspberries, and black currants are complemented by savory hints of licorice, spices, and campfire smoke. Overall, it’s a balanced wine with well-integrated tannins.
Average price: $45
44. Sister’s Run Epiphany Shiraz 2020
While Australian Shiraz sometimes gets a bad rap as a simple, mass-produced wine, thoughtfully made examples like this bottling from Sister’s Run show the style’s true potential. The grapes were sourced from Penny’s Hill vineyard, a unique site that sits on the foothills east of McLaren Vale. The sandy loam soils there lend to perfumed aromatics of pepper, earth, and fresh blackberries. The palate brings flavors of stewed plums and a warming chocolate note from the wine’s time in barrel. It’s full-bodied without being overbearing, and brings out the savory complexity this grape delivers when handled well.
Average price: $20
43. Argyle Knudsen Vineyard Blanc de Blancs 2018
Founded in 1987, Argyle is one of the essential estates in the Dundee Hills sub-appellation of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Though it makes both still and sparkling expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Argyle is most known for its precise, single-vineyard sparkling expressions, like this Blanc de Blancs. It has a rich nose with aromas of apricot, lemon zest, and almond biscotti. These notes are lifted on the palate by bright acidity and a delicate mousse.
Average price: $60
42. Château Cissac Haut Médoc 2020
Bordeaux’s Cru Bourgeois designation was created to highlight wines that deliver great quality and value. The system recognizes impressive wineries within the Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac, Moulis, Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac, and Saint-Estèphe regions. This wine from Château Cissac in the Haut Médoc has inviting aromas of soil, dark berry fruit, and worn leather, while the palate is soft with a slight grip. Deep and balanced, it delivers everything you want from Bordeaux, and it’s a steal at $30.
Average price: $30
41. Mazzei Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva 2018
Sometimes there’s nothing better than a glass of Chianti and a big bowl of pasta. Make sure to have this perfect bottle on hand for those moments. A classic expression of Sangiovese, it has notes of tart cherries, cooking herbs, and cedar, with a great structure that can stand up to even the heartiest of sauces.
Average price: $35
40. Dogwood & Thistle Shenandoah Valley Cabernet Franc 2022
Dogwood & Thistle’s husband-and-wife team Sandy and Erin Robertson have roots in both California and Virginia, but had only previously made wine in California until now. Made in Erin’s home state of Virginia, this wine has all of the earthy components we look for in a great Cabernet Franc, with wisps of forest floor, dried leaves, baking spice, and cocoa accenting the juicy red fruit. If you haven’t already, it’s time to give Cab Franc from Virginia a shot.
Average price: $36
39. Best’s Great Western Riesling 2022
Australian producers have honed in on the bone-dry style of Riesling, offering expressive bottles that can appeal to even the most critical skeptics. This bottle from the Great Western subregion of Victoria has beautiful aromatics of green tea and honeysuckle, while the palate has a laser-like focus with mouthwatering acidity.
Average price: $26
38. Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello di Montalcino 2018
This Brunello di Montalcino from third-generation family winery Cortonesi is a textbook example of the Tuscan red’s ageability; you could cellar it for decades or enjoy it now after decanting. The wine opens with flavors of cherries, strawberries, and earth, framed by grippy tannins. It’s very food friendly, too, and would be stellar with a heaping plate of chicken parm.
Average price: $80
37. Charles Frey Maceration 2021
This skin-contact blend from Alsace jumps out of the glass with floral aromatics. The palate brings notes of juicy pineapples, lychee, and peaches. Its fun color and approachable, fruit-forward palate make it a great introduction to orange wine, but won’t disappoint regular drinkers of the style.
Average price: $26
36. Johan Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir 2021
Johan Vineyards is a biodynamic estate in the Van Duzer Corridor AVA of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. There, winemaker Morgan Beck crafts terroir-driven, cool-climate expressions of grapes typically found in Oregon, like Pinot Noir, and off-the-beaten path varieties like Zweigelt, Ribolla Gialla, and even Savagnin. The winery’s estate Pinot Noir has vibrant red fruit flavors and a hint of savory herbs.
Average price: $36
35. L’Ecole Nº 41 Ferguson Estate Ferguson Vineyard 2020
L’Ecole Nº 41 is a leading winery in Washington’s Walla Walla Valley, and this estate bottling from the Ferguson vineyard is its preeminent Bordeaux blend. The Ferguson vineyard lies on a high-elevation site, with 30 acres of vines overlooking the valley. A Cabernet Sauvignon– and Merlot-driven blend, it has a soft, welcoming nose with earthy tones, and a mix of both dried and brambly fruit. It’s definitely enjoyable now, but is only going to get better with a few years of cellaring.
Average price: $70
34. Kobal Sivi Pinot 2022
Pinot Grigio is known as Sivi Pinot in Slovenia, where it’s typically made with skin contact, lending a light pink, almost copper hue. In the case of this example from Kobal, the skin contact brings complex notes of tropical fruit and white pepper, as well as impressive structure. Its refreshing acidity and subtle tannins will make you want another sip, STAT.
Average price: $23
33. Field Recordings ‘Fiction’ Red 2022
Paso Robles-based Field Recordings sources grapes from vineyards across California. This bold and juicy red blend brings together eight varieties including Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, and Alicante Bouschet, from six different sites. Everything comes together seamlessly, with blueberry pie, raspberry, and chocolate-covered cherry aromas floating out of the glass. The palate brings more of that concentrated fruit, but with a firm tannic structure. A guaranteed crowd pleaser, pick up a bottle for your next dinner party or cookout.
Average price: $20
32. Conde de los Andes Tempranillo 2016
Rioja’s Conde de los Andes winery — an estate with over a kilometer of cellars that date back five centuries — specializes in making wines for aging. Its impressive underground network houses hundreds of thousands of bottles, many from legendary vintages dating back as far as 1892. This 100 percent Tempranillo from 2016 is the latest release, and it’s still remarkably vibrant seven years in. While some Rioja wines can verge on overenthusiastic in their use of American oak, this one shows skillful balance between subtle vanilla notes and soft fruit.
Average price: $55
31. Moorooduc Estate Pinot Noir 2019
Established in 1982 by Richard and Jill McIntyre, Moorooduc Estate became a pioneering winery in Australia’s cool-climate Mornington Peninsula region. The small, family winery sources from vineyards in the Moorooduc area, focusing on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The region’s cooling maritime breezes come through in the freshness of this wine. There are bright red fruits like tangy pomegranate seeds and cherries, coupled with mushrooms, spices, and wild herbs. With each sip the palate reveals even more intriguing savory elements.
Average price: $40
30. Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaudevey 2021
Domaine Laroche has worked with the most esteemed premier and grand cru vineyard sites in Chablis over its centuries of history. This premier cru bottling opens with subtle, pleasant matchstick aromas, complemented by complex notes of green apples, vanilla, and ginger on the palate. And — of course — the bottle delivers on the signature blazing acidity that great Chablis promises.
Average price: $65
29. La Jota Howell Mountain Merlot 2019
This is mountain Merlot at its best. The grapes were sourced from a vineyard in Napa’s Howell Mountain AVA that sits at an elevation of 1,600 feet. That altitude keeps daytime temperatures cooler, while the location above the fog line leads to warmer evenings, resulting in a long, slow growing season. The long hang time allows the fruit to develop deep and complex flavors while maintaining acidity. This particular bottle has a nose of rich dark berries with a wisp of pepper and baking spices from oak aging. The acidity and slight tannic grip balance out deep fruit flavors on the palate.
Average price: $100
28. Alvaredos-Hobbs Mencía 2020
Alvaredos-Hobbs is a collaboration between internationally renowned winemaker Paul Hobbs and local viticulturist Antonio López Fernández in Spain’s northwestern region of Galicia. This bottle hails from the Ribeira Sacra subregion, and is made from 100 percent Mencía, a popular medium-bodied local grape known for its juicy, easy-to-drink profile. This example has the variety’s fruit-forward hallmarks, but with some added complexity from 12 months of aging in French oak barrels. There are juicy plums and blackberries with hints of thyme and cardamom, all framed by perfectly integrated tannins.
Average price: $75
27. Château de Pommard Clos Marey-Monge Grands Esprits 2017
Château de Pommard is located in the heart of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or and is one of the oldest wine estates in the region. This wine showcases the producer’s skill and centuries of experience. The earthy nose is wrapped in cherry and cinnamon aromas, with the slightest hint of oak. There are some fresh hints of rhubarb and a dose of soy, too, while the palate is balanced between tart and fleshy fruit flavors. A great red Burgundy for those who prefer a more fruit-forward palate, it still delivers a touch of the earthy, spicy notes that have brought the region’s reds such acclaim.
Average price: $81
26. Champagne Chavost Blanc d’Assemblage Brut Nature NV
Until recently, Chavost resembled a typical cooperative winery in Champagne, making volume-oriented, conventional wines. But when the spirited chef de caves Fabian Daviaux took over the winery in 2019 at the young age of 30, he shifted the estate’s mindset. He convinced the co-op’s members to designate their collective 13.5 acres of organic land to a new project: making Champagne without any additives. This new approach has led Champagne Chavost to take off in recent years. The “assemblage” bottling is a crisp, mineral-driven wine made with 50 percent Chardonnay and 50 percent Pinot Meunier.
Average price: $60
25. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Karia 2021
Stag’s Leap Cellars holds a special place in American wine history. Along with a few other wineries, it brought international attention to the Napa Valley with its Cabernet’s winning performance in the 1976 Judgement of Paris. Though Cabernet Sauvignon has long been the focus of this winery, it’s also added this beautifully balanced Chardonnay to its lineup. This wine exhibits an impressive use of oak, integrating the rich flavors of vanilla and spice into the wine without having it overpower the Chardonnay’s innate fruit and mineral characteristics.
Average price: $50
24. Outward Curtis Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2022
The pair behind Outward Wines, Natalie Siddique and Ryan Pace, set out to craft small-lot, site-specific wines that showcase the diversity of terroir across California’s Central Coast. This Cabernet Franc comes from the Curtis Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley, which is situated on a small plateau and is slightly warmer than some of the more coastal sites of Santa Barbara County. This sunny location experiences extreme diurnal temperature shifts, making it ideal for Bordeaux varieties like Cab Franc, while still allowing the grapes to retain acidity and freshness. That freshness comes across in the wine’s lively fruit character and bright acidity. There’s a delightfully spicy, chili pepper nose, balanced by notes of tart cranberries, fresh pomegranate, and sour cherries on the palate.
Average Price: $38
23. Umathum Rosa 2021
Josef “Pepi” Umathum is one of Austria’s best-known producers, located in Burgenland’s lakefront Neusiedlersee region. Umathum champions traditional Austrian grape varieties, with the red grapes Zweigelt, St. Laurent, and Blaufränkisch accounting for 85 percent of his plantings. Welschriesling, Roter Traminer, and the extremely rare Gelber Traminer and Lindenblättriger round them out. This biodynamic wine blends the three major red grapes made in the saignée method, resulting in a vibrant fuchsia hue. It’s both juicy and savory on the nose with pops of raspberry, tart pomegranate, and flecks of white pepper. The palate is alive and bright while still featuring earthy tones.
Average price: $25
22. Lingua Franca Bunker Hill Chardonnay 2021
After a storied sommelier career working in some of the country’s top restaurants, Larry Stone set out to make wines of his own in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. He was joined by widely respected Burgundian winemaker Dominique Lafon and Lafon’s protégé, Thomas Savre, and together they released the first vintage of Lingua Franca in 2015. The winery focuses on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, making precise single-vineyard bottlings that express the terroir of their unique site in the Eola-Amity Hills subregion. It’s a Chardonnay that’s all about roundness and texture — reminiscent of olive oil or creamy lemon curd. Mineral-driven acidity still shines through, making this an impeccably balanced wine.
Average price: $75
21. Bedrock Wine Co. Old Vine Zinfandel 2022
Bedrock Wine Co. was founded by Sonoma native Morgan Twain-Peterson in 2007. He grew up in a winemaking family, and Twain-Peterson’s deep connection to the region is evident in his dedication to working with old and historic sites across California. The winery is also a founding member of the Historic Vineyard Society, which preserves and revives historic vineyard sites and promotes viticultural diversity. This bottling showcases what old-vine Zinfandel can accomplish in California, with an average vine age of over 80 years old. The wine has a core of fresh fruit, including orange peel and cranberries, accented by hints of pepper and cinnamon. It’s a wonderful expression of Zinfandel, and serves as a reminder that this grape used to be central to California’s identity, and we could all benefit from giving it a little more attention.
Average price: $30
20. Chateau Montelena Estate Zinfandel 2019
Château Montelena is one of the most famed estates in Napa Valley, since the winery’s Chardonnay won the top prize against some of Burgundy’s finest wines in the 1976 Judgement of Paris. While it still makes stunning expressions of Chardonnay, we were taken aback by Château Montelena’s perfectly balanced Zinfandel. While modern, over-extracted Zinfandels can often come out tasting like chocolate soup, this is a much more restrained and elegant expression of the grape. The wine opens with aromas of orange zest, tart blackberries, and black pepper, and the palate has deep black fruit notes accented by baking spices, cocoa, and dried cherry. While there’s richness, it maintains a medium body on the palate with silky tannins and a hint of minerality.
Average price: $45
19. Champagne Palmer & Co. Grands Terroirs 2015
Champagne Palmer & Co. was established in 1947 by seven grower-families that each owned cherished premier cru and grand cru vineyards in the Montagne de Reims region of Champagne. Today, the winery’s Grands Terroirs bottling is only produced in the finest vintages, and is meant to act as an homage to the winery’s roots in these prized vineyard sites, incorporating grapes from each of the iconic crus they work with. The blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier comes together in this delectably rich Champagne. Notes of brioche, lemon curd, and cheese rind rise out of the glass, and the palate brings an incredible creamy texture and a soft stream of bubbles.
Average price: $145
18. Nathan K. Cabernet Franc 2020
Finger Lakes native Nathan Kendall studied winemaking in cool-climate regions around the world, including New Zealand, Germany, and Oregon, before returning home in 2011 to start his eponymous winery. Kendall took everything he learned and applied it to his wines, leading the Finger Lakes region into a new chapter of complex, savory reds and white wines with impressive texture. This Cabernet Franc features tart red fruit notes of red currant and strawberries, with an underlying herbaceousness. Among a wave of truly incredible Cab Francs coming out of the Finger Lakes, this is one of the best.
Average price: $32
17. Ryme Cellars Vermentino ‘Hers’ 2022
Husband-and-wife winemaking team Ryan and Megan Glaab started California’s Ryme Cellars in 2007 to celebrate uncommon Italian varieties like Aglianico, Frappato, and Fiano. For the most part, the couple agrees on everything — except for how to make Vermentino. So Ryme makes two different Vermentino bottlings, called “His” and “Hers,” respectively. While Ryan prefers to make a savory, skin-contact version of the grape, Megan opts for a delicate and round expression for Hers. This bottling offers notes of cantaloupe and stone fruits, with a creamy texture and a soft, but present, acidity.
Average Price: $27
16. Château Mongravey Margaux Crus Bourgeois Supérieur 2020
Château Mongravey in Margaux is one of the 56 wineries with Crus Bourgeois Supérieur designation, which denotes that the wines reliably deliver outstanding quality and value. This Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend has wonderfully rich fruit notes of black currants and brambly blackberries along with wisps of pepper and cedar. The palate delivers a powerful fruit core framed by a great tannic structure. This is a quintessential steak dinner Bordeaux.
Average price: $40
15. Laura Lardy Fleurie Les Côtes 2019
Laura Lardy is the fourth generation of a Beaujolais winemaking family. She initially wanted to avoid going into the family business, but after a brief stint working in another industry, the vineyards called her back. Lardy rents vineyards from her father, Lucien, which she started to convert to organic agriculture in 2017. This cuvée is made from 50 year old Gamay vines in the Fleurie cru. It lives up to its name with floral aromatics of violets alongside dark fruits and crisp fall leaves. The palate brings flavors of raspberries, cherries, and forest floor, lifted by a vibrant acidity.
Average price: $30
14. Pax Wines Rancho Coda Gamay Noir 2022
Pax and Pamela Mehle founded Pax in 2000 with the goal of crafting balanced, easy-drinking wines in California. Even though the producer is well known for its elegant, cool-climate California Syrahs, the Gamay Noir grape has been another focus for the winery since its founding. Grapes for this wine are sourced from the high-elevation Rancho Coda vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA. This leads to a fresh, fruit-forward expression of Gamay Noir, with notes of blackberries, red plums, and strawberries, and hints of cinnamon, white pepper, and earth. The wine offers ample acidity and minimal tannins, making it a great candidate for a slight chill.
Average price: $38
13. Mark Ryan Winery Little Sister 2021
Mark Ryan loves rock ‘n’ roll and wine, and — like any band worth its salt — he began his wine career out of his garage. Today he’s one of the premier winemakers in Washington State. Keeping true to his roots, you’ll find fun nods to the grunge era and musical references on his labels. This Merlot is crafted with grapes from two premium vineyards, the Quintessence vineyard on Red Mountain and Red Willow in the upper Yakima Valley. Aged for 21 months in 60 percent new French oak, the nose has aromas of dark berries, chocolate, sweet tobacco, and spice. The palate is focused and succinct, but with a concentrated depth of fruit and a meaningful finish.
Average price: $90
12. Argiolas Turriga 2019
Argiolas is one of Sardinia’s top wine estates. Founded in 1938, the winery was one of the first to focus on quality over quantity on the picturesque Italian island. Argiolas’s vineyards are located in the Trexenta hills, just north of the capital of Cagliari, where they farm 600 acres of native Sardinian grapes. The label of this wine showcases a 5,000 year-old statue of the Mother Goddess, which was found buried among the vines and is now safe in the Archaeological Museum of Cagliari. The Argiolas family sees this as a testament to their ties to the land and the vine. The powerful red is a blend of native varieties, with 85 percent Cannonau and 5 percent each of Carignano, Bovale Sardo, and Malvasia Nera. The nose draws you in with deep, earthy fruit and a savory layer reminiscent of Mediterranean herbs. The palate is commanding, with sinking depth held up by high acidity that brings the mouthfeel into harmony. The tannins that frame this wine show that it’s ready for years in bottle, but it can still be enjoyed now.
Average price: $85
11. Massican Sauvignon Blanc 2022
Winemaker Dan Petroski started Massican in 2009 with the goal of making Mediterranean-inspired white wines in Napa Valley. The mere act of not making Cabernet Sauvignon — let alone any red wines at all — was a rebellious and slightly risky move at the time, but Petroski’s bet paid off as his unique, texturally-driven white wines stood out in Napa’s sea of Cab. This Sauvignon Blanc pays homage to the tart expressions of the grape in Italy’s Friuli region, where Sauvignon Blanc is used as a workhorse variety in blends. This California interpretation of the style offers great balance between bright fruit and acidity. There’s an enjoyable texture on the palate and notes of tropical fruit, juicy peach, thyme, oregano, and slate. This is a serious Sauvignon Blanc, and we’re here for it.
Average price: $32
10. Anthony Road Dry Riesling 2021
With little winemaking experience, John and Ann Martini ventured to the Finger Lakes’ Seneca Lake in the ’70s from Baltimore and built a family business in one of the more extreme wine-growing regions of the United States. The family established the winery on Anthony Road, which became the namesake of the project. They started by planting five acres of vines, and eventually expanded to 30, with three main estate vineyards: Martini, Nutt Road, and the teaching vineyard. It’s been a long road (pun intended), but it’s good they kept at it because this Riesling is one of the best we’ve tasted from the region. Honey, petrol, waxy apples, and pears grace the nose. The palate is electric and grippy with some added pops of green tea and minerals. This wine is complex and concentrated, has mouthwatering acidity, and a nice long finish.
Average price: $30
9. Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Since its founding in 1961, Heitz Cellar’s wines have wowed U.S. drinkers with seriously focused expressions. This bottling is made with fruit sourced from the estate’s vineyards across Napa, including sites in Rutherford, Oakville, Howell Mountain, St. Helena, and Oak Knoll. The wine is crafted to be approachable upon release, while still having the ability to evolve over the years. Simply put, this is Napa Valley elegance: Soft savory fruit on the nose; soft textures on the palate. Tannins linger in the background, balancing out the wine’s plush mouthfeel.
Average price: $85
8. Kozlović Malvasia 2022
Malvasia can be a tricky wine to navigate. Several distinct grape varieties across Europe all share the Malvasia name, though some have no known relation to the others. The main sub-variety, Malvasia Bianca, is popular in Italy, but there are also many specific regional variations, such as Croatia’s Malvasia Istriana. This variety is native to the country’s northern Istrian peninsula that juts into the Adriatic sea. Here, the Kozlović family has worked the land for generations. This bottle represents a truly authentic example of the grape, offering an intensely fragrant nose of acacia flowers and mandarin oranges. The palate brings vibrant acidity and a delightful, waxy texture with soft citrus flavors like preserved lemon.
Average price: $24
7. Kolfok Intra! the Wild Rosé 2022
The name “Kolfok” comes from a local Austrian dialect that describes an unconventional thinker, or a person who questions common thoughts. True to form, this is not your typical rosé. Winemaker Stefan Wellanschitz chose this name when he decided to launch his own winery, deviating from his family’s more traditional estate. Kolfok’s wines showcase the region’s terroir and local grapes but with an experimental twist. For example, his “Intra!” series is made with varying degrees of carbonic maceration. This lively rosé features organically farmed Blaufränkisch grapes that undergo whole cluster fermentation in a semi-closed container before being aged in large Austrian barrels for several months. While the nose is deceptively calm, the palate delivers punchy flavor, with notes of bramble berries and freshly cracked black pepper.
Average price: $25
6. Cobden Wini Wines Old Federal Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
Mark Davis left his hometown in Maryland to pursue a dream of winemaking in California. The Cobden Wini name is a tribute to his parents, Christopher Cobden Davis and Mary Winifred Davis, who supported him along the way. This wine’s label nods to Mark’s father’s love of Cab — and the wine itself surely lives up to his standards. Sourced from the historic Old Federal Vineyard in Napa’s Oakville district, it’s a formidable expression of the variety. The nose is rich with dark fruits like blackberries and black currants, and subtle touches of spice from 22 months of oak aging. The palate makes a powerful entrance with deep fruit and upfront tannins, but delivers a soft landing with a plush mouthfeel and lingering savory notes.
Average price: $98
5. Champagne Henriot L’Inattendue 2016
Champagne Henriot is one of Champagne’s last family-operated houses, with Gilles de Larouzière Henriot the latest to helm the estate as the eighth generation. Seven years after he took over, Gilles oversaw the launch of an entirely new cuvée, the Henriot L’Inattendue 2016. The name means “The Unexpected” in French, and though it’s definitely not a surprise that this iconic producer released a stunning wine, its composition is a bit out of the ordinary for the estate. Typically, Champagne Henriot blends wines from several different sites to showcase a range of vineyards, but this bottling is the first in the estate’s history to feature a singular terroir. Henriot’s intention is to make this cuvée from a different site for each release by selecting the Chardonnay site that “speaks the loudest” during tastings; in this case that was the Grand Cru of Avize in the Côte des Blancs. Putting your nose to the glass evokes a bakery with fresh brioche and pastry dough aromas. There’s impressive richness to the palate, with notes of lemon curd and fresh citrus zest.
Average price: $155
4. Hirsch Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2021
David Hirsch founded Hirsch Vineyards in 1980, and his daughter Jasmine is now the general manager and winemaker, shaping the next generation of the family’s wines. Their vineyard is located on the steep coastal ridges of the Fort Ross Seaview AVA on the Sonoma Coast. Adjacent to the San Andreas Fault, the area is known for its extreme topography; the elevation and proximity to the Pacific Ocean make it a cool-climate site that lends itself to elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The vineyard is comprised of 61 farming blocks over 72 acres, fragmented by unique soil compositions and sun exposure. While most of the land is dedicated to Pinot Noir, there are four acres of Chardonnay planted across two different sites, one on a 40 percent slope above David’s house, and another on a sandstone hill. The resulting wine is strikingly elegant, with balanced components that would appeal to crisp Chablis drinkers and oaked Chardonnay obsessives alike. There are aromas of baked apples, stone fruit, flowers, and lemon curd. But this wine is more about the palate, with mouthwatering acidity and a silky, round texture. The tension between the two will leave your head spinning (in a good way).
Average price: $65
3. St. Innocent Winery Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018
St. Innocent’s founder and winemaker, Mark Vlossak, considers the Shea Vineyard to be his estate’s equivalent of a grand cru site in Burgundy. Located in the Yamhill-Carlton District of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the vineyard is split into two sites by a steep ravine. Both of the blocks used to make this wine come from the east side of the ravine, one on a long southeast-facing slope at 600 feet of elevation and the other on a southwest-facing vineyard that’s so steep it’s terraced. Vlossak says wines from this site consistently out-age all of their other Pinot Noir expressions, signifying the vineyard’s quality. The wine’s complexity is immediately evident with perfumed aromas of raspberries, cherries, and anise floating out of the glass. The palate offers bright acidity, well-integrated tannins, and layers of fruit and earth that unfold slowly over a lingering finish. This is an outstanding example of Oregon Pinot Noir, and one you can hold onto for at least a decade, though it’s hard to resist drinking it now.
Average price: $70
2. Rodica Refošk 2020
If you’re not familiar with Slovenian Refošk (known as Refosco in Italy), then we’re thrilled to introduce you to this truly compelling wine from the Rodica winery, which is located in the picturesque hills of Truške, Slovenia, overlooking the Gulf of Trieste. Here, the Rodica family organically farms 37 acres of hillside vineyards. A dark-skinned grape, Refošk is known to make inky, medium-to-full-bodied wines with pronounced savory characteristics. This wine captures the true essence of the grape, leaning into the variety’s innate herbal and peppery qualities. The nose brings a melange of fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary, and the palate is juicy with brambly berry notes accented by cracked black pepper. As one of the most interesting wines we sampled this year, we think it’s about time you tried Slovenian Refošk, too.
Average price: $21
1. Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet Hervé Souhaut Syrah 2022
Among some of the most famous hills in France’s Northern Rhône, Hervé Souhaut farms 12 acres in the town of Arlebosc, just opposite of Hermitage and St. Joseph. The Northern Rhône is widely recognized as one of the world’s premier wine-producing areas, with ancient vineyard sites and rolling hills that offer elevation, sun exposure, and soils that are perfectly suited to the Syrah grape. Though many bottles from this region are collected as prizes to hide away for years in the cellar, Souhaut makes wines that are ready to drink in their youth. He implements specific winemaking techniques like whole-bunch fermentation and semi-carbonic maceration to coax out freshness and a delicate balance of tannins. This bottle has a deep and soulful nose that draws you in with concentrated fruit aromas. The bright fruit is complemented by hints of spiced meat, cracked peppercorns, and cooking herbs. The palate doubles down with an almost perfect representation of Northern Rhône Syrah: There’s a medium depth of fruit with grippy tannins and stunning acidity. A celebration of Syrah, the price is equally as impressive as the wine.
Average price: $38