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American Wine Awards 2008: Best Wines for Over $20

F&W honors some of the best American wines at any price.

Whites

Chardonnay

2005 Ramey Ritchie Vineyard ($65)
For his winery, David Ramey sources grapes from Kent Ritchie’s 33-year-old vines in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. The result is a complex, classic California Chardonnay, with tropical fruit and peach flavors.

Sauvignon Blanc

2007 Cliff Lede Napa Valley ($22) (pictured, above)
In 2005, Cliff Lede’s winery in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District added unique fermenters that resemble concrete eggs. Apparently they work beautifully, turning out this luscious wine with notes of grapefruit and melon.

Reds

Pinot Noir

2005 Talley Vineyards Rosemary’s Vineyard ($70)
Winemaker Leslie Mead created this dense, deeply flavored Pinot from grapes planted around family matriarch Rosemary Talley’s house in the Arroyo Grande area of California’s southern Central Coast.

Merlot

2005 Shafer Napa Valley ($45)
Winemaker Elias Fernandez continues to reward the Shafer family’s faith in Merlot with this pungent, nuanced bottling, which combines a big structure with spicy berry flavors, hints of cocoa and a silky delicacy.

Syrah

2006 Tensley Colson Canyon Vineyard ($38)
Joey Tensley launched his own label in 1998 to focus on single-vineyard like this one from Santa Maria Valley in California—his only Syrah that’s aged in new French oak barrels, which give this wine a smoky toastiness.

Zinfandel

2005 Bella Lily Hill Estate ($36)
Scott and Lynn Adams’s small winery in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley hit a bull’s-eye in the superb 2005 vintage with this mouthwatering, blackberry-scented wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Harlan Estate ($600)
Bill Harlan has seriously increased the price of his
Napa Valley cult Cab blend, pushing it even further into the stratosphere. But he and winemaker Bob Levy have created a regal wine, with a harmonious sense of restraint and balance.

Bordeaux Blend

2005 Dominus ($129)
The Napa Valley property of Christian Moueix (of Bordeaux’s legendary Château Pétrus) produced an Old World–style Cab blend with a density and power that should reward years of cellaring.

Winners

Published October 2008
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