Best American Wines Over $20
2009 Merry Edwards ($30)
One of California's surest hands with Pinot Noir, Edwards also makes this perfumed, arresting Sauvignon. Assembled from several Russian River Valley vineyardssome planted to the aromatic Musqué clonethe wine combines tangerine and peach with Musqué's hard-to-define, not-quite-honeysuckle aroma.
2007 Hanzell ($70)
One of California's first post-Prohibition Chardonnay producers, Sonoma's Hanzell has long gone its own way, preferring an Old World sense of proportion over showy richness. That balance is epitomized in its long-aging Chardonnays, like this creamy, floral bottling from talented winemaker Michael McNeill.
2006 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs ($36)
This all-Chardonnay bottling was the Davies family's original sparkling wine back in 1965; Richard Nixon served it on his 1972 trip to China. For the 2006 vintage, the wine was aged in the bottle for two years on its lees (spent yeasts), giving complexity to its flavors of yellow apple, pear and melon.
2008 Brewer-Clifton, Mount Carmel ($63)
There are easier places to grow grapes than this steep, ocean-cooled vineyard in Santa Barbara County, but Steve Clifton (also of Palmina) and Greg Brewer (Melville) started farming it themselves in 2004 anyway. Their 2008, an opulent Pinot with floral berry notes, makes it clear their work was worth it.
2007 Pepper Bridge ($50)
In the excellent 2007 Washington vintage, Swiss-born winemaker Jean-François Pellet produced this cellar-worthy Merlot by combining fruit from the winery's two estate vineyards in the Walla Walla ValleyPepper Bridge and Seven Hills.
2007 A. Rafanelli ($32)
Because it sells exclusively from the winery rather than stores, this small, family-run Sonoma operation isn't broadly known (except to Zinfandel lovers). Winemaker Rashell Rafanelli-Fehlman holds to the family style herebright, lifted and juicy.
2006 Qupé, Bien Nacido Hillside Estate ($40)
Are cool temperatures the key to great California Syrah? This wine, from the chilly 2006 vintage, suggests so. Bob Lindquist is one of the greatest interpreters of Syrah from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard, and his winemaking shows the grape's full potential.
2007 Buccella ($150)
Overseen by Chris Justin and consultant Celia Welch (F&W's Winemaker of the Year in 2008), Buccella has swiftly become a top Napa Valley Cabernet producer. The great 2007 vintage played to Buccella's strengths, resulting in a cassis-inflected wine of extraordinary polish.
2007 Continuum ($140)
Robert Mondavi's children Tim and Marcia have moved on after the sale of the family winery. Their Cabernet Sauvignonbased, gorgeously fragrant red comes from Pritchard Hill and Oakville vineyards, two of Napa Valley's most sought-after Cabernet locations.