15 Show-Stopping American Wines for Under $20

If you're hosting this holiday season, you'll want to keep these bottles in heavy rotation.

Various wines
15 Great American Wine Values. Photo:

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

Here’s the thing: People buy more wine during November and December than they do at any other time of the year, and that’s because they’re buying wine for more people than at any other time of the year. Thanksgiving, holiday parties, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, you name it—the end of the year is about getting together with friends and family and celebrating mightily. So the quest is for a wine that your near and dear will love rather than loathe, and that won’t decimate your bank account at the same time. To that end, I’ve shared 15 of my favorite American wines for $20 or less, bottles that bat way above their level. And keep in mind: At many stores, if you buy a case (12 bottles), the discount you get—often even for a mixed case of different bottles—cuts the cost down even further, possibly even leaving enough extra cash for that special bottle, just for you.


White wines
15 Great American Wine Values.

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

2021 Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling ($10)

A perennial value, this counterpart to Chateau Ste. Michelle’s hugely popular lightly sweet Riesling is completely dry, with lasting tart green-apple flavors.

2020 Barnard Griffin Columbia Valley Riesling ($12)

A light hint of white pepper enlivens the golden-apple fruit of this Washington state Riesling. There’s a faint hint of residual sugar that doesn’t come off sweet at all — it just intensifies the wine’s bright flavors.

2021 Hahn Pinot Gris ($15)

If you need a Chardonnay alternative for Thanksgiving, this medium-weight white from California’s Central Coast offers plenty of appealing nectarine-pear notes and a hint of spice on the finish.

2021 Acrobat Pinot Gris ($16)

Oregon Pinot Gris balances between light Italian Pinot Grigio and rich Alsace versions, and this one is no exception. It’s fresh and bright, with crisp pear fruit.

2020 Sokol Blosser Evolution Lucky No. 9 ($16)

A basketful of grape varieties goes into this lightly off-dry blend from Oregon’s Sokol Blosser. Its joyful flavors suggest lychees and mandarin orange, with a lemony finish.

2021 L’Ecole No. 41 Sémillon ($17)

L’Ecole No. 41 has been making a stand-alone Semillon for several decades now. (The grape is usually used for blending.) The 2021 is floral and fragrant, with melon and citrus notes.

2020 Trefethen Eshcol Chardonnay ($20)

This Chardonnay, which is from Trefethen’s affordable Eshcol label, has flavors suggesting pears and limes. As F&W editorial assistant Lucy Simon says, “It’s great for people who think they don’t like Chardonnay.”

2021 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($20)

This Sauvignon Blanc gets an aromatic lift from the use of 16% Sauvignon Musqué in the wine, a clone that adds jasminelike floral notes to the wine’s lemon and grapefruit flavors.


Red wines
15 Great American Wine Values.

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell

2018 Kenwood Vineyards Sonoma-Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon ($12)

Mocha and blackberries are at the core of this round, hard-to-resist Cabernet. It’s a blend of grapes from the warm Dry Creek Valley and from cooler-climate Mendocino County.

2020 McManis Family Vineyards Lodi Zinfandel ($13)

This has the classic plummy spiciness of California Zinfandel, but it also has enough zesty acidity to avoid being jammy — impressive, given how ripe Lodi Zins can sometimes get.

2020 The Pinot Project California Pinot Noir ($13)

A Pinot under $15 that doesn’t taste like watered-down meh? Well, that’s a great prospect. This California bottling has cherry fruit with a little black pepper and would be excellent as a party pour for the holidays.

2019 Cannonball California Cabernet Sauvignon ($16)

Light pepperiness and just the right amount of oak add complexity to the cassis fruit in this seductive red. In the realm of Cabernets, this is hard to beat at this price, and it would be great with a big smoked turkey.

2018 Nielson Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($18)

The black-tea aromatics and spicy berry flavors of this Santa Barbara County Pinot give it a complexity and depth that make it taste like a bottle that costs substantially more than it does.

2020 Vinum Cellars Pets Petite Sirah ($18)

Petite Sirah in the wrong hands can be bruisingly big, but this version from winemakers Chris Condos and Richard Bruno comes off luscious rather than massive; think ripe blackberries with a savory, soy-like note.

2019 Rabble Red Blend Paso Robles ($20)

The mix of grapes in this red blend may be slightly crazy — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Tannat, Tempranillo, and Malbec — but its juicy dark-berry flavors are inarguably delicious.

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