The U.S. is making excellent wines, and not just in California. Here, five classics spanning the West Coast.

Classic Wines from the United States:

2007 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate ($29)

If not for Eyrie Vineyards’ David Lett (who passed away last year), Oregon wine would be unrecognizable. In 1965, he planted the Willamette Valley’s first Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Since then, Eyrie has consistently produced one of the area’s defining Pinots: velvety and sleek, full of wild strawberry and raspberry notes.

2006 Ravenswood Old Hill Zinfandel ($60)

Joel Peterson of Ravenswood was focused on Sonoma and Napa’s wealth of ancient Zinfandel vines well before “old-vine Zinfandel” became a marketing catchphrase. His Old Hill bottling, from vines planted in 1889 by William McPherson Hill (hence the name), reveals blueberry, blackberry, savory oak, mint and pepper notes.

2006 Hanzell Vineyards Sonoma Valley Chardonnay ($70)

Throughout the recent era of massive, buttery Chardonnays, Sonoma’s Hanzell Winery kept its focus on the style established by founding winemaker Brad Webb in 1957—subtle, precise and long-aging, with complex floral and savory nut aromas. Year in and year out, it’s a profound white wine, and the 2006 is no exception.

2007 Leonetti Cellar Merlot ($70)

Anyone who thinks of Merlot as insipid needs to taste Leonetti: Dark and powerful yet somehow elegant, this is one of the greatest American versions of this grape. Founded in 1977, Leonetti has played a key role in drawing international attention to Washington state’s ability to produce great red wines.

2006 Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($29)

Robert Mondavi founded his eponymous winery in 1966, which was also the inaugural vintage of this influential bottling. The current vintage is soft and silky, with dark, rich fruit but enough firm tannins to keep it focused—in other words, quintessential Napa Valley Cabernet.

Wine Advice & Pairings:

American Wine Awards 2009
California Top Wines for $15 and Less
Bacon-and-Leek Quiche
Credit: © Quentin Bacon

Ray Isle on Napa Cabernet

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