According to Wines Vines Analytics—California, Texas and Virginia rank 1st, 5th and 11th in wine production volume in the U.S. and produce—respectively—85%, 1%, and less than 1% of wine annually in the country. Combined, the three states include some 5,625 wineries. Consider sampling the wines below—listed in inverse proportion to the quantity of wines produced by these states.
King Family Vineyards. Mountain Plains Monticello Red Wine. 2017. 94 points.
From the eastern U.S. state of Virginia comes this 37/43/20 blend of Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Petit Verdot. Only 3,000 bottles produced. An eclectic and lively smash of aromas: bright young red fruit, violets, lavender. In the mouth—juicy plums, apricots, cherries, black pepper and toast. Pair with vegetable lasagna or cheese blintzes.
Breaux Vineyards. Nebbiolo. 2016. 93 points.
From Virginia comes this 100% Nebbiolo with subdued aromas of chestnuts and ferns. In the mouth this is a silky beauty. Flavors include blackberries, a small dose of black licorice, and a hit of roasted chestnuts and treacle on the finish. This is a creamy and mildly complex wine, not a replica of Italian Nebbiolo but a new world interpretation that is surprisingly approachable with its low-key acidity and non-obtrusive tannic backbone. Consider pairing with truffle risotto or even sole topped with baked almonds. Well done, Virginia.
Barboursville Vineyards. Octagon. 2016. 90 points.
Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot created only during the best vintages. Named after the shape of a dining room designed by Thomas Jefferson where convivial meetings took place in Virginia. Includes aromas of a fresh Bordeaux blend, with some black pepper and a little cinnamon. Statured tannins in this robust and rich wine with flavors that include maple syrup, raspberries, Logan berries and treacle—a quixotic new world forest of freshness.
Bluestone Vineyards. Petit Manseng. 2019. 93 points.
From Virginia winemaker Lee Hartman comes this distinct 100% Petit Manseng. Fresh and crisp aromas of buttered toast, kiwi fruit and slight lime. In the mouth this is a rich, sweet burst of tangerines and grapefruit. A gorgeously easy drinking wine to pair either with a seafood platter or even an appetizer of fruit salad and ham.
Michael Shaps Winery. Meritage Virginia Red Wine. 2015. 90 points.
Aromas of fresh, crisp red fruits as well as gobs of vanilla, slight mandarin, butterscotch and fudge. In the mouth—cranberries, tart gooseberries, raspberries, buckets of sliced cherries, aniseed and cocoa—zesty and fresh. Pronounced acidity and low-key tannins. Pair with a teriyaki beef stew or a sundae fudge dessert.
Trump Reserve. Brut Sparkling Wine. Monticello. 2014. 94 points.
From winemaker Jonathan Wheeler, this includes aromas of fresh bread crumbs, kiwis and lime from this estate Chardonnay that spends five years on lees. A fresh bubbly surprise with flavors of lime, tonic and brioche. Well balanced, effervescent, lively and ebullient. Kiwis on attack, a lick of grapefruit and zested lime and mild cherries mid palate and gin tonic with lemon on the finish. Pair with basically anything—including oysters, mushroom omelet or Dover sole—or try as a standalone aperitif.
Barboursville Vineyards. Virginia Paxxito. 2015. 95 points.
In a slender bottle, this 13.5% alcohol gold colored juice is made using the passito method, where hand selected grapes are air dried for as long as 120 days before pressing. Aged in small barriques for 24 months. Aromas as delightful as a Sauternes— candied, acidic, aromatic oranges and rum. A buttery, fudge and rum concoction in the mouth—the deft hand of quality and patience evident here.
R.A.H. Wine Company. Series 1. Virginia White Wine. 2017. 95-96 points.
This small bottle with a simple label and amber orange juice includes perky aromas—mildly oxidized—of heather, sultanas and honey. In the mouth this amber wave with 128 grams a liter of residual sugar is a treasure—silky, seductive, with flavors of peaches, white pears, oranges and buttered toast on the finish. Quite the Virginian surprise.
Majek Vineyard & Winery. Cardinal’s Kiss. Black Spanish. Dry Rosé Wine. Texas. 2021. 90-91 points.
This 10% alcohol wine from Moravia, Texas is orange colored, with aromas of orange rind, candy cane, salt, herbs and maraschino cherries. There is an oscillation between dry and sweet here, and the wine includes a unique, other worldly flavor profile that begins with a sweet kick and transforms to dryness as it plays with taste buds. Visiting wine writer Sandra Crittenden from Houston, Texas, tasted the wine and explained that the upheaved and complex limestone soils in much of Texas provide wines from there with certain old world aromas—similar to Tempranillo country in Rioja in Spain. She recommends pairing this wine with tomatillo salsa, rhubarb or a dish flavored with nopales (the edible pads of a prickly pear cactus).
Peter Michael. Coeur à Coeur. Knight’s Valley—Sonoma County. 2018. 95 points.
Aromas of grapefruit, lime and salinity in this 50/50 Semillon/Sauvignon blend from the Knights Valley AVA of California’s Sonoma County; sealed by ProCork. Includes a crisp and beautiful mouthfeel on the attack, followed by an acidic kick melded with slight honey mid palate—quite startling in the best of ways. Fresh and elegant, with a somewhat sweet/sour array of flavors. Pair with cashews before dinner, or with blackened fish dusted with Asian spices.