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The 10 Best American Red Wines to Try in 2021
Red wine is eternal. Knowing how to parse different varieties at a range of price points can be extremely useful for impressing others, pairing with food, or for building your knowledge base. With so many different kinds of grapes out there from amazing worldwide wine regions, it can be tricky to pick up the nuances and know what red wine is good to drink, for your wallet, or a special occasion.
I’ve built a list of top-quality American red wines across the price spectrum and added some key FAQs for you as well. This collection of the 10 best red wines to try in 2021 from US vineyards offers value and enjoyment in equal measure.
I’ve spread the collection around different red grape varieties (otherwise it would just be Malbec and Pinot Noir), and also focused on choosing bottles for drinking rather than cellar storage and saving.
1. Steele Writer’s Block Malbec
Writer’s Block Malbec will remind you (or make you dream) of Argentina. I spent considerable time touring the wine region of Mendoza, and it’s amazing – up there with the Napa Valley or Australian Adelaide Hills for quality of wine and atmosphere.
Malbec is my favorite red wine, bar none. I carried a bottle with me in a backpack for three months just so I could drink it with my dad. Writer’s Block is not an Argentine Malbec, which is not a slight. It’s a great American wine experts and generalists will love, that’s well priced and enjoyable.
Writer’s Block’s tasting notes are fresh berries, blueberry, and floral accents. It’s got the typical robust full-bodied flavor of the Malbec grapes but is balanced. It’s fantastic for complimenting fowl and red meat but is versatile enough for most situations.
This is a great wine to try in 2021, either as a new varietal or building your familiarity with the US-grown Malbec grape.
2. Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Proprietary Red Blend
While there is a school of thought that clings to the notion that a grape blend is not the way to make great wine, this offering from the Pahlmeyer vineyard gives short shrift to the notion. Proprietary Red is from Napa Valley and is a blend of five Bordeaux wine varietal grapes: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, and 2% Malbec.
The tasting notes of this red blend possess the aromas of blueberry, blackberry, and black cherry along with cardamom, vanilla, and star anise notes which balance the dark fruit. The palate offers deep blackberry and currant, with undertones of leather, is supported by firm, silky tannins, and the long finish of rich dark chocolate.
If you are an experienced wine enthusiast looking for a premium red blend from America’s most famous wine region, this classy bottle will be exactly what you’re looking for.
3. Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
The dark ruby red color of this quality pinot from the fertile Russian River Valley in Sonoma County is immediately striking, and the wine itself is a great tasting and affordable bottle at the sub $50 price point.
On the nose, this pinot noir features dark fruit and cassis jam with just a touch of vanilla. The palate is rich and well balanced – bright with flecks of spice and tobacco taste from oak barrels amongst the dark stone fruit flavors. The fine tannin excels at drawing out into a long, smooth finish.
The versatility and high acidity of many pinot noir varieties make it the perfect wine for camouflage, offering a medium body that works with everything, from light and dark meats to seafood and even accompanying sauces. The Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Valley pinot will suit both the seasoned wine lover or occasional red drinker looking for an excellent yet affordable red wine.
4. Stonestreet Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Stonestreet Estate is a fascinating patchwork of peaks, valleys, and ridges overlooking the Alexander Valley.
The property possesses more than 20 soil types and 20 temperature zones, with the estate divided into 290 separate vineyard blocks and sub-blocks. Each section has its own specific rootstocks, varieties, clones, and viticultural protocols matched to the complexities of the terrain.
Stonestreet’s winemaker Lisa Valtenbergs crafts site-specific single vineyard wines each harvest, however, the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a collection of grapes that come from the most highly prized vineyard blocks on the mountain during a given vintage.
The Estate Cabernet opens with savory aromas of bay, bramble, sandalwood, and menthol that opens up to the sweetness of plum and raspberry flavors. The palate is tannin rich, with a long finish redolent of dark chocolate.
The Stonestreet Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a quality bottle with the winery’s interesting personality there for you to taste. It’s a great choice for the wine drinker looking for a rich mid-priced cab sav to enjoy with red meat.
5. Our Daily Red Organic Red Wine
At the opposite end of the price spectrum from the Pahlmeyer premium blend, Our Daily offers a USDA certified organic wine at an inexpensive price point. Company founder and winemaker Tony Norskog had been making wine commercially before deciding it was time to make organic wine with a more environmentally conscious method.
Our Daily is a natural wine – its organic grapes are grown chemical-free which results in a vegan-friendly, sulfate-free, and gluten-free vino. It’s a lighter-style, fruit-forward red blend of organic grapes with a hint of violet flower aroma, loaded with dark fruit on the palate.
It is the perfect drop to suit the natural wine enthusiast but will also impress traditional wine experts looking for a different style to normal.
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6. Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot 2017
This Duckhorn Merlot is a classically dry red wine that offers aromas of cherry and raspberry flavors, and a smidgeon of cocoa. It’s crisp on the palate, combining fine-grained tannins and the flavors of ripe plum, blueberry, licorice, and subtle baking spice.
While classed as a merlot, the varietal types are some of the Napa Valley’s best and break down as 80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, and 0.5% Malbec. If you’re after a rock-solid dry red wine for dinner or entertainment at a mid-tier price, the Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot is hard to go past.
7. Klinker Brick Farrah Syrah
The biggest and boldest red wine flavors come from the Syrah (or Shiraz) grape. If you’re a dyed in the wool white wine drinker or unaccustomed to robust flavor, the Farrah Syrah will not really be your cup of tea.
However, if you are looking for something bold to pair with beef, lamb, or game, then this Lodi California red will be perfect. It matches velvety tannins and dark fruit flavors with hints of baking spices and black pepper.
Klinker Brick Farrah Syrah is very deep in color and rich in texture, yet is surprisingly easy on the palate. It’s also a bottle you could put away for a couple of years on a shelf and come back to enjoy.
8. Greg Norman Petite Sirah
This Petite Sirah Paso Robles from Greg Norman Estates – yes, golfing legend the Great White Shark is a quality wine guy – is a great tasting wine with a bold aroma and rich flavor.
Petite Sirah (known as the Durif grape in Europe) is rapidly becoming a favorite for winemaking in California with its deep color, firm tannins, and bold flavors. While often blended with Zinfandel, this Greg Norman version is crafted solo.
The Paso Robles wine region is centrally located between San Francisco and Los Angeles, encompassing an area of more than 40,000 vineyard acres and more than 200 wineries. If you’re a golfer and wine lover then a bottle of Paso Robles red from the Great White Shark is fantastic to take to dinner or for entertaining friends.
9. Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
The Goldeneye Pinot Noir comes from the Anderson Valley, which is known for creating an earthiness and minerality in its red wine offerings.
Goldeneye is an approachable pinot noir that spends 16 months in 60% new French oak before bottling. It possesses a berry fruit nose with subtle spice and a touch of the floral which works well in complement to the resting French oak undertones.
This pinot noir is food-friendly and enjoyable for the newcomer as well as the connoisseur looking for a quality red for a significant occasion or when entertaining.
10. Barefoot Bubbly Sweet Red
Even if you’re like me and don’t usually go for sparkling wine, there are times of celebration and fun that call for a bit of the bubbly stuff. This sweet red sparkling wine from the iconic Barefoot brand is great for any occasion where you need a little something sweet and bubbly.
It’s enjoyable to look at and easy to drink, with the enjoyable taste of red fruit. Whether it’s a birthday, a birth, a wedding, or milestone, Barefoot Bubbly is a great wine for fun.
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Red Wine FAQs
The US is a great winemaking region, with most grape growing being done in California and parts of southern Washington. The most popular red varieties bottled in the US include syrah (shiraz), cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, zinfandel, and merlot. Grapes popular in other countries, such as France, Argentina, and Australia, are also being produced in greater numbers.
Tannins are bitter compounds found in the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes that deter animals from eating them, and from the wood in barrels wine is fermented in. When making wine, tannins are integral to the flavor and mouthfeel – they create the drying sensation in your mouth when drinking red wine.
Generally speaking, fine tannins create a richer, smoother wine, while rougher tannins create a more bitter, more robust type of wine. While tannins are found in white wine they are most often associated with red wine.
In comparison to many other alcohol types, red wine is considered good for your health when consumed in moderation. 1-2 glasses of red wine each can contribute to a healthy and balanced diet. Red wine is strong in antioxidants and doesn’t suppress your immune system like other types of alcohol.