All tastings reported in the Buying Guide are performed blind. Typically, products are tasted in peer-group flights of from 5-8 samples. Reviewers may know general information about a flight to provide context—vintage, variety or appellation—but never the producer or retail price of any given selection. When possible, products considered flawed or uncustomary are retasted.
*Products deemed unacceptable (receving a rating below 80 points) are not reviewed.
The Pinnacle of quality
A great achievement
Often good value; well recommended
Suitable for everyday consumption, often good value
Can be employed
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Discover New Regions for Zinfandel
The wine region of Sonoma is home to some of the most historic vineyards and wineries in California. In the 1850s, Hungarian Agoston Haraszathy planted various grapes in Sonoma that he was confident could rival European varieties, and today it is a leading wine region in California as well as the U.S. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast are predominantly made by smaller wineries and have experienced increased popularity, as can be explored in our Sonoma Wine Guide. Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, the only varietal that the U.S. can call its own because it was the first planted in California, is rich with ripe and jammy berry characteristics and can gain complexity with oak barrel aging. The same goes for the elegant Cabernet Sauvignon wines of the Alexander Valley, which tend to be…
Stretching 250 miles south from the San Francisco Bay to Santa Barbara County is the Central Coast Wine Region, a coastal sprawl responsible for about 15% of California’s total wine production. In the northern parts of the Central Coast, Chardonnay tends to dominate the plantings, with Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon also playing significant roles. The cool, maritime-influenced climate along with the fertile and gravely soil contribute to Chardonnay’s crisp acidity and citrus flavors, and the extended growing season yields concentrated Merlot and Cabernet. Some of the top northern Central Coast AVAs include, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey. South of Monterey, the Paso Robles AVA has garnered fame for its wines produced from Rhône varieties, Cabernet and Zinfandel. At the southern end of the Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (made famous as the backdrop for the…
On the western edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains sits California’s Sierra Foothills Wine Region. Established in 1987, the AVA contains vineyards that were planted during the California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century. Due to its inland location, the days tend to be hot and dry, while the nights are significantly cooler. Our Sierra Foothills Wine Reviews indicate that Zinfandel is by far the most planted grape, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay. The better Zinfandels hail from Amador County and are loaded with wild berry and spice flavors and firm tannins, according to our Sierra Foothills Wine Ratings. The area has also become a popular place to visit as there are over 100 wineries in the region––many of them are small, family-owned establishments. For a full list of rated and reviewed wines from the area, be sure…