What wines are the most significant in America? The most significant wines—those that have significantly altered society in some way—are not necessarily the greatest wines, as these will fluctuate from vintage to vintage.
1. Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon
Long-time Caymus Vineyards was established in 1972 by Napa Valley grape producer Charlie Wagner, who also introduced the first vintage of Special Selection Cabernet in 1975. The wine was true to its name right away. Contrary to many California Cabernets, it never drew inspiration from Bordeaux.
Instead, Wagner and his son Chuck highlighted the rich, powerful flavour of the black fruit from their own vines. They did this by contributing to the highest expression of New World style, which is why Caymus Special Selection is now recognised as one of the best.
2. Columbia Crest Merlot
More than any other wine from Washington State, this one is to credit for Merlot’s rise to fame among red wine connoisseurs in the 1990s. In 1987, Columbia Crest launched a second label that was formerly associated with the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery, which featured a variety of varietal wines. The company’s flagship product was immediately made famous by the Columbia River Valley’s Merlot, a soft, approachable, and above all, tasty wine that was offered at a reasonable price. Ten years later, Merlot is being produced by hundreds of wineries around the country in an effort to compete with this confluence of high quality and reasonable price. Successful people are rare.
3. Horton Vineyards Viognier
Who produces the most significant wine on the East Coast? Maybe Dr. Konstantin Frank, who proved vinifera grapes could endure the icy winters in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Maybe Louisa and Alex Hargrave, who started the practise of creating good wine on Long Island. But my choice goes to Dennis and Sharon Horton of Orange County, Virginia, who may have developed the best Viognier wine ever produced in the United States with their 1993 vintage. Its high calibre shows that Thomas Jefferson’s vision of world-class wine from Eastern vineyards is finally coming to fruition, much like Frank’s Riesling and Hargrave’s Chardonnay.
4. Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay
This mass-produced wine is the perfect example of the flavour profile that millions of consumers today prefer in Chardonnay. It is fruity and moderately sweet. After its 1981 publication, it contributed to the definition of that genre, and it has gone on to enjoy extraordinary popularity. Over time, Chardonnay became the most popular white wine in America, displacing “Chablis” and other generic names.