Our tastings are geared toward discovery: We regularly turn up great wines from new producers, or from old-school wineries that have reinvented themselves. Here are ten that caught our attention this year—producers we’ll be looking out for in the years to come.
Andrew Busch grew up raising Clydesdale horses and a collection of exotic animals from around the world at his family’s Grant Farm in St. Louis (his father was August Anheuser Busch, Jr.). Now based in Santa Barbara, he and his wife, Kim, have focused on grenache and syrah at their four estate vineyards, the vines farmed by Ruben Solorzano. Angela Osborne makes the wines—she’s also known for the delicate rosés she produces under her Tribute to Grace label. Her Folded Hills reds are cool and lifted, whether you go for the fresh Lilly rosé from 2016, or the brisk, refreshing 2015 Grant Grenache. For something richer, check out the 2015 August, a grenache-syrah blend with umami-laden red-cherry flavor, fleshy and fresh at once.
On a rainy winter day in Carneros in early 2012, the Duckhorn team blind-tasted a number of domestic Bordeaux-style reds. When the bottles were revealed, many of their favorites came from Washington State. Within the year, they’d founded Canvasback, a Washington project; the following year, they purchased a 20-acre parcel on Red Mountain, planting a vineyard now managed by Dick Boushey. As they wait for the vines to mature, winemaker Brian Rudin has made a number of impressive bottlings from purchased fruit, pulling from some of Red Mountain’s best vineyard sites, including Klipsun, Quintessence, Kiona and Heart of the Hill. The 2014 Grand Passage, Rudin’s selection of his ten best barrels, is massive, yet it has a range of savory elements—lavender, cedar and mocha—that bring contour and finesse to the wine.
Richard Betts and Carla Rzeszewski were top sommeliers in the US before taking off to Australia to decompress. The allure of ancient bush-vine grenache proved too great, however, for them to surf all day, so they began making wine. Working with a vineyard in Barossa’s Vine Vale, their first two vintages, 2014 and 2015, have been knockouts, frisky reds that deliver layers of tart cherry and strawberry flavors, some of the friendliest wines you can find from South Australia.
You may know Kermit Lynch as the importer for Domaine Raveneau, one of the most sought after wines in Burgundy that just happens to be Chablis. You may not have heard of Domaine Costal, a collaboration Lynch began in 2005 with Chablis producer Domaine Jean-Collet. They started with Les Truffières, a three-acre parcel in Villy, offering a fresh, saline Chablis fermented and aged in stainless steel. Since then, they have added two premier cru wines, from Vaillons, where the Collets farm 23.7 acres, and a small-production bottling from Mont de Milieu, working together on blending and élévage. The 2014 Vaillons is a beauty, crunchy with apple and mineral depths of flavor to match oysters.
The Gross family founded Goldatzel in 1976, opening a small wine tavern above the hallowed vineyard in the Rheingau, but they never exported their wines until young Johannes Gross came home from his studies in Geisenheim; 2015 is Goldatzel’s first vintage in the US. He farms 29 acres spread among some of the Rheingau’s top vineyards, such as Winkeler Hasensprung, Johanisberger Hölle and, of course, Goldatzel. His wines—mostly pressed as whole bunches and fermented with ambient yeasts—are delicate and filigreed, with purity and restraint that makes them stand out among their neighbors.
In 1887, the Bouchon family left France for Chile, where they ran a traditional winery in Maule’s Secano Interior. A new generation of Bouchons has revolutionized their wines, now fresh and full of character. The País Salvaje is a terrific example—from 100-year-old vines growing up into the trees on the side of the vineyard, so they have to be harvested by ladder. It’s a juicy, electric red, a great país from Chile.
Ioanna Vamvakouri has made wine on Santorini since 2000, first at Santo Wines, then Boutari. She started her own project in 2014, renovating Venetsanos, the island’s oldest commercial winery, in time for the 2015 harvest. She’s taken just a corner of it to vinify her own wines, working with fruit from the Venetsanos family’s vineyards. Both of her 2015s, a Santorini and a Nykteri, are elegant yet markedly stony, salty and firm—the sort of balance and power that brings to mind great Chablis.
Raffaele Moccia owns 25 acres of terraced vineyards in the crater of an ancient volcano, just on the edge of Naples. He grows falanghina and piedirosso vines that range from 60 to 200 years old—still on their own roots, protected from phylloxera by the sandy soil. Their fruit has an almost chewy density, whether in the peachy intensity of the 2015 Campi Flegrei Falanghina or the dark berry flavors of the 2015 Per’e Palumm, Moccia’s piedirosso. In all his wines, the volcanic soils leave their mark in smoky mineral firmness.
John Reynolds purchased this quinta in 1892, building an adobe winery on site in 1901. Mouchão developed a reputation for long-lived reds prior to the 1974 revolution, which rocked the vineyard during some unsettled times. The family replanted their coveted alicante bouschet vines, which are gaining maturity and beginning to deliver the kind of wine that once built a cult around Mouchão. Iain Reynolds Richardson’s wines from the 2011 vintage may mark a new milestone for this historic property. Now that the wines are fi nally available in the US, cellar some and check on it 20 years from the vintage.
Viticulturists Ester Nin and Carles Ortiz partnered in life and work, building this winery in 2012 on the outskirts of Porrera, one of the coolest and highest areas of Priorat. To get an idea of what makes their wines so exciting, try Nit de Nin Mas d’En Caçador. From an altitude of more than 2,100 feet, this blend of old-vine garnacha and cariñena grows on a cool north-facing slope. It’s deliciously fresh as it mingles bright fruit with elegant, schist-inflected tannins.