Value Brands of the Year 2016: United States - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Value Brands of the Year 2016: United States

illustrations by Eve Steccati

Finding an affordable wine isn’t as big a challenge as you might think. Just ask our critics, who tasted upwards of 15,000 wines this year, recommending more than 1,000 priced eighteen dollars or less. When we considered all brands with two or more recommendations in that price range, the best performers stood out as our Value Brands of the Year. We highlighted brands in our June issue that range the world, from the cool coast of Portugal to the sunny hills of southern France, from California to South Africa’s Cape. One specializes in sparkling wines; others major in big, rich reds. All have one thing in common: Their wines aren’t merely cheap; they’re real, and really delicious.



(Certified California Sustainable & SiP-certified; still family owned)

Jess Jackson was a savvy businessman and marketer, and that’s partly why his wines took the US by storm in the 1980s. But he also invested in great vineyard land, and the company now farms over 10,000 acres stretching from Santa Barbara to Mendocino County. In 2011, the same year Jess Jackson passed away, the winery introduced Avant Chardonnay—a mostly steel-aged alternative to the popular oak-aged Vintners Reserve. The 2014 ($17; check out the Zin, too, also at $17) is delicious, with a fresh, peachy tang.


(*40th anniversary this year)

Joel Peterson crushed his first few tons of zin in 1976, bucked the white zin trend with his gutsy dry red zinfandels in the 1980s, and sold the growing winery to Constellation Brands in 2001. Zinfandel is still Ravenswood’s strength, and the 2013 Vintner’s Reserve Petite Sirah is as bold and flavorful as most cabernets triple its $10 price.


(Aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020)

In a sea of bland California appellation wine, Bogle consistently stands out with vivid, clean varietal wines. The family planted its first vineyard in 1968, and now farms more than 1,500 acres (certified Green by Lodi Rules) of grapes in the Sacramento Delta; most are within the Clarksburg AVA, which is notably cooler than many of the more inland vineyards that drive California appellation wines. The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc ($10) is bright and citrusy, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better grocery-store red than the rich and zesty 2013 Petite Sirah ($13).

Castle Rock

When Greg Popovich founded Castle Rock 20 years ago, he purchased bulk wine to build a value-focused wine brand; now, 90 percent of the production comes from long-term vineyard contracts. Pauli Ranch in Potter Valley is the main source of the perfumed, lithe and lightweight 2013 Mendocino County Pinot Noir ($13), while Vino Farms grew most of the bold, savory 2013 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($11).

New York State

Anthony Road Wine Company

For more than 40 years, John and Ann Martini of Anthony Road have owned their own vineyard on the west side of Seneca Lake, and what they don’t own they’ve contracted for decades—a total of 90 acres, managed by their son, Peter. They excel in riesling—especially the brisk, citrusy 2014 Dry Riesling ($18), the first release from head winemaker Peter Becraft, who took over after eight vintages working alongside Johannes Reinhardt.

Fun facts:

• John Martini’s wife is a former pastry chef at The River Cafe in Brooklyn, who runs CaryMo Chocolate out of Anthony Road s kitchen.
• Their crisp, fresh 2014 Unoaked Chardonnay costs $17

Dr. Konstantin Frank

As the first to plant vinifera in the Finger Lakes, Dr. Konstantin Frank got in on the ground floor in the region when it came to vineyard real estate. The good Doctor’s white varietal wines remain among the best values in the region—drawn in part from the oldest vinifera vines in the state. Both the 2013 and 2014 Semi Dry Riesling ($15) stood out this year, their breadth guided by clean, propulsive acidity; Frank also makes a poised, rose-scented gewurztraminer, exceptional at $15.

Keuka Spring Vineyards

Keuka Springs, a 30-year-old winery owned by the Wiltbergers, an old New York farming family, has gotten a jolt of youthful energy from their 34-year-old winemaker, August Deimel, who just completed his fourth vintage. His 2014s, drawn from vineyards on Keuka and Seneca Lakes, are fresh and pure expressions of the Finger Lakes, especially the beautifully poised gewurztraminer ($17), at once generous and pleasingly phenolic.

This story was featured in W&S June 2016.
illustrations by Eve Steccati

This story appears in the print issue of June 2016.
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