The New Wave of American-Made Red Wines

The New Wave of American-Made Red Wines

California red wines have long epitomized ‘New World’ winemaking, meaning a focus on sweet, fruit flavors rather than fresh, earthy ones. Whether it’s attributed to chasing scores from critics or embracing California’s abundance of warmth and sunshine, the fact is those big, juicy, high-alcohol wines have (somewhat) gone out of style. Now, a new wave of producers are taking California wine in a new direction. They’re planting ‘Old World’ grape varieties up and down the cool Pacific coast, making refreshing, savory red wines that can be enjoyed year-round.

The Producers

Raj Parr

Raj Parr is one of the biggest advocates of minimal intervention winemaking, not just in the US, but the world. Across multiple projects - Phelan Farms, Sandhi, Raj Parr Wines, and Domaine de la Côte - in Santa Barbara, Raj is making decidedly old world-style wines, from a mencia collaboration with the folks from Evinate in Spain, to some of the best chardonnay and pinot in America today.


Having founded Copain back in the ‘90s, Wells Guthrie isn’t fresh on the California wine scene, but his new project in Mendocino is the source of some of the state’s most exciting wines. He cut his teeth working at Chapoutier in the Rhône as well as Mugnier and Dujac in Burgundy, and his style very much reflects it. At DuPuis, he’s making pinot and syrah that are concentrated and powerful, yet floral, spicy, and fresh.


Jolie-Laide is a tiny natural winery in Sonoma that produces less than 500 cases per year. They utilize the cool Pacific coast climate to grow a range of grapes native to places like the Jura and Rhône. Those grapes are picked by hand, foot crushed, and aged in old, neutral oak. The resulting flavors are bright, wild, and savory.


Arnot-Roberts is one of the most innovative producers in the United States right now. They use organic farming and old-school winemaking techniques to produce bright, energetic wines that reflect exactly where they’re from. They also do things nobody else does (or even thinks to do). From growing ribolla gialla in Napa to planting trousseau in Lake County to coopering their own barrels for cabernet sauvignon.

Michael Cruse

Michael Cruse makes wine in Mendocino using grapes like tannat, carignan, St. Laurent, and valdiguié. The latter carries the long-held nickname of “Napa Gamay” due to its bright fruit, refreshing acidity, and spicy, peppery flavors. Unsurprisingly, his valdiguié-based wine - called ‘Monkey Jacket’ - will be right in the wheelhouse of anyone who enjoys Beaujolais.

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