Get to Know Your American Wine Varietals

american wine

With our American Wine Sale running now from June 1st through June 28 with 15% off mixed or matched 12 bottle cases (750ml and 375ml only), all you need is a little time to shop and a refresher on the main varietals we offer. Let us prime you for your next shopping trip and arm you with some valuable information on American wine to help you make the best choices for your tastes!

Notable White Wine Varietals


The most planted wine grape in the U.S. is also America’s favorite overall varietal. Chardonnay is a wine that pleases year-round with its luxurious mouthfeel and low, balanced acidity. Different expressions of this varietal can sometimes seem like an entirely different varietal. Some are created with the intensity of oak and vanillin which lead to full-bodied “buttery” wines while others can use far less oak and even stainless steel to keep the flavor profile crisp and clean. The back label on the bottle will often tell you the style of the wine to help you decide if it appeals to you or not. Chardonnay’s less than 14% ABV (alcohol by volume) will be cleaner and more refreshing and will pair with food generally better. Higher than 14% ABV needs robust food to match its intensity and complexity which will tend to be buttery and oakier. Try to not serve Chardonnay too cold as it will mask the delicate flavors. 55-58 degrees is most ideal.

Sauvignon Blanc

In many ways, Sauvignon Blanc is the antithesis of Chardonnay. It is brighter tasting, higher in acid compared to relevantly low acid in Chardonnay. It punches fruit flavors forward and boasts its ability to pair with food with its vibrancy. American Sauvignon Blanc can be made in oak barrels or stainless steel, though the latter offers more crispiness on the pallet and should be a consideration when purchasing. A more complex version of this wine is often labeled Fume Blanc and may indicate a fuller expression of the varietal and therefore able to stand up to heartier fare. Fume Blanc is a great pairing with shrimp risotto.


This wonderful grape is more at home to cooler weather. Therefore, Washington State makes very nice Riesling but in particular, the Finger Lakes region of New York produces arguably the finest expressions of Riesling in the country. The climate and soil ape that of the famous Mosel Valley in Germany which produces the finest Rieslings on the planet. We have a good assortment of Finger Lakes Rieslings that we hope you will seek out. This varietal is typically off-dry and will refresh with its high acid that makes your mouth water. Historically, Riesling is one of the food friendliest wines in the world and can go with almost anything. Try it with salads, ripe cheese, and cured meats as well as heartier pork dishes.

Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris is the French name for “Grey Pinot” which is the same grape, as the Italian spelling for it called Pinot Grigio. That said, Italian or American Pinot Grigio often has little or no fragrance (nose) but is great as a sipper, or enjoyed with lighter dishes. Often, the decision to call the wine either Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris will indicate the style of the wine. Pinot Gris is typically more robust and full-bodied (more Chardonnay-like) even though it is the same grape as Pinot Grigio. The Pinot Gris, in particular, from Oregon defines elegance and complexity, perhaps more so than anywhere else in this country. The wine will certainly pair well with chicken and pork dishes and excels with baked salmon.

Notable Red Wine Varietals

Cabernet Sauvignon

The noble Cabernet Sauvignon has a great many expressions; from simple to massively complex Bordeaux that often lead with this varietal in the blend, regal Napa Cabernets, to simple and quaffable California appellation versions. Distinctive and elegant Cabernet is abundant in Washington State. In general, Cabernet is a full-bodied varietal that can be very tannic and powerful. Tannins are neutralized by a protein that makes Cabernet so good with a grilled steak. The flavors run the gambit and can be red or black fruits depending on the region and style of the wine. No doubt, one of the kings of red varietals, and its popularity has never waned.


Merlot shares many traits of Cabernet but in general, has a softer flavor profile. People who don’t like the taste of abundant tannins often enjoy Merlot because the tannins are typically less and softer. Merlot often has flavors of ripe plum and cherry while more site-specific versions can be more powerful and feature black fruits such as cassis. You can pair Merlot with many foods but is typically more at home with beef, lamb, or pork.


If there is a true American wine, it is almost certainly Zinfandel. Though the clonal roots of this wine began in Europe, Zinfandel carries the American Flag worldwide. It is a dense, spicy wine that often has a high ABV of over 15% or even 17%! Suffice it to say that this wine is not one to be over-indulgent on. Though they are “dry” wines, Zinfandels are often thought of as sweet because of their intense fruit-forward style. They can be tannic, but that plays a lesser role in the varietal in general. Because of these features, Zins are great with good ole’ American BBQ as the wines can hold up to sweet, spicy, and smoky flavors better than almost any other varietal.


Syrah, (AKA Shiraz) is a lush, lower acid wine that gushes of deep black fruits and berries. It is known for its silkiness, suppleness, and spice flavors. It’s a great wine for roasted meats and in particular, beef and lamb, but shines with pork dishes as well. If you’ve never had American Syrah, we suggest you try them as they could well be your new favorite.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is considered a “Noble Varietal” and lives up to this nomenclature as elegant, expressive, and sublime in character. Pinot is the one red grape that can go with almost any fare. It is a great wine for anyone wanting to “get into” red wines as it is lighter than most other varietals and less tannic. We recommend not decanting pinot unless it is exceptionally high in ABV as the wine tastes best as it evolves in your glass and can often taste like a different wine over the course of your dinner as it opens up. No need to limit it to red meats as Pinot is stunning with grilled Pacific salmon as well as sushi-grade tuna.

Connect with The Tasting Room for more ideas, pairings, history, and more on your favorite American wine and spirits!