1. Beringer Founder’s Estate California Cabernet Sauvignon ($9)
This historic winery makes arguably the broadest collection of acclaimed wines in California. Its Private Reserve has been a benchmark for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon since 1976. The much more affordable Founder’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is also impressive: a velvety, generous, cassis-driven red.
2. Bogle Old Vine California Zinfandel ($12)
The Bogle family has been farming in California’s Clarksburg region since the mid-1800s but only ventured into grape growing in 1968. The late Warren Bogle and his son Chris founded their eponymous winery about 10 years later. The family business is currently headed by Chris and Patty Bogle’s three children: Warren, Ryan and Jody. Bogle farms more than 1,200 acres of wine grapes in the Sacramento Delta—some of which go into Bogle’s jammy, luscious Old Vine Zinfandel, one of the best Zinfandel deals on the market.
3. Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Merlot ($15)
Unquestionably the largest producer in Washington State (more than a million cases each year), Chateau Ste. Michelle is also one of the most adventurous: The winery has forged partnerships with famous European names such as Tuscany’s Piero Antinori and Ernst Loosen of Germany’s Mosel, and has developed properties in up-and-coming regions like Washington’s Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills. Its Columbia Valley Merlot—smoky, savory and rich with black cherry fruit—is one of the reasons Washington Merlot is so highly regarded.