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The 17 Most Important California Vineyards All Wine Lovers Need to Know

A great trick for buying the best bottles of California wine? Memorizing the names of top vineyards so you can spot them on labels.

Prepare yourself. You’re about to learn a new life hack in the realm of wine selection. No longer will you stare blankly in the grocery store wine aisle wondering which wines are the ones you want to take home; no longer will the wine labels stare back at you and laugh with disdain at your ignorance; no longer will you bring home a dud and lose the respect of your family and friends.

If you can’t memorize the thousands of winemakers around the world and keep a mental note of which wines are guaranteed to delight and which wines should get drained down the sink, there’s one trick to identifying the best potential bottle of wine: knowing the name of top vineyards that might appear on the label.

Hyde Vineyard

Since 1979, you could amble through the morning fog in this Carneros vineyard and find founder Larry Hyde tending to his yield. Hyde makes some fantastic Merlot, Viognier, and Syrah, but the real superstar is their Chardonnay, which attracts a veritable Who’s Who of the most revered California Chardonnay winemakers. You may also know Larry’s partner in the HdV Winery—one Aubert de Villaine, the co-owner of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. While we’re name-dropping, it’s almost impossible to talk about Hyde without talking about Hudson, the other Chardonnay Grand Cru vineyard in Carneros owned by Lee Hudson. Instead of Starsky & Hutch, it could have been Hudson & Hyde. And Lee Hudson might just be the devilish Jekyll to Mr. Larry Hyde, certainly from this writer’s perspective. I have a fond memory of meeting Mr. Lee Hudson the night before my wedding day at Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena. When he found out I was getting married, he gave me the same advice I’m going to pass along to you. “Run,” he said—and to this day, I’m sure he meant: “Run into the vineyards [once you’re married] and eat off the fruit of the vine.” That’s what he meant, right? Anyway, as for Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay, get it where you can.

Producers: Amici, Aubert, HDV, Hyde Vineyard Estate, Joseph Phelps, Kistler, Miner, Patz & Hall, Paul Hobbs, Radius, Ramey, Ram’s Gate, Saxon Brown, Tor, DuMOL.

Wines to Try:

2018 Ramey Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard Carneros Napa Valley ($70)

Can’t ever get enough of this! Lovey ginger spices, crushed wild rosemary, lemon, and lime citrus for days, subtle nutty finish. Everything David Ramey touches turns to gold, including this divine white. Find it at wine.com.

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The 17 Most Important California Vineyards All Wine Lovers Need to Know