The Top 10 Up and Coming Wine Companies of 2016

In recent years the public taste for wines of all kinds has been evolving. Many no longer prefer the traditional wine flavors that favor lighter, fruitier blends over drier wines. This has provoked heated discussion among wine experts and lovers, as new wineries are sprouting up in countries around the world which do not have a long history of producing fine wines.

The newer and fruitier wines are often accused of lacking a depth of flavor, or of having a slightly chemical taste. The traditionalists feel that some of the newest wines are not polished, or have an artificial taste. Those who embrace the newer products have enjoyed them. So, the trend toward newer fruity wines has earned its own terminology. Traditionalists often refer to it as a new international style. Wine making processes have changed as new vintners source grapes from vineyards they do not own, or crush and blend with grapes from non-local areas.

What all wine lovers must consider now, is whether or not the newly educated winemakers and new technology they often use are creating better tasting wines than their long established traditional competitors. Eco friendly productions and bottling are taking the place of time honored methods.

Wine geeks everywhere are noting that wine quality seems to be improving overall. The trick is to find the wineries which produce the very best quality, often in very small or limited amounts. Avoiding mass production seems to be the desired path. A willingness to try what traditionalists refer to as New World wines is also important, as fine new wines continue to emerge from these parts of the world. Wines from Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and even Tahiti and China are being noted by wine enthusiasts.

In the United States, American wines from California continue to lead the lists of award winners. Wines from nearby Washington State and Canada are also receiving awards from prestigious competitions. The following is a list of noted wineries around the world.

International Wineries

Two Paddocks, New Zealand

Two Paddocks, New Zealand

Two Paddocks began in 1993, with five acres of Pinot Noir plants. The vineyard is located in the southern area of the country. The first goal was to produce an enjoyable wine, but the first vintage was decidedly world worthy. The winery continued to acquire land, plant and harvest in increasing amounts. As the vintages increased, the winery also won more awards.

It has evolved into an ecologically minded, sustainable and organic wine making production. Proprietor Sam Neill notes that a small but steady stream of bottles is making its way to various locations in the world, as possible.

A recent production of Riesling from this winery won 5 stars and 95 points in competition. It is described as having a delicate bouquet with hints of lemon peel, red apple and grapefruit. A bottle costs approximately $32. It is dry with a structured palate. The winery made 150 cases of the 2015 Central Otago Riesling.

William Cole Vineyards, Chile

William Cole Vineyards, Chile

The William Cole Vineyards are located in a valley nestled in the hills near the Pacific Ocean. The cold Humboldt Current flows in an Antarctic stream, providing the cooling moisture necessary for producing Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

To provide quality control, the 130 hectares of vines are watered using drip irrigation and frost controlling systems. The vines are fastened on modern trellises. When the new canes begin to grow, wires secure the new growth and protect the clusters of grapes. Each is tied individually.

The estate grows all of its grapes on its own plantation. Harvesting close to production keeps the grapes at their freshest. The winery has recently won awards for its 2014 Limited Edition Bell Pinot Noir, in addition to numerous other best in class awards internationally.

MAAL Wines, Argentina


Alfredo Merlo began making wine in 2010. The winery produces Malbecs with a distinctive acidic quality. He sources his grapes from his own vineyard located in Lujan de Cuyo, and also from small vineyards his friends and family own. In 2013, his Biutiful Malbec earned considerable accolades for its fruitiness and balanced acidity. The wine is un-oaked, and those who have tasted it recommend having it with a nice steak. Merlo makes only Malbec, which he personally prefers.

MAAL is located in a rented 120 year-old winery that has been restored. It is situated in Chacras de Coria, and it is treasured for its high ceilings and underground cellars. These architectural details serve to keep the temperature constant. The building is surrounded by Malbec vines that are at least one hundred years old, and many older trees. The winery is infused with spirit and tradition. MAAL Wines is part of a movement in Argentina and throughout the world to produce new wines that break from traditional flavors.

Arrowleaf Cellars, Canada

Arrowleaf Cellars, Canada

Arrowleaf sources grapes from four vineyards located locally. The winery creates wines which use the grape varieties which do best in the area, so it focuses on Pinot Noir and Bacchus. This allows the winery to offer both whites and reds. Arrowleaf uses bottles and caps form nearby Washington state. The bottles are recycled and lighter in weight than traditional bottles. For this reason, the production process is ecologically minded, reducing transportation and manufacturing emissions.

This is a family operated and owned business founded by Joe and Margrit Zuppiger, who immigrated from Switzerland in 1986. They were experienced with dairy and fruit operations, but they wanted to found a vineyard. Together with their son Manuel, who trained as a winemaker in Switzerland, they focused on the emerging wine region of Okanagan. They first opened in 2003, presenting their first 2001 reds and 2003 whites vintages. Notable wines with recent awards include their 2015 Pinot Gris and their 2015 Snow Tropics. These two wines won awards at the British Columbia Wine Awards and the International Wine & Spirits Competition.

Apricus Hill, Australia

Apricus Hill, Australia

In Western Australia, on the south coast is the region of Denmark. It is there that Apricus Hill was settled in 1995. It is located above the sea level at 750 feet, which makes it a prime example of a cool climate vineyard. It benefits from the ocean breezes and warm land.

The 2016 Wine Companion of James Halliday rated Apricus Hill’s wines with five stars, which has been a recent notable accomplishment for this small family operated winery, which produces in small quantities. The winery was also included as a Top Ten Best New Wineries in the same publication.

The winery produces the following:

  1. 2015 Apricus Hill Merlot Rose’
  2. 2015 Apricus Hill Pinot Noir
  3. 2014 Apricus Hill Chardonnay
  4. 2015 Apricus Hill Sauvignon
  5. 2015 Apricus Hill Semillon

American Wineries

With historic roots residing deep in the Cloverdale Citrus Fair, the San Francisco Chronicle took over as the sponsor of the wine tasting competition representing one of the most extensive metropolitan wine purchasing regions in the entire world. The 2000 shift from host Cloverdale to San Francisco was a historic one, because it opened competition to eventually include wineries from Oregon, Idaho, Washington and the entire state of California by the time the 2005 competition was held.

By the year 2013, the competition was opened to wine producing regions throughout the United States. In 2015, 6,300 wines were entered from wine companies representing more than 28 American states. This was a record-breaking year for entries. The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is now the largest competition for American wines existing in the world. The sweepstakes winners for the 2016 competition feature a wide range of wineries and wines.

V. Sattui Winery

V. Sattui Winery

Without question, it takes time to grow a fine winery. It can take generations. In the case of the White Sweepstake Winner for 2016, V. Sattui Winery, the winery evolved through several family members to emerge as an award winning enterprise. Founded in 1885, it enjoyed years of local success until it was closed for Prohibition in 1920. It wasn’t until 1941 when great-grandson of the founder Vittorio Sattui, Dario Sattui was born. The winery waited until 1972 for him to apprentice at Napa wineries, determined to restart the family winery. In 1976, the winery opened its doors once more. In 1985 and 1994 the winery purchased land to grow grapes. From that time until 2015, the winery steadily added awards to its list. In 2016, it presented its 2014 Los Carneros Chardonnay for competition.

The 2014 Los Carneros Chardonnay was created from grapes grown on the historic Henry Ranch, and Huichica Chardonnay source. The cool climate in the area is perfect for Chardonnay grapes. It was harvested in 2013 September between the 4th and 16th days of the month. Its PH is 3.42. It was aged for 9 months in 50% seasoned wood and 50% new French oak, and fermented in French oak barrels. Its residual sugar content is 2.6 g/L and its alcohol content is 14.6. It is an oaky dry wine with touches of tropical fruit. Its current price is $38 per bottle.

Barnard Griffin

Barnard Griffin

As far as wineries go, Barnard Griffin is relatively new. It was founded in 1983, and though it has been an awarding winning producer for more than 30 years, in the overall scheme of things, it is a youngster. Rob Griffin and Deborah Barnard founded their winery in the sumptuously beautiful wine country of Washington State. It is nestled where the Columbia, Snake and Yakima rivers converge in the south-central part of the state.

The winery presented their 2015 Rosé of Sangiovese for competition and won the Pink Sweepstake Award, winning the distinction of best of the best for their Rose.

The 2015 Rose’ of Sangiovese is described as a dry wine with notes of cranberry, strawberry and melon. It features a crisp acidity that cleans the palate with expansive flavors which persist throughout. It will stand alone, or can be paired with many cuisine choices. Its current average sale price is $13 per bottle.

Reserve Wines:

  • 2007 Zinfandel
  • 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2014 Syrah Port
  • 2014 Reserve Chardonnay

Signature Whites:

  • 2015 Rose’ of Sangiovese
  • 2014 Albarino
  • 2014 Chardonnay
  • 2014 Fume’ Blanc
  • 2014 Riesling
  • 2014 Roussane

Signature Reds:

  • 2013 Merlot
  • 2013 Pinot Noir
  • 2014 Rob’s Red Blend
  • 2014 Syrah

Runquist Wines


Jeff Runquist began making wines using a different from the expected route. He studying enology at UC Davis in California as a Seagrams intern for the Paul Masson Sherry Cellars. He graduated in 1980 and began work in the Montevina cellar in the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County. He was promoted to the position of winemaker in 1982. He also worked for three years with the Napa Valley Cooperative Winery. The San Jose winery, J. Lohr invited him to become their winemaker, and that was the inspiration that propelled him toward a journey of making wines of his own.

He travels all over California, sourcing grapes from different vineyards. He used more than twenty varieties from nine appelations to crush for his 2013 vintage. He produces wines in limited quantities with a very small production. But, he has principal wines that he strives to make available year round. These include Barbera, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Zinfandel.

He has crushed tons of grapes sources from various ranches and has used facilities at other wineries to create cases of wine under his label. In 2006, he was able to purchase a walnut orchard totaling five acres located on Shenandoah Road. By Spring 2008, the company was able to open a tasting room, which was followed by production facilities. By 2011, the majority of production took place in Amador.

Jeff represents the newest generation of winemakers. These are the ones who have learned their craft through modern technological education, rather than through a family heritage of wine-making for generations. Jeff’s passion is typical of this new breed in that sourcing grapes from other vineyards is possible today. Gradually, the traditional thinking about grape growing and wine producing has allowed for trained enologists to join the winemaking industry. Lacking land and the vineyard that occupies it has not stopped wine production.

Jeff enjoys releasing new vintages and likes the vibrant flavors of his newer wines. He doesn’t return to wines he has made in previous years very often.

Runquist’s 2013 Zinfandel, created at the Nostro Vino Vineyard in Amador County, California sells for approximately $26 per bottle. It is one of two Red Sweepstake Winners for 2016.

Runquist Gold Medal Winners:

  • 2009 “R” Petite Sirah
  • 2010 “R” Barbera
  • 2010 “R” Cabernet Franc
  • 2010 “R” Zinfandel

Sonnet Wine Cellars


Tony Craig, a Shakespearean actor from Newcastle, England, created Sonnet Wine Cellars. He began producing wines for himself during his tenure at the David Bruce Winery in California. Located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the vineyard has a designation program for Pinot Noir, and Craig led this program for twelve years. Recognition and accolades for the Bruce Pinot Noir developed over the years, which inspired Craig to work on his own label. It took a few years, but Sonnet Pinot Noir has become a much sought after wine throughout California. In 2015 Sonnet won the Santa Cruz Mountains Winery of the Year award from the New York International Wine Competition.

Craig has fondly posted all of Shakespeare’s sonnets on the company website so that anyone who desires may read a few while enjoying his wonderful Pinot Noir wines.

The 2013 Pinot Noir was the second Red Sweepstake Winner at the recent San Francisco Chronicle competition. It currently sells for approximately $40 per bottle.

Sonnet Award Winners:

  • 2001 Pommard Clone
  • 2002 Tondre’s Grapefield
  • 2003 Kruse Vineyard
  • 2003 Amber Ridge Vineyard
  • 2003 Tondre’s Grapefield
  • 2008 Muns Vineyard
  • 2008 Tondre’s Grapefield
  • 2012 Tondre’s Grapefield
  • 2013 Muns Vineyard
  • 2013 Tondre’s Grapefield

Claar Cellars

Claar Cellars

Audrienne and Russell Claar developed their original farm in 1950 and planted the first season of grapes in 1980. The Claar family currently owns its Estate Winery. Since their children took over in 1983, the family has developed premium vineyards on more than 120 acres along the hillsides overlooking the Columbia River. The hills are part of the White Bluffs region, which has an ideal microclimate for growing high quality grapes. The soil drains well and collects heat for each growing season, making the region well respected as a prime vineyard area in Washington state.

The owners have sold grapes to wineries throughout the United States, including New York, Mississippi, New Mexico and elsewhere for thirteen years. The taste and quality was so fine that the family made the decision to develop their own Estate Winery. In 1997, they crushed, processed and bottled their own grape harvest in its entirety within their facility. They have continued to make technological improvements and additions to the facility since then.

The winery is certified to be Salmon Safe and Sustainable with LIVE and IOBC. Their Premium wines are award winning and include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Merlot, Syrah, and Sangiovese. They have also planted new Petite Sirah, Pinot Gris, Malbec and Viognier.

Their 2013 Riesling, named Ice Wine, was the Dessert / Specialty Sweepstake Winner for 2016. It currently sells for about $40 per bottle.

Claar Cellars winemaker is Joe Hudon, who has worked in wineries in Australia, New Zealand, California and Washington. He has a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Washington State University. He also has a master’s degree in oenology from University of Adelaide. In his third year at Claar, he exemplifies the newest generation of winemakers who have come to the industry through educational experiences and hands on apprenticeship with established wineries.

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