Hidden Gems: Independent Wineries Worth Discovering in 2024

There’s an incredible thrill to finding that one piece of art that perfectly fits the space you’ve been trying to fill, or the smell of those brand-new leather seats in your jet. It was all worth the search. Opening that bottle of wine you finally got your hands on, the one you’ve heard so much about, bursting with rich berries and flavorful tannins? The feeling is no different.

According to the Wines Vines Analytics Winery Database, there are more than 11,600 wineries in the U.S. alone. Many of those are independent wineries who invest their resources towards making limited quantities of exceptional wines, not marketing and distribution—which makes finding them a challenging task.

Even the most ambitious wine lover can’t experience every option out there. At any given price point, many of the highest quality wines will have been produced by independent wineries. However, you likely haven’t heard of many of them because they invest their resources into the wine instead of marketing, brand awareness and distribution.

So how do you find those hard-to-find, palate-provoking wines your friends have been raving about? One way is to reach out to a company like Sommsation that specializes in seeking out the best limited-production wines from acclaimed independent winemakers around the world.

With over 40 independent wineries and 300+ wines—all vetted by Sommsation’s team of 35+ sommeliers—buyers get direct access to the far reaches of wine country. The company also offers sommelier-led tastings to share deep dives into individual wineries, as well as other one-on-one sommelier services, like personal cellar management, private event planning, and wine country travel planning. Through these direct connections to independent wineries, buyers get the benefit of an inside track to acclaimed wines they wouldn’t necessarily discover otherwise.

Lauren Magee, Chief Product Officer of Sommsation, has spent her career in the industry. “In our experience, wine ratings are a kind of lagging indicator of wine quality. The sommeliers, winemakers and other wine-industry insiders are already enjoying the wines people are scrambling for and waiting years to get allocations. Through our network of sommeliers, we know about these great wines before the world does, so you can be the first to acquire them.”

Just as your pilot makes decisions based on expertise and experience to get you to your destination safely, a knowledgeable sommelier can do the same to help you discover the exceptional wines your palate deserves. As a sommelier with more than 15 years of experience, I’ve selected a few of my favorite limited-production wines for you to enjoy on the next leg of your wine journey.

For the Pinot Lovers

Malk Family Vineyards 2020 Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir

The Malk family tradition of wine farming began almost 100 years ago near Cape Town, South Africa. The Pinot Noir grapes for this wine were sourced from the Kings Ridge Vineyard located in a particular sub region of the Sonoma Coast appellation, often called the “true Sonoma Coast.”

The 2020 represents the more feminine nature of the vintage. It is bright and silky smooth on the entry and offers a simply delicious mouthfeel. It presents everything that the Estate has: black cherry, fresh earth, black tea and hints of vanilla bean but adds another layer of gorgeous fruit with added violet floral notes and even a hint of clove spice and certainly forest floor. Truly an elegant wine that exhibits some concentration without compromising balance and finesse. $70.

Food pairings: This wine is an ideal medium red for winter mainstays like roasted chicken, duck breast, and morel and chanterelle mushrooms.

Authentique Wine Cellars 2017 Authentique Keeler Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir

Authentique’s raison d’etre is to capture the true essence of vineyard and terroir from the family’s Demeter Biodynamic and Stellar Organic certified estate in Amity, Oregon, along with long-term growing partners from key sites in Eola-Amity Hills, Ribbon Ridge and the Chehalem Mountains.

The 2017, hailing from the family estate, delivers blueberry and violet aromas, with red cherries and dried forest-wood tones. The palate holds a very fresh and sturdy structure with a core of vibrant red-cherry flavors plus some hints of coffee, set amid fine, layered tannins. 94 points from Wine Enthusiast. $75.

Food Pairings: Reach for the aged gouda if you’re serving as an aperitif. For a main, this wine sings with roasted turkey or pork and root vegetables.

For the Cabernet Sauvignon Lovers

Hawk and Horse Vineyards 2019 Block Three Cabernet Sauvignon

Hawk and Horse Vineyards, a Demeter and CCOF Organic certified estate in Red Hills, California, is situated at 1,800-2,000 feet in elevation, with its red rocky volcanic soils studded with “Lake County Diamonds,” a type of gemstone. The terroir is tailor-made for producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varieties.

The 2019 Block Three Cabernet Sauvignon delivers a wave of black cherry and mocha plum. Chewy, it engages with flavorful tannins and develops an intimacy with the palate. The finish delivers a valentine of plum and pomegranate. 95 points from Wine Enthusiast. $60 for this extremely limited allocation wine.

Food pairings: This wine is ideal for date night: filet mignon, sauteed spinach, roasted portobello mushrooms.

Seavey Vineyard 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Seavey Vineyard, founded in 1979 on a renovated stone winery building that was originally part of the Franco Swiss Winery operation in the 1800s, produces approximately 3,000 cases annually from the estate’s 40 planted acres.

Blackberry, tart cherry and warm cassis waft from the glass, with notes of nutmeg and black pepper. This dense yet subtle wine has a well-rounded palate of huckleberry, red rope licorice candy, and cherry cola, with bitter chocolate, cinnamon, and a sweet tobacco finish. Time in French oak barrels served to balance this structured and energetic yet surprisingly soft wine. Atypically polished tannins and balanced acidity lead to a weighty, extended finish sure to stand the test of time. $240.

Food pairings: This is an ideal choice for dry aged beef or leaner cuts of beef, paired with vegetables like turnips, onions and portobello mushrooms.