Look closely on label of wines made in U.S. and you find phrases indicating where grapes came from and wine was made.
Labeling rules are purview of Tax and Trade Bureau—government arm that prevents misleading labeling of wine, beer, and spirits. The bureau also has responsibilities involving tobacco, firearms, and explosives (go figure).
At high end, “estate bottled,” “château bottled,” or “grown, produced, and bottled by” means 100 percent of grapes were grown in winery’s own vineyards or came from vineyards the winery controls in same appellation (growing region). In addition, grapes were vinified (process of turning grape juice into wine) and the wine bottled at the winery.
Such a description connotes wine of specific character and higher quality.
“Produced and bottled by” indicates winery crushed, fermented, and bottled at least 75 percent of the wine in the bottle, but grapes can come from anywhere. This indicates less control and resulting wine has less specific character and quality, although such wines can be very good if winery buys quality grapes.
“Made and bottled by” or “vinted and bottled by” means grapes can come from anywhere and a minimum of 10 percent of the wine was vinified at the winery—up to 90 percent of the wine can be purchased from wherever.
“Bottled by” only means winery put wine in the bottle, typically using wine purchased on open market at lowest price. Draw your own conclusions about quality; typically, price will please you.
Recommended (all estate/château bottled):
• Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay. Elegant apples, peaches. Santa Maria Valley, California. $20
• Mettler Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark power, rich nose; mocha, raspberries. $25
• Freemark Abbbey Merlot. Cherries, plums; soft, velvet tannins. Napa. $25
• Summers Four-Acre Zinfandel. Bob Parker raves about it; deep, complex; loads of fruit, soft tannins, long finish. Napa. $25
• Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon. Super-dense, smoky, full bodied Napa blockbuster; black and red fruits. $33