The Estate-Bottled Wine Difference

When You See 'Estate' on the Label, You Know It's Special

Cheese and grapes on cutting board
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When you hear a wine described as "estate bottled" or see "estate" on a wine label in the United States, it means something very specific -- and actually something pretty special.

The Estate Label

The U.S. government, through the Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau (known as the TTB), sets these requirements for wineries that want to use the word "estate" on their labels:

  • 100 percent of the wine must be made from grapes either grown on land owned by the winery or controlled by the winery. Since many wineries source some of their grapes from other growers -- indeed, many vineyards grow grapes precisely for this purpose -- this can be a tough standard to meet.
  • The vineyards must be in a viticultural area,which is simply a specific wine grape-growing region with boundaries that are recognized by the U.S. government. This is challenging because it concentrates the risks of bad weather -- you can't label a pinot noir "estate" if your area's crop was hit hard by mother nature and you have to source your pinot noir grapes from another viticultural area.
  • The winery and the vineyard must be in the same viticultural area. The tricky part with this one is that viticultural area boundaries don't take into account town, county or state borders.
  • The winery must crush and ferment the grapes, and then finish, bottle and age the wine on its own premises and in a continuous process. The wine cannot leave the premises at any time during its production. If a winery wants to use the word "estate" on its label, It couldn't use an off-site crush facility, for example.
Kendall-Jackon winery
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Visiting an Estate Winery

If you're on a trip to California, Washington or Oregon, you should not miss the chance to visit an estate winery for tours and a long stop in the tasting room. There you will be treated to several rounds of estate-bottled wine tastings, called flights, by a sommelier of the winery, who can give you a wine education while you enjoy his wines. Private tastings and tastings for large groups can also be arranged at most estate wineries. Many wineries have picnic areas, so if the weather is warm and sunny -- and it usually is in these locations, pack some sandwiches or artisan bread and an assortment of cheese and buy a bottle of your favorite from the tasting to accompany the feast. 

Estate Wineries -- California

  • Brown -- Napa Valley
  • Lancaster Estate -- Healdsburg
  • Wente Vineyards -- Livermore Valley
  • Carter Estate Winery & Resort -- Temecula
  • Kendall-Jackson -- Sonoma County
  • Harris Estate -- Napa Valley
  • Brassfield Estate -- North Coast
  • Keller Estate -- Petaluma

Estate Wineries -- Washington

  • Cave B Estate Winery -- Quincy
  • Gordon Estate -- Columbia Valley
  • Horan Estates -- Wenatchee Valley

Estate Wineries -- Oregon

  • King Estate -- Willamette Valley
  • Nobel Estate Vineyard and Winery -- Eugene
  • Tualatin Estate Vineyard -- Forest Grove
  • Stoller Family Estate -- Dundee Hills
  • WillaKenzie Estate -- Yamhill
  • Hyland Estates -- Dundee Hills
  • Natalie's Estate Winery -- Willamette Valley
  • Montinore Estate -- Willamette Valley
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