I don't know about the US but in Australia wineries don't use sorbate at all, only sulphate. Perhaps if it affects the flavour would explain that. Many people complain about so2 causing headaches, I think it is usually the alcohol. I think it is always preferable to use as little additive as possible so I didn't use any sulphate in my cider this year. I've been drinking it for a couple of months and haven't noticed any change in headache frequency, still worth trying.
Sterile filtering would definitely be preferable to additives, but expensive to set up I would think. Most mass market wine (sub $10 bottles) is sterile filtered.