When looking for a bottle of Pinot Noir from California, the choices can be overwhelming. The grape has found a home in much of the state—from regions in the Central Coast up through Sonoma, Mendocino and the Anderson Valley in the north—making it one of the red grapes with the most acreage in California.
Naturally, this widespread availability leads to an array of price points and quality levels. However, as a notoriously finicky grape in the vineyard, quality Pinot Noir often doesn’t come cheap. Prices often soar $50 and up for some of the best bottlings, yet tasty exceptions can be found.
To aid in your search for a delicious, velvety Pinot Noir, here are twelve great bottles that clock in under $30 a bottle.
Cambria 2017 Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley); $25, 94 points. This excellent Pinot offers aromas of dried cherry, toasted sage and roasted strawberry that lead into a palate that’s snappy and light, yet with tons of weighty stuffing. Flavors of bright raspberry and wild thyme lead into a vanilla-kissed finish. Editors’ Choice. —Matt Kettmann
BloodRoot 2018 Pinot Noir (Sonoma County); $20, 93 points. This wine is a secret collaboration between several winemakers with great vineyard sourcing who have come together here to make a masterful, value-minded blend. The majority of the grapes come from Russian River Valley, with others from Sonoma Coast, Marin, Anderson Valley and Bennett Valley. Tea, earth, stone and herb tones enliven a core of cranberry and rhubarb, offering length and depth. The tannins are velvety smooth and seductive. Editors’ Choice. —Virginie Boone
Joyce 2018 Submarine Canyon Pinot Noir (Monterey); $25, 93 points. Dark Bing cherry and berry-candy aromas are beautifully ripe, fresh and run on the nose of this bright expression of Monterey, always one of the region’s better Pinot Noirs for the price. That fresh cherry tone picks up light cola and mace on the delicious palate, where acidity pumps into the vanilla-kissed finish. Editors’ Choice. —M.K.
Pali 2018 Riviera Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast); $25, 93 points. This fantastic value is primarily sourced from the winery’s estate plus another small family vineyard in Sonoma Coast. Intense, fresh and pristine aromas of boysenberry meet with cocoa on the nose. The palate delivers the same berry intensity atop a strong splash of acidity. Editors’ Choice. —M.K.
Scar of the Sea 2018 Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County); $28, 93 points. This county-wide blend is light in the glass, offering crisp aromas of Alpine strawberry, red currant, mint and wet stone. The palate is zippy and taut in structure, delivering flavors of underripe raspberry, cranberry and damp wool. Editors’ Choice. —M.K.
Brick & Mortar 2018 Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley); $24, 92 points. Tart and tangy in rhubarb and black tea, this light, lifted and substantially fresh red is delicate in nature and nuance. Coastal acidity permeates the crisp, crunchy fruit and earthy forest tones, making just enough room for cardamom and nutmeg to play too. —V.B.
Eden Rift 2018 Valliant Pinot Noir (Central Coast); $25, 92 points. This affordable series from the Eden Rift team offers great value with the same level of winemaking. Tight aromas of boysenberry, wet clay, dried flowers and a hint of pepper lead into a hearty palate of rich dark fruit, black licorice and violet. A chalky tension rises on the finish. Editors’ Choice. —M.K.
Lafond 2017 SRH Pinot Noir (Sta. Rita Hills); $27, 92 points. Aromas of stewed cranberry, nutmeg, dried roses and a hint of meat show on the nose of this bottling. There’s plenty of vibrant, peppery acidity on the sip, as well as cracked pepper flavors, alongside baked raspberry and sour cherry. —M.K.
Navarro 2018 Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley); $22, 92 points. Beautiful cherry aromas and deep, pure black-cherry flavors are lifted by fresh acidity in this finely balanced wine. It has a snappy, appetizing texture strengthened by moderate tannins and should hold nicely through 2024. —Jim Gordon
Valravn 2018 Pinot Noir (Sonoma County); $24, 92 points. This is a high-toned, earthy and textured wine that overdelivers on its price point, presenting complex warm spice, black-tea and candied cherry and raspberry flavor. The tannins are soft and well integrated, as is the oak, allowing plenty of room for nuance and elegant composure. Editors’ Choice. —V.B.
Bogle 2017 Pinot Noir (California); $12, 91 points. Seductive and spicy, this full-bodied, abundantly flavorful wine combines ripe black fruits with attractive wood smoke, clove and anise nuances. It’s mouthfilling and rich, but well balanced by acidity and light tannins. Best Buy. —J.G.
The Pinot Project 2019 Pinot Noir (California); $15, 91 points. Pure and expressive, this wine is more than just fruity, adding enticing black-tea and forest-floor notes to its tasty cherry and rhubarb core. Medium to full bodied, it offers fine-grained tannins to firm up the texture. This is the third excellent vintage in a row for this remarkable value wine. Best Buy. —J.G.
Published: September 25, 2020