Our blind panels tasted 917 new-release Pinot Noirs over the past 12 months. Out of the 353 wines our critics rated as exceptional (90+) and 77 as Best Buys, here are great Pinot Noir picks from California for $25 and under.
2017 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (Best Buy)
89 | $17
Briskly tannic, this wine has a light red glow that lasts. Its fat cherry flavors are firm and fresh and there’s plenty of fragrant length to make this a steal at the price. — Joshua Greene
This straight-ahead pinot hits all the right notes in its smoky, pine-scented aroma and sleek caramel and cherry flavors. It’s all presented with good tension and balance, over delivering for the price. — Patrick J. Comiskey
River Road Vineyards
2018 Russian River Valley Reserve Pinot Noir (Best Buy)
87 | $20
Plush and immediately rich with its toasted grain, bitter chocolate and almond skin tannins, this this is ready for mushroom bruschetta. — J.G.
Sean Minor Wines
2019 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (Best Buy)
87 | $22
Bright pomegranate and transparent cranberry flavors fill this soft pinot noir, a light red to enjoy on its own. — J.G.
This lean well-priced pinot doesn’t pander with added sugar or extract. Instead, you can taste the wind off Monterey Bay, the flavors all tart cherry and berry, with a modest oak complement that doesn’t get in the way of the vibrant fruit. A well-made, go-to pinot noir staple. — P.J.C.
This well-priced red made by the Talley family smells like a lean cherry jam dusted with cocoa, with flavors to match. Cool sites in San Luis Obispo give this wine its juicy brightness along with a frame of acidity for a lively lunchtime pour. — P.J.C.
Lightly red-fruited, with scents of rhubarb and strawberry, there’s a cola sweetness to the oak flavors here that complements the plush textures. A simple and forthright red for spring sipping. — P.J.C.
2018 Mendocino County Pinot Noir (Best Buy)
90 | $25
Meaty and rich, this wine’s ripe strawberry flavors have a warm persimmon-like spice. It’s smoky and soft, a pinot noir for filet mignon. — J.G.
2019 Sonoma County Pinot Noir (Best Buy)
90 | $25
Focused on vineyards in the Russian River Valley, this has simple red cherry flavors, light tannins and gentle elegance. There’s length and substance to that red fruit and spice, and the price makes this a wine to buy by the case. — J.G.
The wines on this page were chosen by our editors, from our tastings for the April 2021 edition. After our editors made their selections, we offered wineries the opportunity to promote their Best Buy award with a bottle image and brand links.
This story appears in the print issue of April 2021.
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