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20 Best Wines in California You Need To Try (2023 Edition)

Best Wines in California

Last Updated on November 26, 2023 by Lydia Martin

With its fruity reds, crisp whites, and bubbly sparklers, California has earned its reputation as the largest and most diverse wine-producing region in the United States.

As a seasoned mixologist and passionate wine enthusiast, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring California’s diverse wine offerings.

In this article, I’ll take you on a delightful journey through the best wines in California that have left a lasting impression on the palate of many wine enthusiasts.

Top 20 California Wines To Try in 2023

20. Tooth & Nail Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Bottle of Tooth & Nail Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 on a Table

Average Price: Roughly $21.99 (Vivino)

Alcohol Content: 14.6% ABV

Nose: Black cherries, black currants, roasted wood, dark mint, fennel

Palate: Full and rounded flavors of white pepper, cassis, dried herbs

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: The Tooth & Nail Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 is a delightful blend, with 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 10% Petite Sirah, and 6% Syrah, creating a harmonious and flavorful profile.

On the nose, it entices with a medley of black cherry, black currant, and enticing roasted wood notes, complemented by hints of dark mint and fennel.

“Savor the essence of California’s finest wines, pure and unforgettable.” – Liquor Laboratory

The palate showcases a rich and full-bodied experience, with luscious flavors of black cherry, cassis, and dried herbs that leave a lasting impression.

19. Oak Farm Vineyards Barbera Lodi

Woman Drinking Oak Farm Vineyards Barbera Lodi

Average Price: Roughly $25 (Official Website)

Alcohol Content: 14% ABV

Nose: Cherry, hibiscus tea, pomegranate, mixed spices

Palate: Medium-bodied, ripe plum, lively acidity, soft tannins

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Taking my first sip, the medium-bodied experience delights with flavors of ripe plum, balanced by lively acidity and soft tannins.

Its enticing aromas of cherry, hibiscus tea, pomegranate, and mixed spices invite you to indulge in a sensory journey.

18. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Artemis” Cabernet Sauvignon

Man Drinking Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis

Average Price: Roughly $85 (Official Website)

Alcohol Content: 14.8% ABV

Nose: Olive, espresso, black licorice, red fruit

Palate: Medium to full-bodied, smooth mouthfeel, berry, dark fruit

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: The Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Artemis” from the Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District impresses with its alluring nose, featuring notes of cassis, dried blueberries, and hints of violets and graphite.

On the palate, it delights with its smooth and supple texture, accompanied by firm, polished tannins. This elegant wine [1] offers excellent balance and length.

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17. Rochioli 2019 Estate Grown Pinot Noir

Average Price: Roughly $59.99 (KLWines)

Alcohol Content: 14.5% ABV

Nose: Ripe cherry, vanilla, a hint of savory herbs

Palate: Juicy, refined, dusty cherry, dark plum, raspberry, rounded tannins, easy oak accents

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: The Rochioli 2019 Estate-Grown Pinot Noir is a valid showcase of elegance and balance. The wine is juicy and refined on the palate, with a delightful hint of dusty cherry.

Its big, rich mouthfeel and silky tannins create a smooth and luxurious texture that captivates the senses. The wine’s long finish leaves a lasting impression and exemplifies the classic Rochioli character.

16. Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon

Pouring Bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon on a Glass

Average Price: Roughly $100 (Official Website)

Alcohol Content: 14.4% ABV

Nose: Complex aromas of Red cherry, raspberry, black pepper, iris, vanilla, clove

Palate: Great acidity, lift, black currant, warm baking spices

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: On the palate, the wine reveals its excellent acidity and lift, accentuating the flavors of black currant and warm baking spices.

The mid-palate is elegant and engaging, while the deep and fruity finish lingers long after the final sip.

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15. Gary Farrell 2018 Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay

Woman Drinking Bottle of Gary Farrell 2018 Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay

Average Price: Roughly $70 (Official Website)

Alcohol Content: 14.3% ABV

Nose: Pear tart, white peaches, fragrant apple blossom

Palate: Preserved lemons, oily citrus, crème brulee, vanilla toast

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: The Gary Farrell 2018 Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay is a true stunner that delivers a captivating sensory experience. The enticing aromas of pear tart, white peaches, and fragrant apple blossom set the stage for a delightful tasting journey.

The red wine unfolds its vibrant freshness with each sip, boasting preserved lemons and zesty oily citrus notes that invigorate the palate.

14. Honig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Average Price: Roughly $60 (Official Website)

Alcohol Content: 14.9% ABV

Nose: Currant, plum, black raspberry, black pepper, nutmeg, dried herbs

Palate: Damson plum, red currant, savory, bay leaf, red tea, singed cedar

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: As the flavors unfold, a touch of sweet oak weaves everything together, enhancing the wine’s overall harmony and balance.

The wine showcases the luscious flavors of Damson plum and red currant on the palate, while subtle undertones of savory and bay leaf add depth and complexity.

13. Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel 2018

Close Up Image of Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel 2018 Bottle

Average Price: Roughly $66.99 (Vivino)

Alcohol Content: 14.5% ABV

Nose: Fragrant spice, dark raspberries, blackberries

Palate: Plump, concentrated dark raspberries, blackberries, elegant complexity

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Upon first sip of this red wine from the Sonoma coast, the wine’s concentration is evident, with luscious dark raspberries and blackberries taking center stage.

However, what truly stands out is the wine’s impressive elegance and complexity, beautifully balancing its rich fruit flavors.

12. Terre Rouge 2017 Ascent Syrah

Average Price: Roughly $115 (Official Website)

Alcohol Content: 14.5% ABV

Nose: Smoky, earthy, anise

Palate: Layered black plum, clove, blackberry flavors

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Its enticing bouquet boasts smoky, earthy notes, complemented by hints of anise and blood orange, setting the stage for an unforgettable tasting experience.

On the palate, the wine unfolds with concentrated and layered black plum, clove, and blackberry flavors, showcasing its depth and complexity. It expands across the palate as a full-bodied Syrah, leaving a lasting impression.

11. Duckhorn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Bottle of Duckhorn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Average Price: Roughly $105 (Official Website)

Alcohol Content: 14.5% ABV

Nose: Blackberry, plum, roasted nuts, chocolate

Palate: Layered flavors of ripe black fruits, toffee, caramel, toasted oak

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: On the lush palate, the wine reveals a beautiful amalgamation of flavors, showcasing ripe black fruits, toffee, caramel, and toasted oak, creating a delightful taste experience.

With its well-balanced and harmonious profile, it’s no surprise that this wine has earned a four-star rating.

10. Ramey 2018 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay

Bottle and a Glass of Ramey 2018 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay

Average Price: Roughly $89.99 (Vivino)

Alcohol Content: 14.5% ABV

Nose: Toasted hazelnut, white pepper, fruit-forward

Palate: Undeniable minerality, lasting acidity

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: The Ramey 2018 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay is a great wine that captivates from the first sip.

On the palate, the flagship wine showcases undeniable minerality and lasting acidity, offering a harmonious balance that delights the senses.

Its freshness and energy make it an exceptional choice for those seeking a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with elegance and complexity.

9. Frei Brothers Merlot

Bottle and a Glass of of Frei Brothers Merlot

Average Price: Roughly $15.99 (Vivino)

Alcohol Content: 14.3% ABV

Nose: Cherry, red currant, plum, dried herbs, cinnamon spice

Palate: Velvety smooth, full-bodied, ripe fruit notes

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: From the moment I indulged in the red wine, the delightful aromas of cherry, red currant, and plum intermingled with hints of dried herbs and warm cinnamon spice.

“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation.” -Benjamin Franklin, American Polymath

On the palate, the Merlot [2] revealed its velvety smooth and full-bodied character, offering flavorful ripe fruit notes that seamlessly blended.

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8. Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley

Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley Bottle

Average Price: Roughly $31.47 (Total Wine)

Alcohol Content: 15% ABV

Nose: Blueberries, currants, hazelnuts, mint chocolate.

Palate: Plush and smooth tannins, full-bodied, creamy.

Star Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Why We Like It: Chateau Buena Vista Napa Valley is a red wine that pays homage to the estate’s rich history and prominence in establishing Napa and Sonoma Valley as California’s preeminent wine regions.

As I savored the wine, the lovely aromas of blueberries, currants, hazelnuts, and a hint of mint chocolate delighted my senses.

Full-bodied and creamy, this showcased the epitome of craftsmanship and winemaking finesse.

7. Mayacamas 2018 Merlot

Couple Drinking Mayacamas 2018 Merlot

Average Price: Roughly $61.99 (Vivino)

Alcohol Content: 14% ABV

Nose: Ripe raspberry, plum, dried herb, violet.

Palate: Grippy in its youth, chalky tannin, earthy iron.

Star Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Why We Like It: The Mayacamas 2018 Merlot from Mount Veeder is a true masterpiece that showcases elegance and structure in its youth.

Ripe raspberry and plum aromas intermingle with delightful hints of dried herb and violet. This wine exhibits firm tannins and earthy iron notes on the palate, adding to its undeniable character.

6. Shafer 2018 One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon

Close Up Image of Shafer 2018 One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon Bottle

Average Price: Roughly $91.76 (Vivino)

Alcohol Content: 14.5% ABV

Nose: Blueberries, black fruits, graphite, cloves, potpourri

Palate: Dark plum, cherry, mocha, plum sauce, melted black licorice, açaí berry reduction

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Why We Like It:

Its muscular nature is evident from the first sip, backed by a velvety texture that glides effortlessly across the palate.

Ripe flavors of blueberries, Petit Verdot, and black fruits intertwine, while the nose offers delightful hints of potpourri and gravel.

5. DuMOL 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Bottle and a Glass of DuMOL 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

Average Price: Roughly $109.99 (Drizly)

Alcohol Content: 14.5% ABV

Nose: Exotic floral, blackberry, plum, sweet thyme, spiced clove.

Palate: Black cherry, dark cassis, cedar, pencil lead, bittersweet cocoa.

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Why We Like It: Its beautiful texture and layered character captivated me with an expansive, mouth-filling palate and enveloping tannins that effortlessly balanced richness with detail and freshness.

On the palate, the focus remains on the luscious black cherry and dark cassis notes, accompanied by a sense of cedar, pencil lead, and bittersweet cocoa.

4. Schramsberg 2012 J. Schram Rosé Sparkling

Average Price: Roughly $119.29 (Brix26)

Alcohol Content: 12.4% ABV

Nose: Glazed pineapple, orange marmalade, crisp green apples.

Palate: Attractively smoky, toasty, perfectly mature fruit.

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Why We Like It: It has consistently outshined many top Californian wines in blind tastings, making it a real gem for any special occasion or Champagne lover. The well-aged reserve style showcases attractively smoky and toasty aromas, perfectly complemented by mature red fruit notes.

As I took my first sip, the red wine revealed complex, spicy, and earthy flavors that unfolded gracefully on the palate. The plush texture and long, smooth finish elevated the tasting experience, leaving a lasting impression.

3. Booker 2019 Oublie Red

Average Price: Roughly $75 (Official Website)

Alcohol Content: 14.5% ABV

Nose: Mixed berry preserves, potpourri, black pepper, mint.

Palate: Blueberry, dried orange, lively and bright with a citrus finish.

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Why We Like It: The 2019 Oublie Red is a captivating blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Tannat, Petit Verdot, and Petite Sirah.

The wine boasts a medium-to-full body, vibrant acidity, and a lively, bright finish. With such complexity and depth, it’s no surprise that wine critics have rated it so highly.

2. Brewer Clifton Ex Post Facto Syrah

Average Price: Roughly $29.95 (KLWines)

Alcohol Content: 15% ABV

Nose: Red and black currants, cracked pepper, mint, coffee beans, wildflowers.

Palate: Medium-bodied, silty texture, intense spicy fruits, and refreshing acidity

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Why We Like It: On the nose, pure scents of red and black currants mingle with enticing notes of cracked pepper, refreshing mint, aromatic coffee beans, and delicate wildflowers from the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The medium-bodied palate showcases intense and spicy, perfectly ripe fruits with a pleasing silkiness in texture.

1. Austin Hope Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Hand Holding Bottle of Austin Hope Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Average Price: Roughly $149.99 (Total Wine)

Alcohol Content: 15% ABV

Nose: Heady aromas of tobacco, dark chocolate, forest floor

Palate: Luscious vanilla, cassis

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Why We Like It: During the blind tasting, the Cabernet Sauvignon stood out with its captivating aroma of tobacco and dark chocolate, followed by the rich essence of black currant on the palate.

The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the wine region have a velvety texture and harmonious balance, leaving a lasting impression.

Note: Prices are based on Drizly, Total Wine, and the official product websites. The star rating was determined based on a blind taste test, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest rating. Each product was evaluated on its overall quality, flavor profile, complexity, smoothness, and overall enjoyment.

FAQs

What wine is most famous in California?

Of all the California wines, the most famous is the Cabernet Sauvignon, renowned for its bold and rich flavors. Cabernet Franc wine is also a great wine to try.

What city in California has the best wine?

Napa Valley is considered the city in California with the best wine, boasting numerous world-class wineries and vineyards.

You can find the best California wines in boutique wineries on Sonoma Coast and Central Coast. Also, you can score the best California wine from Santa Cruz Mountains, Martha’s Vineyard, Beckstoffer Vineyards, Alexander Valley, and Russian River Valley.

Which Californian city is popular for its wine?

Napa Valley is popular for its wine, drawing wine enthusiasts from around the globe to experience its exquisite offerings [3].

Where is the wine capital of California?

Napa Valley is often referred to as the wine capital of California due to its significant contributions to the wine industry.

With the help of Robert Mondavi, American wines that rivaled European labels, he played a crucial role in generating the rebirth of California’s wine industry.

What area in California has the best Cabernet Sauvignon?

Napa Valley in the wine region is renowned for producing the best Cabernet Sauvignon in California, with its unique terroir contributing to the grape’s exceptional quality.

Where in California are the most vineyards?

Most vineyards in California (Golden State [4]) are concentrated in Napa Valley, making it the primary region for grape cultivation and wine production.

Key Takeaways

As a wine enthusiast, tasting and exploring different wines allow me to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of California winemakers’ diverse flavors and styles.

The California wines showcased a range of varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah, reflecting the state’s rich viticultural diversity and quality.

Among these California wines, the Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon stands out as the best California wine, impressing with its bold currant and roasted wood flavors, offering a truly memorable wine experience.

References:

  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/wine
  2. https://www.foodandwine.com/wine/red-wine/merlot/everything-you-need-to-know-about-merlot
  3. https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-guide/napa-valley
  4. https://capitolmuseum.ca.gov/state-symbols/nickname-golden-state/

 

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