Exhibiting a range of flavors—from red berry to darker, earthier characteristics—Pinot Noir is considered one of the world’s great wines for a reason. The primary red grape of Burgundy, Oregon and New Zealand, the temperamental thin-skinned grape can produce some of the world’s most sought-after and attractive wines, showing off aromas, textures and flavors unique to its origins. Here, we’ve gathered our editors’ top, recently-rated picks—all under $60—from California and New Zealand, with some choice bottles from New York and Austria.
Dutton Estate 2012 Karmen Isabella Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $40, 94 points.
Densely delicious, this is earthy in a forest floor kind of way—it’s explosive in black cherry, plum and compelling, exotic spice. Medium bodied and lushly layered, it’s persistent on the palate, brooding in ripe fruit yet buoyed by ample acidity. Editors’ Choice.
Merry Edwards 2012 Flax Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $54, 94 points.
The bouquet of this earthy, aromatic vineyard-designate wine is bursting with freshly picked wildflowers and earth. The palate is mouthwatering in blueberry, strawberry and a bite of sour cherry. Lively acidity keeps the proceedings on a hair-raising ride, before diving headfirst into a long finish of bacon and dark chocolate. Editors’ Choice.
Sojourn 2013 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $42, 94 points.
In this silky and seductive wine, integrated oak and tannin wrap around lilting waves of earth and rose petal, providing plenty of sensory intrigue. From several vineyards, including Wohler, it shines a light on the subtleties that can be coaxed from the appellation, along with a spectacular exuberance. Editors’ Choice.
Calera 2012 Ryan Pinot Noir (Mt. Harlan); $50, 93 points.
The nose on this wine is both subtle and deep, showing dried rose petals, cherry kirsch, black currants and a hint of elderberry. It’s silky once sipped, with licorice, mocha and dark raspberry all set against tart cherry-skin tannins that give plenty of structure for aging. Drink 2018–2028. Cellar Selection.
Cellars 33 2013 Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $52, 93 points.
This is a terrific representation of all that is spectacularly specific about Keefer Ranch, a relatively cool site for grapes in Green Valley. Earthy and spicy in clove and nutmeg, the wine is layered in cranberry and crisp cherry. It’s supple and silky on the palate, with an earthy oomph to the finish. Editors’ Choice.
Brick & Mortar 2012 Pinot Noir (Napa Valley); $44, 92 points.
This producer is honing in on the unconventional, sourcing Pinot Noir grapes from unlikely Napa Valley spots like Spring Mountain and Atlas Peak. The resulting wines are surprising and unpredictable in their complexity of savory blithe spirit, light and clear with edgy red cherry and tea, plenty structured, with lurking tannin. The floral aspect on the nose is compelling, as is the cardamon finish. Editors’ Choice.
Failla 2013 Whistler Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast); $52, 92 points.
Subtle aromatics of earthy rose petal surround this silky, light wine, steeped in acidity and a damp-forested quality. Spicy throughout in cinnamon, cardamom and grated nutmeg, the wine picks up a girth of thickness on the finish, a knot of tannin that gives it a swath of complexity and cellaring possibilities, through 2018. Cellar Selection.
Gloria Ferrer 2012 Estate Grown Pinot Noir (Carneros); $27, 92 points.
Earthy cherry and wild strawberry notes form the core of this deep, concentrated and yet not overly dense wine. Herbal and teasingly tart as it shifts from midpalate to finish, it offers a last splash of nutmeg on the finale. Editors’ Choice.
Longoria 2012 Fe Ciega Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sta. Rita Hills); $55, 92 points.
Regional pioneer Rick Longoria delivers a savory, earthy wine from the vineyard he planted, with meaty aromas of shiitake and porcini mushrooms, black slate, cedar and fresh pomegranate. The palate is more reliant on peppery spice, rose-petal florals and dried herbs than fruit, though dried cherries make an appearance, especially on the lasting finish. It’s great now, but will thrive for at least a decade. Drink 2018–2028. Cellar Selection.
Waxwing 2013 Lester Family Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Cruz Mountains); $39, 91 points.
This unfiltered wine is cloudy in the glass and rides the low alcohol, low ripeness movement, showing a tangy nose of green olive, tart cranberry and herbaceous peppercorns. The palate is all about spice and savory elements, with lots of acidity and not much ripeness at all. Drink 2019–2029 to test the early picking trend. Cellar Selection.
Ata Rangi 2013 Pinot Noir (Martinborough); $55, 94 points.
Power and grace combine in this tour de force from Helen Masters, Ata Rangi’s winemaker. Toasty oak frames intense black cherry fruit, with hints of herbs adding a savory element. Firm tannins provide ample structure, while the lengthy finish prolongs the pleasure. Drink 2018–2025. Cellar Selection.
Akarua 2013 Rua Pinot Noir (Central Otago); $35, 92 points.
This shows the immediate appeal of Central Otago’s 2013 vintage. Yes, the acids and tannins stick out a bit, but they’re cushioned by loads of ripe berry fruit. Hints of dried bracken and chocolate add complexity, while the finish glides to long, dusty completion. Drink now–2018. Editors’ Choice.
Ellero 2012 Pisa Terrace Pinot Noir (Central Otago); $40, 92 points.
Hints of rosemary and thyme add a sheen to this wine’s already attractive gloss of black cherry fruit. Meaty and tarry elements add richness and depth to the flavors. This is richly textured and long on the finish. A fine effort from this American-owned venture. Editors’ Choice.
Carrick 2013 Unravelled Pinot Noir (Central Otago); $30, 91 points.
Even Carrick’s entry-level wine has turned out well in 2013, offering a sturdy, robust mouthful of dark fruit. Plum, espresso and dark chocolate mingle on the nose and palate, while the finish is long, faintly dusty and mouthwatering. Drink 2017–2025. Editors’ Choice.
Jules Taylor 2013 OTQ Pinot Noir (Marlborough); $30, 91 points.
Purists might be inclined to say this wine is too oaky, but this reviewer believes there’s ample substance to support the flash. Cedar and vanilla are apparent, but the dominating characteristics of this wine are its ripe fruit and plush texture. Drink now–2020. Editors’ Choice.
Dashwood 2013 Pinot Noir (Marlborough); $18, 90 points.
This wine leans more toward the earthy, savory side of Pinot Noir, yet still boasts enough plum and black cherry fruit to please most consumers. It’s medium bodied, with a velvety or suede-like texture and hints of root vegetables, mushrooms, sassafras and cola. Ready to drink. Editors’ Choice.
New York and Austria
Shaw 2009 Reserve Pinot Noir (Finger Lakes); $30, 92 points.
This concentrated Pinot Noir calibrates power with finesse, juxtaposing rippling black cherry and berry flavors against complex mineral and earth tones. It’s luscious and layered in mouthfeel, enriched over four years of extended lees contact. While decadently delicious now, it has enough structure to age elegantly through 2019–2021. Editors’ Choice.
Hillinger 2013 Eveline Pinot Noir (Burgenland); $20, 90 points.
Nutty flavors of new oak signal a more international style of Pinot, but the underlying fruit speaks eloquently of ripe, red cherry and offers glimpses of raspberry. Subtle spice plays around the edges. The palate is rounded and soft but has a refreshing vein of acidity.
Johanneshof Reinisch 2013 Pinot Noir (Thermenregion); $20, 90 points.
High-toned, heady elements precede red currant notes on the nose. The slender palate reveals classic flavors of earthy Pinot fruit matured in the traditional large, used barrel. Wet earth, hay and cherry fruit take turns, although very pure notes of ripe red cherry appear over time. This is an exercise in subtlety and would be a perfect match for game.
Loimer 2013 Langenlois Pinot Noir (Niederösterreich); $40, 90 points.
At first the lick of oak-derived vanilla overlays the fruit but then aromatic notes of ripe red currant and red cherry appear. The palate is silky and offers exciting snatches of white pepper and welcome earthiness. The body is light but full of subtlety. It is white pepper rather than oaky spice that lingers.