We’ve all faced the dilemma at one point or another of “which wine do I take to this party?” Looking through your local wine shop’s seemingly endless rows of fully-stocked shelves can make the choice seem even more daunting.
That’s where West Coast Pinot Noir comes in. Oregon has become synonymous with exceptional Pinot but California produces a number of sought after bottles as well. Medium-bodied, moderate acidity and a wide array of flavors make these wines perfect for not only enjoying on their own but also with a number of dishes. Here are some of our favorite bottles right now in a range of styles and prices.
Foxen 2016 John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sta. Rita Hills); $54, 94 points. There’s an impressive array of aromas on the nose of this bottling, starting with light red cherry and pomegranate before intensifying into boysenberry jam with loads of star anise and dried ginger along the way. The mouthfeel is full, carrying boysenberry-jam flavors laced with sandalwood, myrrh and anise. —Matt Kettmann
Donum 2015 Year of the Ram Ten Oaks Single Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $72, 94 points. High-toned contours of red cherry and pomegranate make for a tart profile, edged by tightly wound acidity and underlying freshness. This is an exotic wine that could stand more time in the bottle to truly reveal itself. Enjoy from 2020–2025. Cellar Selection. —Virginie Boone
Bethel Heights 2016 Casteel Pinot Noir (Eola-Amity Hills); $75, 94 points. A reserve-level barrel selection, this is a deep dive into black cherry, blackberry preserves and subtle layering of herbs, coffee grounds and dark chocolate. Absolutely luscious, it complements its ripe, forward fruit with a long, lovely, detailed finish. Editors’ Choice. —Paul Gregutt
Archery Summit 2015 Looney Vineyard Pinot Noir (Ribbon Ridge); $90, 94 points. This nonestate vineyard allows the winery to play with outstanding grapes from this exceptional AVA. Well-proportioned and bursting with details of nutmeg, cinnamon and red licorice, the Looney enchants with a supple core of black cherry fruit, chocolate and espresso. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
Davies 2016 Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley); $45, 93 points. This well-modulated, well-balanced and delicious wine has everything in place from the light baking-spice and red-cherry aromas to the black-cherry, raspberry and rhubarb flavors to the tangy and palate-cleansing mouthfeel. It’s especially good for the “regular” Anderson Valley bottling. —Jim Gordon
Donum 2015 Year of the Ram Single Vineyard Pinot Noir (Carneros); $72, 93 points. This is a layered, concentrated wine, richly woven with flavors of blueberry, strawberry, rose and lavender. Medium in weight, the palate feels compressed and thick but lifted by a lingering floral element. —V.B.
Anne Amie 2016 Winemaker’s Selection Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley); $28, 91 points. This aromatic young wine brings a mix of cherries and figs, with highlights of hazelnuts. Aged 10 months in one-sixth new French oak, it lightly suggests Snickers bars and malted milk ball candies, without overdoing either. Overall it’s refined and well balanced, and should be consumed now–2025. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
Grace + Vine 2014 Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County); $30, 91 points. Candied aromas of ripe cherry meet with dark wild herbs and a hint of cedar on the nose of this bottling from a secret dream team of regional vintners. The wood element shows on the sip, where flavors of red plum and mulberry are lifted with fennel frond and herbal spices. —M.K.
Talisman 2014 Adastra Vineyard Méthode Ancienne Pinot Noir (Los Carneros); $75, 91 points. Exotic in aroma and grainy in texture, this tiny-production wine excites in its thick layers of crisp and crunchy tang of fruit, which spans from pomegranate to wild strawberry to boysenberry. Layers of cola add a richness that trails on the finish. —V.B.
Artesa 2016 Pinot Noir (Los Carneros); $25, 90 points. Silky, sanguine and tart, this wine is defined by tones of strawberry, rhubarb and citrus. It is a delicate, lightly textured wine that holds its ripeness well and has a lingering spice note. Editors’ Choice. —V.B.
Paul O’Brien 2015 Pinot Noir (Umpqua Valley); $28, 90 points. Fermented in concrete, this also spent a year in one-quarter new French oak. Some vanilla scents emerge on first sniff, leading into fruit flavors of berry and plum. As the wine breathes open, it adds some refreshing citrus to the base, and with ample time fleshes out into a full-bodied, fine-tuned Pinot. —P.G.
Bouchaine 2016 Pommard Clone Estate Selection Pinot Noir (Carneros); $54, 90 points. A rose-tinged floral aroma opens this wine, giving way to a juicy expression of the grape that is velvety in texture and substantial in tannins. Black cherry and cassis flavors take on a liqueur-like richness, with a lingering tease of tobacco. —V.B.