An array of varieties headline our top-rated California red blends. These bottles hail from across the state and include Bordeaux-style blends, composed primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot and Rhône-style wines featuring Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Carignan.
There’s exceptional value in this crowd-pleasing category, with three of our 13 picks priced at less than $15. One wine, from cult producer Bonny Doon, also appeared on The Enthusiast 100 Wines of 2019, our annual list comprised of the best-of-the-best.
Here are 13 of our favorite affordable California red blends, ranked by rating.
Blue Rock 2017 Baby Blue (Sonoma County); $29, 93 points. This juicy wine is a blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Merlot, with smaller amounts of Petit Verdot, Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Grippy, youthful tannins lend structure and length around tones of integrated oak, rich blueberry and strawberry. Editors’ Choice. –Virginie Boone
Bonny Doon 2018 Le Cigare Volant Cuvée Oumuamua (Monterey); $20, 93 points. Randall Grahm’s ever-evolving ideology shifted again for the new label and blend of this bottling, which includes 52% Grenache, 35% Cinsault and 13% Syrah. Aromas of plum, cracked pepper, crumpled carnations and dried mint lead into a bright, refreshing palate of hibiscus, anise and a curry-like spice. Editors’ Choice. –Matt Kettmann.
McPrice Myers 2017 High on the Hog Red (Central Coast); $20, 93 points. Aromas of fresh boysenberry, baked pastries, caramel and savory smoke lead into a well-integrated palate of fruit, herb and wood flavors that are framed by firm yet polished tannins. It’s fresh with acidity and yet dense, finishing on a touch of pine needle. Editors’ Choice. –M.K.
Hearst Ranch 2017 Randolph (Paso Robles); $25, 92 points. Complex aromas of red currant and blackberry meet with herbs and charred caramel on the nose of this blend. The palate is framed by polished tannins and firm acidity, offering a cherry paste flavor alongside lingering pinches of cinnamon, clove, allspice and nutmeg. –M.K.
Locations NV Red (California); $25, 92 points. This seamless, generous and full-bodied blend weaves black cherry, blueberry and dark chocolate between layers of fine-grained tannin for a delicious and well-structured profile. –Jim Gordon
Beckmen 2017 Cuvee Le Bec (Santa Ynez Valley); $25, 91 points. This blend of 47% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 11% Mourvèdre and 7% Counoise is one of the best red wines for the price anywhere in California, offering impressive weight and complexity in the $20 range. Aromas of lilac and blackberry drop into a palate full of boysenberry, leather and beef, with a rose-petal freshness. Editors’ Choice. –M.K.
Sean Minor 2017 Nicole Marie (North Coast); $22, 91 points. Complex and balanced, but also big and flavorful, this full-bodied wine is packed with ripe black cherry and a touch of raspberry, with mild oak spices that are well integrated. It is mouthfilling and softly tannic in texture. –J.G.
Girasole 2018 Hybrid Red (Mendocino County); $14, 90 points. The pure expression of ripe blackberries in this jammy, uncomplicated but full-bodied wine is fun to taste. It wraps mild tannins around the potent fruit flavors, with a hint of black pepper. Best Buy. –J.G.
Kirkland Signature 2016 Red (Napa Valley); $11, 90 points. This blends together 67% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. It offers a wealth of full-bodied flavor and complexity within thick, dense walls of red and black currant, plum, licorice and dried herb, the oak sweet on the finish. Best Buy. –V.B.
Michael David 2016 Freakshow Red (Lodi); $20, 90 points. This superripe, jammy wine offers a spicy white pepper aroma and then overflows on the palate with flavors of blackberry, strawberry and milk chocolate. The mouthfeel is broad and generous, supported by light tannins and a full body. –J.G.
Roth 2016 Heritage Red (Sonoma County); $30, 90 points. Made from a wealth of red grapes, predominantly Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, this wine is brawny in tones of black fruit, leather and licorice. Gritty in texture on entry, it softens on the midpalate and gives way to a full-bodied lushness. –V.B.
Tenshen 2018 Red (Santa Barbara County); $25, 90 points. Dense blackberry, black plum, oak and coconut husk show on the nose of this blend. There is dense blackberry fruit and dried herbs on the palate, whose medium-bodied mouthfeel leads into a coffee finish. –M.K.
Sterling 2016 Vintner’s Collection Dark Red (California); $12, 88 points. This wine has ripe, generous and concentrated blackberry flavors, and a moderately tannic structure to support all that richness. It’s an unusual and successful yin-yang blend of Merlot and Petite Sirah. Best Buy. –J.G.