For some collectors, Pinot Noir is the alpha and the omega of wine. Undoubtedly one of the most sought-after red wines, is praised for its soft texture, bright fruit and beguiling spicy and earthy notes. While many examples of Pinot display this textural richness upon release, some require a bit more time in bottle to show their best.
While Burgundy is the spiritual home of Pinot, with the Côte de Nuits producing some of the most iconic bottlings in the world, the grape has also taken root to great effect in Alsace and Germany. And in the New World, California, Oregon and New Zealand are the shining stars of Pinot Noir, with some examples harkening back to French roots but still maintaining their own unique style.
Pinot-philes, this list is for you. Taken from our Top 100 Cellar Selection list of 2020, here are the top ten Pinot Noirs that deserve a spot in your cellar.
August Kesseler 2015 Cuvée Max Pinot Noir (Rheingau); $120, 97 points. From nose to finish, this is such a complex, compelling Pinot Noir. Notes of raspberry, rose and freshly tilled earth on the nose augmenting richly concentrated flavors of black cherry and berry. It’s delicate in tannin but has a thrilling acidic lift on the finish. This is lovely already but should gain earthen complexity through 2040 and hold longer still. Vineyard Brands. Cellar Selection. —Anna Lee C. Iijima
Dutton-Goldfield 2017 Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Pinot Noir (Marin County); $72, 97 points. This wine pits superfocused fruit against a taut frame of fine-grained tannins and nervy acidity for excellent balance. Aromas of fresh black cherry, black tea and forest floor lead to lively rhubarb and sour cherry backed by richer nuances that emerge on the finish. Best through 2027. Cellar Selection. —Jim Gordon
Merry Edwards 2017 Meredith Estate Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $68, 97 points. This was Edwards’ first estate planting, begun in 1998. It shows incredible attention to detail and depth of site, opening with memorable floral, earthy and mineral-laden characters. Robust in structure, the dense, youthful power of the wine is robust in an intensity of plum, dark cherry and an intermixed swirl of vanilla and chocolate. It finishes on white pepper and will age beautifully. Enjoy from 2025–2030. Cellar Selection. —Virginie Boone
Château de Pommard 2017 Clos Marey-Monge Monopole (Pommard); $141, 96 points. This wine’s subtle nose gives a first whiff is graphite and calf leather. For now, no fruit breaks through in this tightly coiled wine. The palate immediately strikes with an exquisitely fine texture that sits between creaminess and silk. Very fine tannins show a creamy unity, inflected with a hint of chocolate. The red cherry fruit at the core of all this is apparent, but it just takes time to reveal itself. Freshness, concentration and exquisite texture all ensure that it will have a gorgeous backdrop. Drink 2025–2050. Famille Carabello-Baum Inc. Cellar Selection. — Anne Krebiehl, MW
Brittan Vineyards 2016 Basalt Block Pinot Noir (McMinnville); $48, 95 points. A sensational value from Robert Brittan, this marries rock-laden raspberry fruit to precise and vivid acidity. The lightly applied (roughly one-quarter) new French oak puts a touch of pretty toast into the mix. Taken all in all, it’s a doctoral thesis in structure, definition and terroir. Drink through 2035. Cellar Selection. Paul Gregutt
Ferrari-Carano 2018 Sky High Ranch Pinot Noir (Mendocino Ridge); $52, 95 points. This wine wraps beautiful, concentrated fruit and dark-spice flavors in a velvety texture. Focused flavors of black cherry and wild raspberry are accented with clove and cassis on the expansive palate and lingering finish. Best through 2025. Cellar Selection. —J.G.
Lavinea 2017 Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (Eola-Amity Hills); $75, 95 points. Among the finest examples (among dozens made) of this iconic vineyard’s wines, this opens with sweet spices around rich blackberry fruit, wrapped in a swath of caramel. Further accents of thyme and tarragon add aromatic and flavor interest, as the wine penetrates through a full midpalate and into an extended finish. It’s a robust, expressive mix of fruit and herb, with silky tannins. Drink through 2030. Cellar Selection. —P.G.
Louis Jadot 2018 Clos Saint Jacques Premier Cru (Gevrey-Chambertin); $230, 95 points. This wine opens with a subtle blend of black and Morello cherry on the nose, surrounded by slight smokiness. Ripeness is evident in the black cherry note and also manifests itself on the juicy but firm palate. A hint of chocolate and an edge of tar back the dark intensity of the fruit that is bedded in dense, ripe tannins. It’s an elegant, full-bodied wine with gorgeous aroma and a promising future. Drink 2025–2040. Kobrand. Cellar Selection. —A.K.
René Muré 2018 V Pinot Noir (Alsace); $60, 94 points. The cherry nose of this wine is made even more appetizing and aromatic by the rare presence of pure raspberry notes. Purity indeed is the watchword on the sinuous, slender but concentrated palate with its incisive freshness and insistent aromatics. The power of this elegant and seductive wine lies entirely in its understatement. Gargouille Collection. Cellar Selection. —A.K.
Rippon 2016 Mature Vine Lake Wanaka Pinot Noir (Central Otago); $62, 94 points. From one of New Zealand’s most celebrated wineries, located on the pristine shores of Lake Wanaka, this Pinot is made for the long haul. Brambly fruit and spice center on an earthy, spicy core. Dense, nearly impenetrable on the palate, a powerful line of taut, fine tannins cinch the fruit and spice. While just starting to show some age, this remains an austere but laser-focused wine that requires patience, but should reward in spades with time in cellar. Drink through 2035. Wine Dogs Imports LLC. Cellar Selection. —Christina Pickard