Old World Meets New: 13 California Wines You Should Be Drinking Right Now

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Old Vine Carignan from Sonoma? Mountain-grown Malbec from Napa? Bright, fruity Albariño from Lodi? Yes, all these wonderful oddities exist across California. Among the sea of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay that the Golden State is so well-known for, the savvy wine lover can also find an array of unique grape varieties that might be more synonymous with Old World regions in France, Italy, Spain and beyond.

If you love the delicate earth and rose petal aromas of Barolo and Barbaresco, take a look at a Nebbiolo from the Central Coast for an American take on this classic Piedmont variety. Maybe you enjoy the sultry, soft tannins and plush cherry fruit of cru Beaujolais. If that’s the case, look to stunning examples of Gamay from the Central Coast.

13 of our Top-Rated California Red Blends for $30 and Less

From bold, full-bodied Tempranillo to heady, floral Gewürztraminer, California offers it all. Here are 13 red and white wines from the Golden State made from unexpected varieties.

Bella Grace 2021 Vermentino
Photo courtesy Bella Grace

Bella Grace 2021 Vermentino (Amador County); $28. Find on Wine-Searcher. This aromatic and intricately layered wine offers tempting aromas of basil, mint and pine… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Carol Shelton 2017 Oat Valley Old Vine Carignane
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Carol Shelton 2017 Oat Valley Old Vine Carignane (Alexander Valley); $28. Buy on Wine.com. Made from old head-trained, dry-farmed vines, and blended with 2% Petite Sirah… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Clendenen Family 2013 Punta Exclamativa Bien Nacido Vineyard Nebbiolo
Photo courtesy Clendenen Family Vineyards

Clendenen Family 2013 Punta Exclamativa Bien Nacido Vineyard Nebbiolo (Santa Maria Valley); $50. Buy on Vivino. The classic tar and rose aromas lift off of the nose of this bottling by the late Jim Clendenen… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Foxen 2020 Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard Old Vines Chenin Blanc
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Foxen 2020 Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard Old Vines Chenin Blanc (Santa Maria Valley); $26. Buy on Wine.com. This tantalizing bottling starts with a steely focus on the nose of lime pith, wet rocks and apple tonic… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Lieu Dit 2017 Gamay
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Lieu Dit 2017 Gamay (Santa Maria Valley); $40. Buy on Wine.com. Stunning aromas of dark cherry, wild raspberry, gamy meats, dark soil and slate recall a hike through a damp forest… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Margerum 2020 Margerum Estate Vineyard Cinsault
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Margerum 2020 Margerum Estate Vineyard Cinsault (Los Olivos District); $32. Buy on Wine.com. Lovely aromas of strawberry, carnation and rose petal on the nose lead into fresh and zesty flavors of strawberry… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Massican 2020 Annia White
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Massican 2020 Annia White (Napa Valley); $30. Buy on Vivino. Dan Petroski’s perennially delightful blend of 61% Tocai Friulano, 27% Ribolla Gialla and 12% Chardonnay from Hyde Vineyard… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Matchbook 2019 Tinto Rey Tempranillo
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Matchbook 2019 Tinto Rey Tempranillo (Dunnigan Hills); $19. Buy on Vivino. This concentrated, complex wine is not overtly fruity, but draws interest from the first whiffs of black olive, rosemary… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Mettler Family Vineyards 2021 Estate Grown Albariño
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Mettler Family Vineyards 2021 Estate Grown Albariño (Lodi); $20. Buy on Vivino. This full-bodied, subtly floral and warmly fruity wine shows the varietal’s velvety, lightly grippy texture… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Mt. Brave 2018 Malbec
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Mt. Brave 2018 Malbec (Mount Veeder); $85. Buy on Wine.com. Sanguine and nutty, this is a wonderfully generous and concentrated wine from the mountainous appellation… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Navarro 2020 Estate Bottled Dry Gewurztraminer
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Navarro 2020 Estate Bottled Dry Gewurztraminer (Anderson Valley); $24. Find on Wine-Searcher. Heady aromas of rose petals and lychee lead to rich, vibrant peach, apricot and lychee flavors… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Terra d'Oro 2019 Barbera
Photo courtesy Terra d’Oro

Terra d’Oro 2019 Barbera (Amador County); $18. Find on Wine-Searcher. This full-bodied and moderately tannic wine offers a good, mellow, barrel-aged character along with deep-black-fruit flavors… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

Theopolis 2019 Estate Grown Petite Sirah
Photo courtesy Theopolis Vineyards

Theopolis 2019 Estate Grown Petite Sirah (Yorkville Highlands); $40. Find on Wine-Searcher. This dramatic, smoky and concentrated wine offers a compelling aroma of charcoal and grilled rosemary… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW

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Published on May 6, 2022
Topics: Buying Guide