California is a recent arrival as a world-class grape-growing region. Missionaries planted the first vines in the late 18th Century, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that California took its place among the pre-eminent wine producers. Today, names like Napa Valley and Sonoma County are almost as renowned among wine enthusiasts as Bordeaux and Rhône. When seeking out the best wines from California, these regions often top the list, offering a wide array of varietals and styles to please every palate.

California is known for the sheer diversity of its viticulture. Without the centuries of tradition that guide Old World vineyards, Californian wine growers are free to select the best grape varieties from around the world. California is almost synonymous with innovation, which is just as accurate in wine as in technology. Californian wine-makers embrace experimentation and novelty. The results more than justify their bold approach. Californian wines are now among the most popular and critically acclaimed worldwide.

To help readers find some of the best Californian wines on the market, we’d like to suggest eight of our favorites. Californian wines tend to be labelled by varietal rather than region, so we’ve selected one wine from each of the grape varieties that dominate California vineyards, including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Chardonnay

Our Pick: Kendall-Jackson Avant Unoaked Chardonnay

Kendall-Jackson Avant Unoaked Chardonnay is a crisp and refreshing white wine. While drinkers may be more used to oaked American Chardonnays, the makers intend this wine to be a pure expression of the Chardonnay grape. Its natural fruit flavors are foregrounded, offering a tangy combination of green apple, citrus, and lemon.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Our Pick: Educated Guess Napa County Cabernet Sauvignon

Educated Guess is a beautiful Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the Roots Run Deep winery. This beautifully full-bodied wine is a favorite of serious cabernet enthusiasts, who adore its deep blackberry and cherry flavors with just a hint of chocolate and toasted oak.

Zinfandel

Our Pick: Fighting Brothers Zinfandel, Saxon Brown

Fighting Brothers is a bold and full-bodied Californian Zinfandel from the Saxon Brown winery in Sonoma County. Fighting Brothers combines grapes from old and young vines to create a harmonious blend of plum, blackberry, cherry, and chocolate flavors.

Merlot

Our Pick: Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Merlot

Kendall-Jackson is a family-owned winery in Sonoma County. Vinter’s Reserve is the winery’s flagship collection, including this wonderfully fruity Merlot, enhanced with just a little Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Merlot brings the expected elegant complexity with black cherry, currant, and berry flavors and a soft tannin profile.

Pinot Noir

Our Pick: Hartford Court Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Hartford Court Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is a beautifully smooth, dry wine from grapes grown in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley APA. This deep ruby wine offers the peak Pinot Noir drinking experience, with a balanced flavor profile that foregrounds black fruits on a background of herbs and violets.

Petite Sirah

Our Pick: Pessimist by Daou

The ironically named Pessimist by Daou evokes anything but pessimism with its wonderfully textured mix of blueberry, violet, spice, and vanilla flavors. Primarily composed of Petite Sirah grown in the Paso Robles region, Pessimist also includes smaller quantities of Syrah and Zinfandel, producing a balanced, full-bodied wine with a tongue-enticing finish and a nuanced complexity.

Cabernet Franc

Our Pick: Bevan Cellars, Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard

Cabernet Franc is a relative newcomer to Californian vineyards, with serious growing beginning in the 1980s. It is often found in small proportions in other red wines, but Bevan Cellars makes Cabernet Franc the star of the show. Here, it is the primary grape blended with lesser quantities of Merlot and Petit Verdot. Bevan Cellars is a fresh and earthy wine with a bright acidity. The flavor profile includes redcurrant, cherries, florals, and herbs.

Sauvignon Blanc

Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Chardonnay is king where California white wines are concerned, but we’re rounding out our list of California greats with a grape that occupies only a fraction of Chardonnay’s acreage, although it is steadily growing in popularity. Stags’ Leap Sauvignon Blanc is a bright, fresh white wine with a crisp acidity and well-balanced citrus, tangerine, and lemongrass flavors.

Find Your Favorite Californian Wines

We’ve shared some of the most outstanding Californian wines of the last few years, but everyone has their unique wine preferences. Luckily, you can browse and buy hundreds of Californian wines from online wine retailers like Winedeals.com. Select your favourite grape variety and region; search by price, rating, and vintage to find old friends and new favorites.

Author

Northern girl Laura is the epitome of a true entrepreneur. Laura’s spirit for adventure and passion for people blaze through House of Coco. She founded House of Coco in 2014 and has grown it in to an internationally recognised brand whilst having a lot of fun along the way. Travel is in her DNA and she is a true visionary and a global citizen.

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