7 Reliably Outstanding Fruit-Forward California Pinot Noir Producers

Monday, August 6, 2012

It's no secret California Pinot Noir consumption has taken center stage here at The Wellesley Wine Press lately. But all of this research has to lead to something, right?

I thought it would be interesting to share a list of producers, mostly ones I'd consider to be at least somewhat fruit-forward stylistically, who when I open a bottle of their wines I have full confidence the wine is going to be outstanding.

See also: 5 Terroir-Driven California Pinot Noir Producers

Here are 7 reliably outstanding California Pinot Noir producers I've discovered:

Kosta Browne

A benchmark, bold, fruit-forward producer. Their appellation wines (Russian River, Sonoma Coast and recently added Santa Lucia Highlands) go for $58 and their single vineyard wines fetch $78. After a string of favorable ratings, their 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was named Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year. Rarely seen at retail, this one is mostly mailing list only with some availability in restaurants. A tough mailing list to crack but get on it and have patience. It's worth it. Sign up at http://kostabrowne.com


Some of their wines are rightfully described as "a Cab drinker's Pinot Noir" (Ridgetop, Gap's Crown) but others let the site speak beautifully for itself (Rodgers, Alder Springs). Their appellation wines sell for $39-$42 and they're fantastic. Their single vineyards go for $48-$59. One of the most favorable mailing lists on the planet. Sign up now at http://sojourncellars.com


Gorgeous stuff that shows diversity from vineyard to vineyard. La Neblina and the newly-introduced Laguna are my favorites, Alberigi is leaner in style. You'll see some availability retail but rarely at a price better than what's available winery direct. That these spectacular wines are available in the high $40s is an example of why California Pinot Noir is one of the most exciting categories in wine today.


Three years ago I'd never heard of Dehlinger. But after a friend introduced me to their wines and I've had a chance to try a number of their bottles and I've been blown away. An old school Pinot Noir producer, they show strength across a number of varieties. Prices are extremely reasonably considering the quality. Their Pinots sell for between $45 and $60. http://dehlingerwinery.com

Sea Smoke

They ruffled some feathers when they labeled their 2009s "Grand Cru", but they're undeniably one of the finest California Pinot Noir producers. There's quite a price gap between their Southing bottling (around $50) and the $100+ "Ten". I say go for the Southing. It ages nicely and can exhibit gorgeous earthy characteristics with just a bit of age. Their 2004 Southing was my wine of the year. Sea Smoke is always a nice bottle to break out for a special occasion. http://seasmoke.com

Belle Glos

Their appelation "Meiomi" bottling ($22 release and available for less at retail if you look around) provides a beautiful window into what they do with their single vineyard bottlings. Las Alturas and Taylor Lane are my favorites for their cherry pipe tobacco notes and polished, effortless richness. Beautifully packaged in wax dipped bottles with scripted lettering, these wines are a great value at $44. And even better when you find them for less at select retailers. So reliably delicious. Search for these at retail on Wine-Searcher.com

Black Kite

A relatively new producer from the Anderson Valley, Black Kite's Kite's Rest bottling has impressed me across a number of vintages. I tasted the 2008 blind against alongside a couple of nice Burgundies and thought to myself: "Now this is what Pinot Noir should taste like". What can I say - I love California Pinot Noir. I usually try to catch this one at specialty retailers due to tough shipping terms winery direct to the Northeast.

Question of the Day: Who did I miss? Who are the California Pinot Noir producers who, when you open a bottle, you're fairly certain it's going to be an outstanding, fruit-forward, enjoyable bottle?

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