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The Best California Wines to Drink Right Now

The Best California Wines to Drink Right Now

When it comes to American wines, there’s no place like the Golden State. California produces nearly 90% of wine made in the United States, and it is responsible for putting the country—and the New World—on the map as a serious contender for quality bottlings. Remember the 1976 Judgement of Paris, when two upstart California producers triumphed over renowned Bordeaux and Burgundy at a blind tasting judged by France’s top experts? More than 40 years have passed since that landmark tasting that changed the entire wine industry and California is still just as progressive as ever.

Since the start of the year, Wine Enthusiasts expert tasters have sampled nearly 2,400 bottles from Napa and Sonoma to Lodi, Santa Barbara and beyond. As usual, they’ve been blown away by the quality and diversity of options on the market.

“The state of wine in California is in a rebirth period,” says Writer-at-Large Tonya Pitts, Wine Enthusiast’s Northern California and California AVA reviewer. “There are so many options for the wine drinker to drink and discover. Frankly, it reminds me of 30-plus years ago, when experimentation was happening with small wineries. We see this same cycle happening again—the curiosity of what else can be grown and nurtured in the landscape we call California.”

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As Pitts puts it, the state is still like a metaphor for the broader U.S., “a melting pot of grape varietals, both classic and nouveau,” she says. This includes everything from Napa’s world-famous Cabs, new-to-the-New-World varietals that are well-suited to a changing climate and a revival of vines and grapes that arrived in the state with settlers, in some cases dating back to the Conquistadors.

While these wide-ranging options are wonderful and exciting, it also makes it harder to decide on the bottle at the shop. But that’s where we come in. From traditional Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to vibrant Pinot Noir and old-vine Zinfandel, these are the best California wines to drink right now.

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EnRoute 2022 Les Pommiers Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley)

Vibrant ruby in color, this wine erupts from the glass with aromas of sweet cinnamon, cola and cherry. There is a charming delicacy here, with flavors of dried rose petal, cherry and berry pie filling on a midweight palate. A captivating dance between the snappy tannin structure and the lively acidity of this wine lead to a very pleasurable finish. 93 Points — T.C.


Tread 2021 Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County)

Winemaker Kristin Bryden is proving to be a savant in the Burgundian grape game. This county cuvée is delicious from start to finish. Vibrant, fresh and juicy aromas of strawberry, Bing cherry and earthy chaparral lead from the nose into a grippy, energetic palate of red fruit and brown spices. Editor’s Choice. 95 Points — M.K.

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