Ever since Paul Giamatti waxed poetic about the “thin-skinned, temperamental” Pinot Noir in the 2004 film “Sideways,” the noble grape has seen its popularity with wine drinkers skyrocket. Pop culture stardom aside, there’s a lot to know and love about Pinot Noir: The fickle and terroir-driven grape is admired for such qualities as its deep red color, notes of luscious berries and smoke — and, sometimes, prohibitive prices.
Yes, because Pinot Noir is difficult to grow, the cost of a good bottle will often reflect that — but that doesn’t mean finding a quality, affordable Pinot is impossible. In the past six months, VinePair has tasted and reviewed a range of exceptional Pinots, many of which are surprisingly affordable (even the worthy splurges come in under $100).
Below are 25 of the best Pinots Noirs you can buy right now, arranged by review grade and price. All reviews were written by VinePair tastings director Keith Beavers.
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This is one hell of an American Pinot Noir. Sticking your nose in the glass will give you pause as you’re like, whaaaat?! It smells like cherry cola, cinnamon, and a forest in autumn. The palate is so soft you’ll want to chew on it. The mouthfeel is so silky and delicate that I would just straight-up cold max relax with some nibbles and good friends. That’s if you even want to share.
Before you take your nose out of the glass you will have swooned, moaned, and cursed a couple of times. This is a true American, nay, Willamette-style Pinot Noir. It’s the kind of Pinot that says I am not a Burgundy, I’m all Oregon ya jerks! With focused sour cherries and a touch of coconut, the nose is heady and will draw you in like a siren song. The palate is fleshy, fat, and chewy (you will really feel like you want to start chewing the wine), and will sit on your palate long after the first sip. This wine is only available on the winery’s website, but if you were ever going to give in and do e-commerce this is definitely worth the price (shipping included).
What are you doing reading what I am typing? You should be out trying to find this wine instead, because it is one of the most beautiful Pinot Noir wines from America currently on the market. And once you buy it, get ready to not share. Inside this bottle there are aromas of cherries and cinnamon with some mushrooms, but that’s not important. What is important is that this wine will physically affect you. It’s chewy, soft, supple, and just soaks into your palate. Your endorphins will fire off, and you’ll swoon. Buy it now.
Ever smell a big fat nugget of drippy cannabis? Stick your nose in this glass and you’ll know what that’s like. I have never smelled a Pinot like this. Under that intense cannabis aroma is roasted coffee and dried cherries. It’s nuts! On the palate you just want to chew the wine because it’s all fleshy and viscous. This wine is intoxicating before you’re intoxicated.
Peter Zemmer ‘Rollhutt’ Pinot Noir 2017 (A) ($19)
YO! This wine is awesome! Go find it! It is a soft, elegant style of this grape not often seen outside its home in France. From the hills of the Dolomites comes this beautiful wine with dark cherry aromas and slight hints of coffee folded into fresh soil. The mouthfeel is a soft cumulus cloud of awesome on the palate. And it’s under $20!
Siduri Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2017 (A) ($26)
Great Pinot Noir from this region tends to be a bit pricey, so it’s nice to have a wine like this with a somewhat softer price tag, and a ton of balance and complexity. It’s like smelling cherry cola made from real cherries in a hipster Brooklyn incubator food complex sitting next to freshly turned soil. Speaking of hipsters, there’s a skosh of roasted coffee beans as well. The palate is bright but really lays into your palate with a nice, long finish. I just want to crack this wine open (screw cap) at sunset and share with good friends.
This is how it’s done! This wine is such a great example of why Russian River Pinot Noir fans lose their minds sipping bottles like this one. The balance is impeccable. The fruit is elegant yet powerful, filling your palate and brain with broad, harmonious aromas of cherries and cinnamon, with a whiff of white pepper and autumn leaves. And all those descriptors I just mentioned are cool and all, but what really matters is how this wine makes you feel. It’s a goddamn pleasure to drink.
Domaine Matrot Auxey-Duresses 2016 (A) ($40)
Channeling the Beaune for real, this wine is heavy on the nose and light on the palate. The nose is dense, all about dark cherry, vanilla, cloves, and other baking spices. It’s a nice swoon. On the palate, though, the wine floats. The mouthfeel is lithe, with a velvet quality. For $40 it’s a great intro into the delicate power of this area of Burgundy.
I feel like this is the kind of Pinot that made us fall in love with this region. It’s bright, and filled with cherries with a hint of smoke. The palate is vibrant but deep enough that you just want to chew on it. With a slight chill the wine sings a tune — or is that me — bringing out the subtle tannin structure framing the wine. It’s pricey, but damn, if you are having a splurge night, you can’t go wrong here.
Hosting a fancy dinner party and looking for a bottle to impress your friends? This is the one. You could get all geeky and mention that it’s a blend of three different Pinot Noir clones (Pommard, Dijon 777, Dijon 115), or perhaps talk about its “Burgundian” character; but really, you should just let the wine do the talking. Complex and nuanced, it has a really inviting nose that includes aromas of tart red berries, dried leaves, and freshly turned earth. The red berries continue onto the palate, which is textured and mineral-rich. Serve with beef Bourguignon for a match made in Pinot heaven.
It’s three years old, and needs more time, but is drinking fine right now. This is a deep, thoughtful Pinot Noir with dark cherry and blackberry notes along with some savory gooseberries. The tannins are still a bit ornery but the fruit comes through nicely on the palate with, of course, perfect acidity. It’s not a bad price for a wine made from a small plot of land.
This is a wine that Miles was talking about in his monologue in “Sideways.” This is the kind of wine you want to breathe a bit, but not miss a sip of while it’s evolving under the influence of oxygen. It is hella delicate and elegant, with a mouthfeel that wants to lift off your palate and hover into your senses. Dark cherries mingle with subtle vanilla and clove spice that’s woven into the core of the wine. It’s pricey, but if you’re special occasion-ing this is one to consider.
Vinum Cellars Pinot Noir 2017 (A-) ($15)
It’s not easy finding a good Pinot Noir for a weeknight under $20, so this is a nice go-to. It’s juicy and grippy and smells like cherries and cinnamon along with the fresh soil from your garden. It’s buoyant on the palate with a tart fruit core. This is a great bottle to share with friends or have a few glasses with just you and Netflix.
Calmere Estate Winery Pinot Noir, 2016 (A-) ($30)
I’m like, 15 percent alcohol? Really? Wine’s like, yeah. I’m like, I don’t get it on the nose or palate. Wine’s like, I know. I’m like, damn. This is such a balanced and powerful Pinot Noir. The nose is earthy and bright, with the aroma of red berry fruit and a forest in October. It grips your palate, but doesn’t overwhelm. I’m like, if there’s a Pinot Noir out there for a big ol’ steak, this is it. Wine’s like, bring it on.
Bravium Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2016 (A-) ($31)
Even with a low alcohol level this Pinot Noir really packs a punch. The fruit is tart, but balanced, with a fruity core you want to chew on. The classic aromas of sour cherries and some vanilla from oak really round out the wine, with an added savory subtle cinnamon bonus. Medocino’s warm days and cool nights come through in this wine.
Fort Ross Winery Sea Slopes Pinot Noir 2017 (A-) ($32)
You’re picking mushrooms in a forest in October while licking cherry lip balm off your lips. That’s the nose of this wine. This is a great American Pinot Noir. It’s balanced, and a little grippy, with round acidity that lifts off the palate. The price is right for a gift for a gracious host (only if they pop it stat #feelme), or to bring out during game night or a wine and cheese get-together.
Domaine Matrot Monthelie 2016 (A-) ($43)
Affordable for the region and packs a broody Noir punch. Dark cherry fruit along with fresh soil and a touch of vanilla greet you on the nose. The palate has a nice tannic grip for a Pinot that is welcoming in a wine from a region known for its lean reds. It has a classic label, is crowd-pleasing, and won’t price you out for your next intimate dinner party.
Wow. This wine is delish! It’s a bit pricey, and only available online, but damn this is good. It has that Central Coast style with juicy cherry cola fruit and a hint of cinnamon. On the palate you just wanna chew on it with its fleshy, viscous mouthfeel. This is a bottle to pull out with close friends and legit light meats like duck or herb roasted chicken.
Pinot Noir can age and this is a bottle that proves it. There is magic here but not for another year or so. Behind ornery tannin and some shy fruit you can smell the future, when the wine will be ripe with cherry fruit and earthy soil. If you pop it now it will breathe and be just fine, but if you want to know how this grape evolves, wait a year or two and this bottle will show you.
Peregrine Mohua Pinot Noir 2017 (B+) ($21)
Want to venture outside of your regular Pinot place? This bottle is a good introduction to the style of Pinot Noir that can be found in Central Otago, New Zealand. It has rich, tart cherry feels with a slight vegetal note (kind of like the bitterness of radicchio). The mouthfeel is viscous and makes you want to chew on it. It’s soft, but has depth, and would pair well with a lamb dish or on its own, just chilling with good friends and a cheese plate.
This is a solid Pinot Noir from Sancerre. It’s a little rough around the edges, as the tannin is still a bit ornery, interfering with the core fruit that brings beautiful cherry and earth aromas. I am sure with a year or so in bottle this will polish off a bit. It’s drinking fine now, and could do well at a dinner party, but might also be a great gift to a wine lover for them to lay down for a while.
Siduri Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir 2016 (B+) ($31)
For a Pinot Noir with as much alcohol as a Napa Cab this wine is pretty damn balanced. There is no heat coming off the surface of the wine in the glass and it smells like a campfire from a few miles away along with ripe cherries. The palate is viscous and I want to chew it. That subtle campfire vibe hits on the palate as well, making for a very enjoyable wine that might sneak up on ya with that ABV.
Fel Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2018 (B+) ($38)
Do you dig big wines, but want to experience Pinot Noir, knowing it’s lighter in style? This is a great transition bottle, and it even goes with steak. It is soft and plush, but deep and sweet. The alcohol is high-ish, but that doesn’t take away from the balance. It’s a bigger Pinot, but if you’re baby-stepping down to a lighter red, this is a good start.
This is a solid and available Sonoma Pinot Noir. It’s the kind of bottle you bring to an intimate dinner party with good friends. It is rich but balanced, still showing it’s a Pinot, if you will. The nose will remind you of cherry cola and a smack of vanilla and the palate has a nice weight without being too much. If not a dinner party, this bottle would also do well at a wine and cheese party or as a wine club addition.
Sotheby’s: Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2017 (B+) ($40)
This is a rich, dense Sonoma Pinot Noir. The fruit is dark and there’s a grip on the palate. It would be a nice gift for a gracious host or to bring or pull out at a dinner party. It has the acidity to jive with a wine and cheese party, and the fullness to live up to whatever meat dish if offered at a dinner party.