My Favorite California Pinot Noirs

I love California wine country.  From Napa to Russian River to Santa Rita Hills and everything in between.  And whenever my friends are heading up for their wine getaway weekends, I always get asked the same thing: “Liat where should we go?”

So I thought I’d share a list of just my favorite California Pinot’s to start.  Some of these wineries are not open to the public, but will take private reservations and tastings.  Others really have no fancy winery at all, they just make the best wines from other people’s top choice vineyards.  But all in all, these are all damn good Pinots.  And if you get a chance to visit or try any of these, don’t turn it down!

1.   Sea Smoke Ten, Southing, whatever you can get your hands on. (Sta Rita Hills). – Best. Pinot. Ever.  Or at least in the running.

2.  Radio Coteau (Russian River Valley) – Eric the winemaker is a Pinot avant guard IMO. totally different tasting Pinot from all the others.  I’m calling it from the mountaintops (which is the inspiration for their name): “this juice is amazing!”

3. Melville 2007 Terraces block Pinot.   Either this is like sex-in-a-bottle or they laced it with illegal substances in that tasting room.  Either way, good times for all.  If you fine Melville at the store but it doesn’t have the melted wax top over the cork, it’s not the right one.

4.  Rochioli 2007 Pinot.  (Russian River)  I think fairly opposite style of Radio but melted in my mouth like chocolate.

5.  Ancien – These guys make Pinots from grapes all over California and have a large variety of different blocks. A-Maze-Balls.  Especially their Russian River variety.

6.  Foley 2007 Rancho Santa Rosa Pinot (Sta Rta Hlls)

7.   Brewer-Clifton 2007 Sta Rita Hills

Honorable Mentions:

1.       Close Pepe Estate Olive Oils.  Word Up to the EVOO-heavens.  I know, its not a Pinot but worth it to make the list since its in the same Sta Rita Hills wineries as the above.

2.  Alma Rosa 2007 Clone 667 La Encantada Vinyard Sta Rita Hills  – all organic and sustainable

3.       Titus 2006 Petite Sirah Napa

4.       La Bomba Chocolate Port – the friggen-bomba all right

5.       Ampelos 2005 Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills

6.       Rusack 2006 Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills

7.       Wellington 2007 Noir de Noirs Sonoma Valley

8.       La Fond 2007 Pinot SRH

Seems like most of my favorite Pinots comes from Santa Rita Hills (outside of Santa Barbara) and Russian River area (near Sonoma).  Next up will have to be my Oregon list.  Love me some of those too…


  1. I really think you would like Merry Edwards if you’ve never tried it. She achieves such a full body style and is really true to the Russian River Valley methods… Klopp Ranch is my fav!

    *ps radio coteau is the shiiiiiiiiiz

    • Thanks Jessamine. Can’t wait to try both. I think I have had Merry Edwards but can’t recall, so just means I need to have more!

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