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It’s easy to love and appreciate wine, but if pinot noir hasn’t been part of your wine-loving life, we're hoping you'll reconsider. It’s a much-desired grape, planted throughout the world, and an exceptionally brilliant one. Almost chameleon-like, it's capable of assuming the terroir of its surroundings and placing those aromas, flavors and textures on full display in each sniff and sip. Pinot noir belongs in every wine lover’s cellar, cabinet or glass. So many of them are good, but only so many of them are great.
Here, we’re celebrating this noble variety with some of the best pinot noirs to drink today. Don’t hesitate to try any of these selections, because there’s just no going wrong here.
Best Overall: Kosta Browne Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Kosta Browne is one of the treasured producers of exceptional, unabashedly California-style pinot noirs. This particular vintage has earned accolades across the board from noted wine critics. Although known for their cool-climate Sonoma County pinots, they’ve begun sourcing grapes from Central Coast’s Sta. Rita Hills in recent years. This region in Santa Barbara is home to exceptional vineyards and world-class wines, and this bottle bears the winery's unmistakable stamp, imbued with freshness, tremendous verve and energy.
Vivid aromas of ripe wild strawberry, tangy black cherry, cranberry, and hints of blood orange, fleshy and delicious fruit flavors are supported by grippy tannins. Juicy acidity rounds out this wine of elegance, precision, tension and finesse.
Best California: Gary Farrell Russian River Pinot Noir
Gary Farrell Vineyards puts their best foot forward, representing California’s great state with this exquisite pinot. A blend of grapes from vineyards of varying climates, this cuvée features a balance of textures and flavors from renowned slices of the Russian River terroir.
The pinot is translucent ruby with cherry, blood orange, clove and grapefruit zest. Gentle tannins met with sweet cedar unfurl in brown spices, cola, and cinnamon through a red berry-driven finish with elegant minerality.
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Runner-Up, Best California: Sandhi Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Sommelier, author and winemaker Rajat Parr runs the show at Sandhi Wines, combining his exceptional palate and unparalleled tasting experiences with Santa Barbara County’s growing Burgundy varieties. Sandhi’s vineyard sources are regularly met with cool blasts of ocean air, yielding fresh, balanced pinot grapes.
This wine lifts out of the glass with notes of red berries and hibiscus, delivering a medium-bodied mouthfeel. Expect flavors of strawberry, pomegranate, cola, and delicate black truffle amidst a juicy acid backbone and feathery tannins for a delightful texture.
Tip: If you can get your hands on Parr's Domaine de la Côte wines, you’ll understand what perfection tastes like in California-made pinot noir.
Best Oregon: Belle Pente Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2017
Over the past decades, Belle Pente’s pinots have been acclaimed as some of Oregon's best, and this 2017 vintage continues that tradition. They owe their classy blend to the cool-climate grapes hand-harvested from their 70-acre hillside vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton AVA of Willamette Valley.
Expect red fruits like cherry and strawberry, as well as blackberry, earth and pepper. The medium-bodied pinot dances on the palate and falls gently on the finish.
Runner-Up, Best Oregon: Johan Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir
Another divine treat from the Willamette Valley’s magic soils is the product of Johan’s certified-biodynamic estate vineyard led by winemaker Morgan Beck. This one is a classic pinot that’s good for the land as well as the palete.
Vanilla and cherry burst on the scene with a divine rush of citrus zest. A vibrant and delightful wine, expect delicate aromas of gingerbread spices with smooth tannins and bright acidity.
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Best Splurge: Three Sticks Pinot Noir Price Family Estates 2018
Thanks to the deft hands of winemakers Bob Cabral and Ryan Prichard, Three Sticks Wines took full advantage of the serendipitous 2018 growing season. Between the mild spring and crisp autumn harvest, their vineyards turned out envious grape bunches—making this wine a bottle to remember.
A great rush of heady aroma and flavors reveal lush red fruits, blackberry and black tea, tinged with wild crushed herbs. This medium-bodied pinot showcases the epitome of balanced ripe fruit, fine-grained tannin textures and refreshing acidity.
Best Under $30: Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir
From California’s Central Coast, Laetitia Estate offers this bright pinot made from a blend of 10, home-grown pinot noir clones from vineyards that soak up the ocean air. You can treat yourself to this tasty, meticulously-made wine for just under $30.
You’re hit with full aromas of mulberry and cranberry off the bat, followed by smoke and nutmeg. Expect flavors of cherry, raspberry, sandalwood and spice, along with crisp acidity and a lasting finish.
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Best Under $50: Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir
Operating out of Napa Valley, Domaine Carneros' founding winemaker Eileen Crane is best known for her landmark sparkling wines. Still, pinot noir is another trick up her sleeve. Whole berries for this pinot are cold-soaked for delicate flavor extraction, then barrel-aged for 10 months.
Intense and full-bodied with luscious tannins, this wine has notes of cherry, strawberry, chocolate, pomegranate and plum. It's sweet and juicy with brilliant texture and a long finish. The pinot is great on its own or as a companion to New York strip steak, herb-dusted pork loin or parmesan-crusted, pan-seared Dover Sole.
Best Australian: Yering Station Village Pinot Noir
The Rathbone family brought Yering Station, a nearly two-centuries-old institution, to international fame as one of Australia’s top wineries. Victoria’s Yarra Valley, which is home to Yering Station, is known for its varying pinot noir-wine styles from its diverse microclimates.
This smooth, dark-fruited pinot has aromas of black and red cherry, earth and undertones of spicy pepper. Smooth tannins form the base of a floral-accented pinot reminicient of violets and lavender, tinged with rich vanilla, cherry and cedar spices.
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Best New Zealand: Greywacke Pinot Noir
Is it the sweeping oceanic climate that always seems to give New Zealand wines a lift? That’s only part of this bottle’s story from winemaker Kevin Judd’s operation, Greywacke. Judd is known for putting New Zealand on the map as a significant producer of sauvignon blanc, and he brings that same magic to this rich pinot.
Expect an exquisite medley of sweet and tart fruit: strawberry, cherry, cranberry, plum, backed up with oak, clove and black olives, enveloped by a savory hint of smoke. This is a medium-bodied pinot with plush tannins and a lively finish.
Best French: Patrice Rion Nuits-St-Georges Clos Saint-Marc Premier Cru
Representing a taste of France with great zeal, Patrice Rion is an expert winemaker, finely tuned to growing and harvesting grapes on his vineyards in Nuits-St-Georges. You can taste his decades of expertise with this delicious wine.
Beautiful delicate earth notes find black truffle, damp forest and wild cherry. The pinot has remarkable layers of juicy cherry, red currant and black raspberry, cut by sharp acidity, meaty tannins, crushed stone minerality and a lengthy finish.
Runner-Up, Best French: Chanson Pernand-Vergelesses Les Vergelesses Premier Cru
Domaine Chanson presents this classically French cuvée made to delight the elegant wine taster. These grapes tell a thoroughly decadent story from Premier Cru vines borne of clay and limestone soils in the Côte de Beaune. The vines find their roots in the same gravel soils as adjacent Corton-Charlemagne, the Grand Cru vineyard for white wine in this region.
Dark ruby red in color, this pinot has a balanced flavor and a pleasing mouthfeel, along with notes of red fruit and crushed hazelnuts. Aromas of cherry liqueur and flashy French oak give way to a creamy blackberry finish. Enjoy with your salty red meats, tender game and creamy cheeses.
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Best Argentinian: Chacra Barda Pinot Noir
Chacra gets their distinct flavor from growing their grapes in Patagonia, Argentina, a desert oasis made possible by snowmelt from the Andes Mountains. Thanks to the dry, pristine air, Chacra Pinots possess a consistently appetizing flavor from vintage to vintage.
Red fruits led by strawberry, cherry and raspberry meet musty earth and smoke, along with hints of pepper and tomato vine. This is a medium-bodied pinot with balanced acidity and plump tannins.
Best Chilean: Ritual Casablanca Valley Pinot Noir
Swaddled by 6,000 acres of native forest and the Pacific Ocean’s cooling air, Ritual’s vineyards in Chile’s Casablanca Valley rest in an ideal terrain for growing outstanding grapes. They take a low-impact farming approach to their harvest, and grapes are gently picked by hand.
Full-bodied and decently textured, this pinot has notes of red fruit, earth, blackberry, oak, smoke and pepper. Expect a sweet flavor with fresh herbal aromas and fine, svelte tannins.
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Jonathan Cristaldi has written about wine and spirits for over a decade, regularly tasting wines from around the globe. Cristaldi was named a "Wine Prophet" by Time Out New York for his witty and often avant-garde approach to wine education.