23 California Red Wines to Try

While white wine had its moment in the earlier this month, it is all about the darker juice as National Red Wine Day approaches on August 28. Looking for a great bottle of red to uncork for the occasion? Here are several versatile varietals from across California.

Girasole Vineyards 2020 Zinfandel

Known as Mendocino County’s heritage varietal, this organically farmed Zinfandel opens with raspberry and black pepper on the nose. To the taste, expect an intoxicating blend of black cherry, chocolate, toffee and a touch of tart red currant. $16

2019 BARRA of Mendocino Petite Sirah

A marriage of earth and tobacco, this rich and ruby red varietal is exceptionally full bodied with ever-so-slight notes of caramel and anise on the finish. $26

2021 Armida Winery Poizin Zinfandel

The literal opposite of its name, this California red wine will cure what ails almost anyone. Inky, black and perfectly labeled, Poizin is big, brash and bursting with blackberry, plum and smoky oak. Expect jam to the max in every sip of this intoxicating Zinfandel (which happens to have a small dose of Petit Sirah in there as well). $30

Baileyana Firepeak Pinot Noir, Edna Valley 2019

The Edna Valley is the coolest growing region in all of California, but the Firepeak vineyard blocks are defined by extinct volcanoes found in the area, creating unique soils. This wine is much like the volcanos that came before it, in that it erupts, albeit with ripe cherry, blackberry, cola and tobacco. $30

South Coast 7 Siblings, Bourbon Barrel Aged Red Wine

Named to celebrate the seven siblings of the Carter family (who own South Coast), this unique red California blend is primarily made from Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel. It is aged for 24 months in American oak whiskey barrels, which results in intense juiciness, big berry flavors, a hint of smoke and a rich combination of vanilla and caramel. $31

Optima 2020 PMZ Blend

A limited-production blend, the PMZ is unique in that it marries the full-bodied burst of smokiness and dark fruit from Petit Sirah with the jammy, black fruit and hint of spice from Zinfandel. Then it goes even deeper by adding in Merlot to give it that signature smooth, velvety mouthfeel. The result: a PMZ that is OMG. $42

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Gundlach Bundschu

Gundlach Bundschu 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

It is no wonder California’s oldest family-owned winery has been in business so long with offerings like this. Complex with a silky texture, it is plush to the sip with incredible depth and beautifully balanced boysenberry and black plum notes. $55

Trattore Farms 2019 Stone Soup

A perfect food wine, especially with anything from the grill, Stone Soup is the winemaker’s secret blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Grenache. The result has a little something for everyone, including oak and toasted vanilla, chocolate earthiness and even a blast of juicy berry fruit flavor. $58

Smith-Madrone Winery 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

The Spring Mountain appellation has done it again with this winning California Cabernet. A palate pleaser of the highest order, expect both red and black fruit to the taste as well as cinnamon, nutmeg and structure, thanks to hints of graphite. $62

Calla Lily Estate 2017 Ultimate Cabernet Sauvignon

The nose on this California red wine is bewitching with equal parts blackberry pie and hot chocolate present. To the taste, those flavors continue, but they are joined by a touch of toasted oak and sweet whispers of vanilla. $65

2019 Notre Vue GSM

Expect heavenly wave after wave of jammy bright fruit – especially cherry and wild strawberries – followed by pepper and spicy herbs in every sip of this winning Rhone-style blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. $69

Hawk and Horse 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

This California red wine was made from biodynamically grown grapes in the Red Hills AVA of Lake County, which is just north of the Napa Valley. The wine is muscular, nuanced and full of red fruit notes. $75

Davies 2019 Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir

This release marks the brand’s first bottling of a still Pinot Noir from Keefer Ranch in the iconic Russian River Valley. It boasts the Russian River’s signature cherry aroma and flavor, but also luscious notes of blackberry, cranberry and lavender, with a lingering wisp of strawberry and touch of vanilla, to boot. $75

Darioush 2018 Shiraz

A 100 percent Shiraz sourced from Darioush’s estate vineyards in Napa Valley and Oak Knoll, it opens with black fruit before savory spices join the party and together the plum, licorice and black cherry dance along the palate before making way for cola (and maybe even a little bacon?) on the finish. $85

Flowers Winery

Flowers 2020 Pinot Noir

The influence of the nearby Pacific Coast is obvious at first sip of this medium-bodied Pinot Noir. There are certainly the promised flavors of cherry and dried currants present, but the black tea is what really sets it apart. This should be in every Pinot lover’s collection. $55

2017 Beringer Bancroft Ranch Merlot

Both its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay have been honored as the No. 1 Wine in the World by Wine Spectator. This Merlot, perfected on Napa’s Howell Mountain over the past 30 years, is arguably even better with its full-bodied richness, black cherry notes and spiced vanilla finish. $90

2017 Chalk Hill Estate Red

Expect a scrumptious blend of the best lots of the vineyard’s award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot here. This means the nose will be bold with anise, tobacco and dark fruits and then, to the taste, there will be an explosion of vanilla, blackberry, blueberry, maybe a touch of plum and some nuanced spice before smoothing out and preparing the palate for another taste. $85

Castello Di Amorosa 2017 Il Barone

This Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that earned 92 points from Wine Spectator offers a symphony of baking spices and dark berries flavors followed by a hint of chocolate and just the right amount of earth. $105

Sebastiani 2018 Cherryblock Cabernet Sauvignon

Since its creation, Cherryblock has been the flagship wine at Sebastiani. Its latest release oozes complexity and sophistication with intense, concentrated aromas of blackberry, vanilla and baking spices followed by black fruit, cedar, spice and tobacco to the taste. $125

Faust 2019 The Pact

A special occasion wine for sure, this is a 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from the Coombsville AVA with deep, intense blueberry, blackberry and cherry notes and ultra-silky tannins. There is a touch of forest floor and even dried herbs on the palate, but the fruit is the star of the show. $125

Titus Vineyards 2019 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

A treasured vineyard in the St. Helena appellation, Titus has an award winner on its hands with the vintage. It has measured sweet notes of crème brulée and dark chocolate, but then structure from espresso and black raspberry flavors coming through, followed by a bit of jammy blueberry. $115

Solomon Cabernet Sauvignon Lot 70 2019

This coveted California red wine was made by none other than Wine Spectator critic-turned-vintner Jeff Morgan! It drinks like silk and has layer after layer of nuanced black fruit and big spice. $200 

2016 Palmaz Cabernet Sauvignon

This Napa winery’s founder, Julio Palmaz, invented the coronary heart stent. As such, it is said that every grape at this vineyard symbolizes one life saved as a result. As precise in winemaking as medical innovations, this Cab is a game changer. It warms the soul with vanilla, offers creamy notes of crème brulée and caramel, and then finishes with ripe boysenberry during a dreamy finish. $205

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