Can you really find high-quality California red wines for under $20 a bottle?
There are many highly-rated California red wines you can buy if you only have one twenty in your Venmo account. If you’re looking for an incredible bang for your buck, this list of the best California red wines for under $20 is the perfect place to look. But don't sleep on the great California white wines for under $15. You could buy a nice bottle and still have money left over!
How do California wineries offer great red wines for $20 or less?
California is renowned for producing some of the best quality red wines in the world. Unlike their counterparts in Europe who must follow strict guidelines in their growing regions, California winemakers have access to a huge range of grape varieties and winemaking methods to make incredible wines. Plus, the climate in California is ideal for grape growing, with cool nights and warm days. Producers are able to take advantage of the climate, economies of scale, and institutional know-how to produce some very high-quality wines for under $20.
We've found that, because of the quantity and diversity of California wines, it can be a daunting task to pick a good bottle of California red wine at your local store. This is especially true if you're not an expert.
How do you find great California Red Wines Priced Under $20?
While we are happy you are looking at our recommendations, we really want you to be able to find value California red wines on your own. There are a few tips that will get you looking in the right places.
Look for wines from regions other than Napa and Sonoma (and much of the central coast)
Start looking for wineries that are outside the most popular and well-known regions. California is a very big state. There are wine regions from the top of the state to the bottom and from east to west. It is worth your time to get familiar with some of the lesser know regions. You can find great wine values in places like Lodi, Mendocino, and the Sierra Foothills.
Expand your search to include lesser-known red grape varietals
Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are on every wine list in the US. We love these varietals as much as anyone, but if you want to find real value, you need to look beyond these. Even expanding to a very well know grape like Merlot can save you money.
If you are willing to expand your horizons a bit more, you can find even better wine values. Consider grapes like Cabernet Franc or Petit Sirah the next time you are wine shopping. Your changes of finding an affordable red wine of high quality go way up.
The best California red wines you can find under $20
While it's usually a safe bet to assume that the more expensive wines will be a hit, you don't have to break the bank every time you want to enjoy a great bottle of red wine. There are plenty of quality wines out there that are a steal for their prices, and we’ve done some searching so you don’t have to!
[Note: This California Winery Advisor article includes affiliate links. We will be compensated if you order any of the California red wines through our links]
Sangiovese, a grape that is native to Tuscany, thrives in California. It is known to produce wines with red fruit notes and a pleasing earthy savoriness.
At Frey Vineyards located in the Redwood Valley of California, the grapes are grown organically and very few additions are made in the cellar in order to let the Sangiovese shine on its own. Also, no sulfur is added to the bottle, which qualifies this bottle for the USDA Organic Wine certification.
If you appreciate minimal intervention wines, Frey Organic Sangiovese is one of the best deals you can find under $20. This wine is earthy and smokey with a nice balance of blackberry and raspberry flavors. It would pair well with an Italian pasta dish, especially one with sausage or roasted eggplant.
Consider stocking up on this wine. An organic California red wine for only $14.99 is a deal that, if we had to guess, won’t last long!
Click here | Buy Frey Vineyards Organic Sangiovese
2. 2019 Vina Robles Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - $19.99 (Limited Time)
Before we get into describing this amazing red wine priced under $20 a bottle, here is some general advice. Look outside of Napa for great California Cabs at reasonable price points. There is no denying Napa is great for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, but Paso Robles and Lodi also have world-class Cab vineyards. Because they lack the fanfare of Napa, you can save a lot of money.
Vina Robles picks some of the best Central Coast fruit from two of their estate vineyards, Huerhuero and Creston Valley. This producer is very eco-conscious; all of their vineyards have been certified by SIP (Sustainability in Practice) since 2012. You can feel good about drinking this wine!
This 2019 Cab is full-bodied and powerful with rich, silky tannins. On the nose, it has aromas of dark berries and caramel. Thanks to aging in French, American, and Hungarian oak, this wine has a beautiful cedar taste. Earning 94 points and a Platinum award from the San Diego International Wine Challenge, this wine is a steal that is sure to please!
Here is what Wine Enthusiast says about this amazing red for under $20.
COMMENTARY: Aromas of roasted black cherry, fig, caramel, and milk chocolate make for a rich and gooey entry to the nose of this appellation blend. Lavish, creamy, and smooth tannins frame the sip, where roasted plum, fig, and raisin flavors are framed by a more rigid structure toward the finish.
Click Here To Order Vina Robles Wines
You will find that some of the most highly-rated California red wines for under $20 a bottle are made from Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The most famous and expensive Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Napa of course. The grapes from Lodi offer a great alternative to those pricey bottles and the fruit from this region is top-notch.
We will let you in on a little secret. Lodi's Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are of such high quality that they often get blended into wines from more prominent regions like Napa and Sonoma. This means buying a Lodi Cab is a great money-saving trick.
This Cab from Plungerhead is an intensely rich, deeply colored wine loaded with flavors of blackberry layered on notes of cinnamon, fig, and toasted cedar. It’s a great accompaniment to a cozy night with a great book but it really shines when paired with some barbecue baby back ribs. The intense ripe fruit, which is balanced by bright acid, can stand up to barbeque sauce without being drowned out.
Here is what Wine Enthusiast has to say about it.
COMMENTARY: Concentrated, focused, and ultra-smooth, this well-polished wine is a winner. Velvety fine-grained tannins bolster deep blackberry and black-currant flavors while light oak spices of vanilla and cinnamon accentuate its complexity. Best Buy.
Click Here | See Current Prices For Plungerhead Cab
5. 2018 Murphy-Goode California Pinot Noir $13.99
his is a simple and straightforward Pinot Noir that really shines at its price point. The grapes are sourced from cool-climate vineyards located along the Central Coast of California in prime Pinot Noir country. When you open this bottle up, you’ll find black cherry and vanilla notes with a hint of black tea in the finish. It’s a great, versatile table red that is complex enough to impress on special occasions.
It is very rare to find a quality Pinot Noir-based red wine for under $20 a bottle - not to mention under $15! This California wine is affordable enough to keep your guests from going thirsty without breaking the bank. You may want to consider stocking up while this wine is still available! And while you’re at it, check out some of the other wines from Murphy Goode. They are all great value wines.
Click Here to order this affordable California Pinot Noir
Another great red wine value from Lodi. Most people dipping their feet into the world of wine might know Zinfandel as a sweet blush wine called “White Zinfandel” which is sold in boxes at every major supermarket. There’s nothing wrong with pink stuff - it’s juicy, sweet, and incredibly easy to drink.
We suggest you crack a bottle of this stuff and you'll experience Zinfandel in one of its truest and best expressions. You might never look back. This wine is loaded with classic Zinfandel Flavors, that is ripe blackberries, plums, mocha, and some vanilla with a long, silky finish. You may even get a little white pepper spice if you are paying attention. That's a lot of complexity for a California red wine selling under $20 per bottle.
Barbeque is a great pairing, but it does well with most red meats, especially roasted preparations.
Click Here | Order from Wine.com
7. The Fableist Zinfandel 2021 $19.99
A Central Coast Zin with real aging potential for under $20 a bottle? Seriously.
The Fableist label is a collaboration between two esteemed Central Coast winemakers, Curt Schalchlin and Andrew Jones. These guys know the vineyards in this region. They used their knowledge to create an affordable black fruit-driven Zin. This is a great wine to bring to your holiday table or a cookout. The black cherry, plum, and cinnamon notes evoke memories of warm fires and holiday cheer. This affordable California red will pair nicely with a barbecued rack of ribs or some Santa Maria tri-tip.
Click Here | Place an order for this California red wine from Fableist
So what makes this one of the best California Merlots under $20? Well first off, it's the best California Merlots under $15, so that's a good place to start.
But seriously, Merlot is one of the classic French varieties that is known for its elegance and power. You will quickly learn that this bottle lives up to that acclaim. Plan for intense aromas of ripe black cherry, raspberry, and oak. This sub $20 California red is a perfect pairing for filet mignon and also goes wonderfully with a sausage-laden pasta dish and grilled vegetables.
The downturn in Merlot consumption after the movie Sideways was a blessing in disguise because it means today it is possible to find incredible deals on this often overlooked variety. For the last ten years, you've been able to score high-quality California Merlots for rock-bottom prices. That can't last forever!
Click here | Have a few bottles delivered
9. 2019 Camp Cabernet Franc - $19.99
Cabernet Franc is sometimes an overlooked variety, but it’s actually one of the most important grape varieties around today. It is the parent of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the famous Bordeaux Blend grapes! If you love a flashy Cab Sauv or a juicy Merlot, give a Cab Franc a try for a more subtle and elegant experience.
The Camp Cab Franc is made from organically grown grapes in two Sonoma County vineyards. The wine ferments with native yeasts and then are aged in gently used oak barrels to round out the tannins. On the nose, this wine has the aromas of raspberry and strawberry. It takes on herbal flavors in the mouth, with a slightly mineral texture and a long finish.
Cab Franc can be slightly chilled in the summertime for a refreshing treat. With its high acidity, it makes a great pairing with dishes that have vinegar-based sauces, like barbecue sauce or salad dressing.
Click Here | See Current Prices For Camp Cabernet Franc
A great California Cabernet Sauvignon for under $12 a bottle. Are you kidding me?
This wine is loaded with flavor! It will hit your palate at full speed with flavors of ripe plums, blackberries, and pomegranate with some non-fruit flavors of rosemary, leather, and minerals. . This wine may only be $11.99 but it can stand up to some fancy, rich dishes. Pair this with a fatty cut of grilled steak such as a ribeye and savor every last drop. It also holds up well next to a loaded burger and fries.
Click Here | See Current Prices For Leese-Fitch Wines
11. 2017 Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon - $19.99
Sonoma shares a border with Napa. What it doesn't share is the international acclaim for producing top-flight Cabernet Sauvignon. That is a good thing when it comes to price. The Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon delivers on many of the promises made by more expensive wines from Napa. But luckily for you, this is a phenomenal California red wine that is under $20 per bottle.
The Louis Martini brand is one of the many under the Gallo flag. This brand is one of the largest wine producers on earth, and in 2019, pulled in a cool $5 billion in revenue. Gallo is known to deliver powerful reds like this Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley. With an ABV north of 15%, you can be sure this will be luxurious on the tongue. The wine delivers primary notes of red fruit with some dried fruit notes. There is an undercurrent of spice, chocolate, and pine.. Put this wine up against your biggest steak and you'll have a winner.
Click Here | See Current Prices For Louis Martini Wines
Napa Valley is one of the premier Cabernet Sauvignon growing regions in the world. Cabs from this region have famously held their ground against some of France’s best red wines and continue to hold their esteemed spot in the world wine market today.
While some wines from Napa sell at exorbitant prices, there are some great buys at reasonable prices like this red from Avalon.
You’ll find ripe red fruits on the tongue, think cherries and strawberries, followed by a spicy finish. The finish includes a slight touch of vanilla and features round tannins. An all-around versatile red wine for under $20 a bottle. Enjoy a glass of Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon with a grilled steak topped with a creamy mushroom sauce or a tri-tip sandwich.
Click Here | See Avalon Wine Prices
13. 2019 Shannon Ridge High Elevation Petite Sirah - $13.99
Petite Sirah is known for its deep, bold color and rich tannins. Why it’s called “petite” is anyone’s guess. This Shannon Ridge Petite Sirah is from Lake County, located just north of Napa Valley. These hillside vineyards are like something out of a postcard overlooking Clear Lake, the Snow Mountains, and the Mendocino National Forest.
If you’ve never tried Petite Sirah, this is a perfect wine to dive into. It has the aromas of blackberries, plums, and anise. It finishes incredibly smooth despite its full-body and big tannins. Pair it with any mushroom-based dish and you have yourself a fancy date night (on a budget!).
Here is what Wilfred Wong had to say about this sub $20 red wine:
COMMENTARY: The 2019 Shannon Ridge High Elevation Collection Petite Sirah offers a rich and smooth ride on the palate. TASTING NOTES: This wine exhibits appealing aromas of black fruit and anise. Try it with grilled tri-tip. (Tasted: April 26, 2021, San Francisco, CA)
Click Here | See Shannon Ridge Wine Prices
A classic California Cabernet Sauvignon style with big fruit and nicely layered vanilla and oak notes. This isn't a bright red-fruit expression of Cab. It offers a luscious blackberry profile that will satisfy lovers of this California style. At 14.5% ABV, this wine really packs a punch. Try pairing it with a rich lamb dish or a veal parmigiana.
The Juggernaught Hillside Cabernet delivers all of this at a fantastic price. To get this quality of California red wine for under $20 is amazing. According to Vivino, wines of this quality usually cost twice as much!
Click here to see the latest price.
15. 2018 BloodRoot Pinot Noir - $19.99
What’s the coolest thing about BloodRoot wines? We actually don’t know who makes them. The winemakers choose to stay anonymous because they are critically acclaimed and have other wines that are sold at 4-5x the price of BloodRoot wines. This means BloodRoot is an exceptional find for a California red under $20.
This Pinot Noir is made with fruit primarily from Sonoma county. It has earthy notes of herbs, stone, and black tea, combined with soft, velvety tannins. Made from award-winning but incognito winemakers, opening this bottle feels like opening a treasure chest.
Here’s what Wine Enthusiast has to say:
COMMENTARY: This wine is a secret collaboration between several winemakers with great vineyard sourcing who have come together here to make a masterful, value-minded blend. The majority of the grapes come from Russian River Valley, with others from Sonoma Coast, Marin, Anderson Valley and Bennett Valley. Tea, earth, stone and herb tones enliven a core of cranberry and rhubarb, offering length and depth. The tannins are velvety smooth and seductive.
Click here to see the latest BloodRoot prices.
Conclusion | Best California Red Wines Under $20
We hope you excited by the prospects of finding great California red wines for less than $20. We are always surprised by how many quality wines there are at this price point. Our list is just a starting point of course. You can do some additional digging and find many more wonderful California reds that will fit your budget. We suggest you focus on areas like Lodi and the Sierra Foothills if you want to find the very best values.
Do you know of any wines we should add to our list? Please email us firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us!