Can you really find amazing California red wines under $20 a bottle?
[Question]: Is inexpensive California red wine worth searching for?
There are many highly rated California red wines you can buy if you only have one twenty in your wallet. Don't sleep on the great California white wines for under $15 either.
So how do California wineries offer great 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 palate of grape varieties and winemaking methods to use to make incredible wine.
We've found that, because of the quantity and diversity of California wines on the shelf, it can be a daunting task to pick a good bottle. This is especially true if you're not an expert. 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, it just takes some trial and error to find them.
[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]
Lucky for you, we did the hard work.
Here are 12 fantastic California red wines to keep an eye out for next time you're in the mood for a good glass of wine that is inexpensive.
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 and Lodi also have world-class Cab vineyards. Because they lack the fanfare of Napa, you can save a lot of money.
Smith & Hook takes advantage of Central Coast fruit from top vineyards like Hames Valley vineyards. The winemaker extracts bold dark stone fruit flavors. These flavors are pronounced at first, but they then cede the foreground to spice notes and dark chocolate on the finish that come from 10 months in French oak.
The 14.8% ABV ensures a silky and weighty mouthfeel. This is a great dinner and entertaining wine. You get the power of a Napa red at a fraction of the price. Thank you, Hahn Family!
Here is what Wilfred Wong of Wine.com says about this amazing red for under $20.
Nicely done, the 2016 Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon has deftly combined ripe fruit and oak nuances into a combo-pack of excellent aromas and flavors. The wine's balance sets it apart from many others producers who often overpower their fruit with too much wood. Pair this wine with grilled pork wrapped in smoky bacon strips. (Tasted: January 17, 2018, San Francisco, CA USA)
Cherry, spice and a touch of vanilla. The Folly Of The Beast Pinot Noir from Winc delivers everything you could hope for from a California Pinot Noir. The grapes are sourced from vineyards on the Central Coast and the wine expresses the beauty of that growing region. Cool ocean breezes from the Pacific keep Pinot Noir grapes along California's coast the perfect temperature for slow ripening and maximum flavor.
Winc is able to sell this California red wine for under $20 because of its unique business model. Winc partners with great winemakers from around the world. They work together to create top-quality wines that are insanely affordable.
Click Here | Buy Folly Of The Beast And Get A Discount On Winc Wines
3. 2015 Black Sheep Finds "Hocus Pocus" Syrah (click here to check the latest price)
This whimsical Santa Barabara based winery makes some seriously drinkable red wine. The folks at Black Sheep Finds started making their Hocus Pocus Syrah before the winery exploded in popularity. Their success with the upmarket Holus Bolus label transformed them into a top tier California winery.
This Syrah has everything you could want. This is great to drink on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can drink it by yourself. You can serve it to guests. The winemaker blends grapes from one cool climate vineyard with grapes from a warmer climate. The results are a solid red wine for under $20 a bottle year in and year out. We suggest you pick up a case of this and just have it handy for when you want some great wine.
[Note: Due to the popularity of Black Sheep Finds, you may find this isn't always available for under $20 per bottle. We are keeping an eye on it and looking for deals]
You will find that many of the most highly rated California red wines for under $20 a bottle are made from Zinfandel. Zinfandel is a true California Red. The grape has a storied history in the state. Winemakers love to create bold, fruit-forward wines with Zin that are a joy to drink.
This Zinfandel from Plungerhead is an intensely rich, deeply colored wine loaded with flavors of blackberry and raspberry jam layered on notes of chocolate, nutmeg, and black pepper. It’s a great accompaniment to a cozy night with a great book but it really shines when paired with some barbequed baby back ribs. The intense ripe fruit, which is balanced by bright acid can stand up to barbeque sauce without being drowned out.
Click Here | See Current Prices For Plungerhead Zinfandel
5. 2016 Murphy-Goode California Pinot Noir $11.99
This is a simple and straightforward pinot noir that really shines at its price point. When you open this bottle up, you’ll find some raspberry and cranberry 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. This California wine is affordable enough to keep your guests from going thirsty without breaking the bank.
It is very rare to find a quality Pinot Noir based red wine for under $20 a bottle. You may want to consider buying a case while this wine is still available!
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 see 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, mocha, and some vanilla on 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 | Check Current Prices For Ravenswood
7. 2017 The Fableist Pinot Noir $19.99
A Central Coast Pinot Noir with real aging potential for under $20 a bottle? Seriously.
The Fableist label is a collaboration between two esteemed Central Coast winemakers. These guys know the vineyards in this region. They used their knowledge to create an affordable red fruit driven Pinot. This is a great wine to bring to your holiday table. The cranberry notes and baking spices evoke memories of warm fires and holiday cheer. This affordable California red will pair nicely with a roast turkey and gravy.
So what makes this one of the best California Merlot under $20? Well first off, it's the best California Merlot 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 heritage. Plan for intense aromas of ripe black cherry, currants, and vanilla. 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. Merlot is an amazing varietal. For the last ten years, you've been able to score high-quality California Merlots for rock bottom prices. That can't last forever!
This nicely priced California red wine blends two classic Rhone varietals. The Syrah and Grenache grapes were grown in Monterey County under ideal conditions. Just an M (Mourvedre) short of the classic GSM blends of France, this wine offers you aromas of pomegranate and herbs. On the palate, you will taste red fruit and some darker stone fruit.
There was a lot of care given to this wine. After extracting maximum color and flavor through a process of manual punchdowns, the wine was left in French oak barrels for 10 months.
It is truly amazing you can purchase a California red wine like this at this low price point!
Click Here | See Current Prices For Morgan Wines
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 raisins with some non-fruit flavors of violets, tobacco, green pepper, and tobacco. It may sound bizarre, but it creates a masterpiece in the palate. Pair this with a fatty cut of grilled steak such a ribeye and savor every last drop. It also holds up well next to a loaded burger and fries.
11. 2015 Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon $15.99 (On Sale For A Limited Time)
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. The beauty is this is a California red wine that is under $20 per bottle.
The Louis Martini brand is one of the many under the Gallo flag. This brand delivers powerful reds like this Cabernet Sauvignon is 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 and smoke. Put this wine up against your biggest steak and you'll have a winner.
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
A classic cold climate Syrah from established vines in the Santa Maria Valley of Santa Barbara. This wine is an easy drinker. It features a nice balance of red and dark berries on the nose with an underlying scent of mocha. A nice medium bodied wine that you can enjoy on its own or with a meal.
You can feel good about drinking this wine. Cambria is SIP certified. This means they make every effort to be sustainable in their grape growing and winemaking. You can't do much better when looking for great California red wine for under $20 a bottle!
Here is what Vinuous had to say about this sub $20 red wine:
The 2014 Syrah Tepusquet Vineyard is one of the most compelling wines in this range. Rich and explosive, with layers of dark fruit that build effortlessly, it possesses superb intensity and volume. It also appears to have more than enough depth to handle the 100% new French oak. The 2014 was done with fully destemmed fruit.
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 prices 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 email@example.com and tell us!