California, the wine capital of the United States, is home to some of the world’s most exquisite red wines. With its diverse climate and fertile soil, this region produces a variety of wines that cater to different palates. In this blog post, we will explore the top 10 red wines from California that every wine enthusiast should try.

1. Cabernet Sauvignon: The King of California Red Wines

Cabernet Sauvignon is arguably the most popular red wine in California. Known for its full-bodied flavor with notes of black cherry, black currant, and cedar, it pairs perfectly with hearty dishes like steak or lamb. One of our favorites is the Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon – a rich and robust wine with a velvety texture and an impressive finish.

2. Pinot Noir: The Sophisticated Choice of Red Wine

Pinot Noir is another highly sought-after red wine from California. It’s lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon but equally complex with flavors ranging from ripe berries to earthy mushrooms. Try Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir for a taste of Californian elegance – it offers a delicate balance between fruity sweetness and spicy undertones.

3. Zinfandel: The Californian Original Red Wine

Zinfandel is considered as California’s own as it thrives nowhere else quite as well as it does here. This bold and fruity wine can range from semi-sweet to dry, making it versatile for pairing with food. A great example would be Turley Estate Zinfandel which boasts flavors of raspberry jam, cinnamon spice, and black pepper.

4. Merlot: The Crowd Pleaser among Red Wines

Merlot is often appreciated for its smoothness and ability to please many palates due to its medium-bodied nature and soft tannins. Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot stands out in this category with its lush texture and flavors of plum, black cherry, and mocha.

5. Syrah: The Dark Horse in Red Wine Selections

Syrah is a dark-skinned grape variety that produces powerful and full-bodied wines. It’s known for its spicy black fruit flavors along with undertones of savory olive, bacon fat, and smoky tobacco. Check out the Qupé Central Coast Syrah for a wine that perfectly encapsulates these characteristics.

Exploring Lesser-Known Varieties

While the aforementioned wines are well-known, California also offers some lesser-known but equally impressive red wines.

6. Petite Sirah: The Intense Indulgence in Red Wine

Petite Sirah is known for its inky dark color and robust tannins. It offers rich flavors of black fruit, chocolate, and licorice. Try Robert Biale Vineyards Royal Punishers Petite Sirah for an intense yet balanced wine experience.

7. Grenache: The Versatile Vino in Red Wine Choices

Grenache is a versatile grape that can be used in both blends and standalone wines. It typically produces medium to full-bodied wines with red fruit flavors complemented by spicy or peppery notes. Tablas Creek Vineyard Grenache is a delightful example of this variety.

8. Malbec: The Argentinian Immigrant in California Red Wine Scene

Though originally from France and popularized by Argentina, Malbec has found a comfortable home in California as well. It produces full-bodied wines with flavors of blackberry, plum, and violet along with a smoky finish. Try Pulenta Estate Malbec for a taste of Californian-Argentinian fusion.

9. Sangiovese: The Italian Stallion in California Red Wines

Sangiovese may be synonymous with Italy but it also thrives in California’s warm climate. It produces medium to full-bodied wines with flavors of cherry, fig, tomato, and fresh herbs. Seghesio Family Vineyards Sangiovese is a must-try for lovers of Italian wine.

10. Barbera: The Easy Drinker among California Red Wines

Barbera is an Italian grape variety that produces easy-drinking wines with bright red fruit flavors and zesty acidity. Try the Renwood Premier Old Vine Barbera for a taste of Italy in California.

Red Wines


Now that you’ve got a taste of California’s top-notch red wines, why not turn that craving into a real adventure? Join Sidecar Tours and hop on a ride through Napa, Temecula, San Diego, and more. Explore the stories behind each winery and savor the unique flavors waiting for you. Let Sidecar Tours be your guide to the beautiful landscapes and hidden spots in California’s wine country. Don’t resist the urge to experience the world-class wines that make California special – book your tour with Sidecar today and make your wine journey unforgettable!