Up and down the state, there are great values are everywhere.

By Ray Isle
April 02, 2020

Amazing values from California tend to hover around the $15 mark these days, thanks to the state’s labor and land costs. There are certainly plenty of less expensive California wines, but they tend toward the mass-produced and innocuous. (“Amazing,” unfortunately, drops off.) The good news is that for your $15 or so, you can still score some extraordinarily good bottles. Here are 12 to seek out right now.

Photo by Victor Protasio / Graphics by Abbey Lossing

Read more: The State of California Wine

White & Rosé

2018 Bonny Doon Beeswax Vineyard Picpoul ($15)

This aptly named white has a faint touch of honey in its citrusy aroma, and the vineyard’s location in the Arroyo Seco AVA provides tingling acidity and freshness. Pour it with raw oysters for a perfect match.

2018 Broadside Central Coast Chardonnay ($15)

This white is like a basket of ripe fruit: apricots, peaches, mangoes. Underneath that abundance are hints of smokiness, framed by a creamy texture. Yet somehow it doesn’t come off at all heavy—just delicious.

2019 Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc North Coast ($15)

Need a lively dinner party wine for the spring? Ripe lemon, lemon-grass, and honey notes mingle here, and unlike some Sauvignons, it feels rounded rather than sharp thanks to partial aging in older French oak barrels.

2019 Grounded Wine Co. Space Age Rosé ($15)

Strawberry pink in hue and just as vivid in terms of flavor, this Grenache-based rosé from Santa Barbara and Monterey is rich compared to traditional Provençal bottlings, but the lifted acidity in the wine keeps it refreshing.

2017 Foxglove Central Coast Chardonnay ($16)

Bob Varner blends fruit from Santa Barbara and Paso Robles for this full-bodied yet graceful white. Its pineapple and lemon cream flavors, succulent texture, and bright acidity join together nigh-on seamlessly.

2018 Daou Vineyards Paso Robles Sauvignon Blanc ($17)

Daou, a top Paso Robles Cabernet producer, also makes this fragrant Sauvignon Blanc. It balances herbal notes of cut grass and lemon verbena against juicy, pink grapefruit flavors.

Red

2018 The Pinot Project California Pinot Noir ($13)

What started as a side project for importers and wholesalers Skurnik Wines has become one of the best Pinot values around, boasting lots of sweet raspberry and black cherry fruit and a light but alluring floral note.

Nv The Whole Shebang! Thirteenth Cuvée ($15)

Old-vine Zinfandel and other varieties go into this nonvintage blend. Substantial but crisply structured, it’s all boysenberry and black cherry fruit, with cracked pepper notes coming in at the end.

Nv Marietta Old Vine Red Lot Number 69 ($15)

Winemaker Scot Bilbro blends old-vine Zinfandel and other varieties for this brambly, dark-fruited, mocha-scented red. If herb-roasted lamb is a springtime dish, then this is a springtime wine—they’d be great together.

2018 Rickshaw California Pinot Noir ($17)

Coastal Sonoma vineyards are the main source for this lightly toasty Pinot; the cool climate there lends it a Burgundian tautness and savory character. Yet the lively red berry fruit and soft tannins are pure California.

2017 Shooting Star Lake County Zinfandel ($15)

Jed Steele’s been making wine for almost 50 years, and that experience shows through clearly in this peppery, blue-fruited Zinfandel from Lake County. It’s a surprisingly complex red for an appealingly modest price.

2017 Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon ($18)

Ripe and luscious, with plenty of blackberry fruit, this crowd-pleasing Cabernet would be killer with a juicy burger. Fittingly, Joel Gott is also proprietor of famed Napa burger destination Gott’s Roadside.

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