The 15 Best Pinot Noir Wines from California

Wine is meant to be enjoyed, and enjoyment does not mean sitting at a table stiff-backed, sniffing, sipping and slurping, then analyzing color, flavor, viscosity and mouthfeel, and then spitting the liquid into a dump bucket. Enjoyment means opening a bottle with friends, sitting comfortably, sharing stories and communing. It is the sacrament, after all.

So this beginner’s list doesn’t address taste or flavor or technical bits like ABV, clone strand or soil composition; it addresses the region the wines were grown in, and the winemakers who wrote the “recipes” for each. It also, hopefully, tells a short story about the bottle, which you can share when opening it among friends. Because identifying notes of honeycomb or stable hay doesn’t matter as much as engaging with wine’s more magical components — namely, the commitment to sit and talk awhile, at least until the end of the bottle.

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Matthew Ankeny