best russian river valley pinot noir

The acclaimed winemaking region of the Russian River Valley is located in Sonoma County, California. Breezes and fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean to create a cool climate that allows the full flavor of grapes to mature. Nursed by the seasonal fog and remarkable growing conditions, the cool-climate varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive.

Established as an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983, Russian River Valley’s winemaking history spans over 150 years, with some of California’s first grapevines planted here. The ancient soil, a combination of sandstone and loam, and heritage vines are tended to by devoted and experienced wine people. 

Comparison Table

PRODUCT FEATURES LATEST PRICE
1. Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018
Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2017
  • Winery: Merry Edwards
  • Bottle: 750 ml, cork
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Allergens: Contains sulfites
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2. Hartford Court Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2019
Hartford Court Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2019
  • Winery: Hartford Court
  • Bottle: 750 ml, cork
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Aging: 11 months in 100% French oak, 29% new
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3. EnRoute Les Pommiers Pinot Noir 2018
EnRoute Les Pommiers Pinot Noir 2018
  • Winery: Walter Hansel
  • Bottle: 750 ml, cork
  • Alcohol: 14.7%
  • Aging: 11 months in French Oak barrels, 40% new, 60% neutral
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4. Paul Hobbs Russian River Pinot Noir 2018
Paul Hobbs Russian River Pinot Noir 2017
  • Winery: Paul Hobbs
  • Bottle: 750 ml, cork
  • Alcohol: 14.3%
  • Aging: 10 months in French Oak barrels, 45% new
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5. Anthill Farms Tina Marie Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015
Anthill Farms Tina Marie Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015
  • Winery: Anthill Farms
  • Bottle: 750 ml, cool wax seal, cork
  • Alcohol: 14.0%
  • Farming: Biodynamic
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6. Walter Hansel North Slope Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018
Walter Hansel North Slope Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018
  • Winery: Walter Hansel
  • Bottle: 750 ml, cork
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Farming: Organic
  • Aging: In French Oak, 50% new
  • Production: Limited to 1,087 dozen
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Organized into six sub-regions, each produces world-class wines with unique characteristics only found in that ‘neighborhood’. But one thing that they all have in common is the incredible Pinot Noir that the whole Russian River Valley area is best known for. 

Our Best Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Reviews and Comparisons

1. Hartford Court Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2019

Hartford Court Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2019

Product Highlights

Hartford Court winery takes great pride in expressing the heart and soul of the Russian River Valley by showcasing the best of not only their vineyards but that of all of the neighborhoods within the AVA.

Their Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is from the harvests of a collection of small vineyards located throughout the region. Most are the Estate’s own, with just enough from their neighbors’ vineyards, that the wine produced captures the very of the Russian River Valley. 

Features 

  • Winery: Hartford Court
  • Bottle: 750 ml, cork
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Aging: 11 months in 100% French oak, 29% new

What We Like About Hartford Court Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2019

Black cherry, black currant, oak, vanilla, and spicy chocolate aromas are followed by flavors of raspberries and other dark berries, and minerals of crushed rocks. Dense to begin, it leads into a juicily sweet mouthfeel, backed by acidity, silky tannins, and an earthy yet subtle finish.

Smooth and balanced. Very enjoyable, with or without food.

What We Don’t Like About Hartford Court Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2019

Despite us giving time for aeration but a few unappealing qualities persisted. Sodden, overripe, and almost chemical.

PROS

  • Subtle hints of vanilla and earth
  • Just the right level of tannins to keep all the fruit under control
  • Typical of Russian River with a hint of pepper

CONS

  • Lacks body, high acid,
  • Initially cherry, but quickly faded on the palate to sour and slightly candied

2. Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2017

Product Highlights

Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to cultivate. Generally, it thrives in cooler climates, but as we’re seeing, is also widely planted throughout sun-drenched California.

It reflects its terroir, or place of origin, more than just about any other variety. That’s why the richer Pinot Noir, from relatively warmer regions like the Russian River Valley exhibit more dark fruit and are fuller wines of greater concentration and higher alcohol.

Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2017 is a near-perfect example, rated among the top 1% of all wines in the World by Vivino

Features 

  • Winery: Merry Edwards
  • Bottle: 750 ml, cork
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Allergens: Contains sulfites

What We Like About Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2017

The bouquet stirs memories of ripening blackberry fields, berry compote, and warm plum pudding. Indeed, it would be like a dessert in itself, with aromatic Mexican chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg, rich cocoa butter, and nutty flavors, if it weren’t for the balance provided by wood-grilled meat, mushrooms, and other earthy notes.

With a smooth and round entry, the palate has subtlety while still being bold. Tannins give its body the right tension in line with a balanced acid profile. But it’s the fruit that carries over from the aroma, especially when joined by fig, sarsaparilla, and a lingering sweet toastiness from the oak. 

Overall a very polished Pinot Noir that’s firm on the finish and would benefit by keeping for several years.

What We Don’t Like About Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2017

Dried cherry flavors along with ripe berries and a bit of cola. It could use a little more acidic lift to offset the ripe fruit.

Perhaps the alcohol is a little strong, for us at least. 

PROS

  • A very warm body with oak, and brown fruit on the palate
  • Beautiful! Remarkable!
  • If you ever get a chance to try Merry Edwards; do!

CONS

  • For a nice finish, it could use a little age.

3. EnRoute Les Pommiers Pinot Noir 2018

EnRoute Les Pommiers Pinot Noir 2018

Product Highlights

This 2018 EnRoute Pinot Noir Les Pommiers offers typical energy from the Russian River Valley. It tantalizes with aromas and flavors of bright red fruit, accents of spice, and a note of minerality. 

Drink now through 2025. Pair it with grilled salmon with a side of wild mushrooms. 

Features 

  • Winery: Walter Hansel
  • Bottle: 750 ml, cork
  • Alcohol: 14.7%
  • Aging: 11 months in French Oak barrels, 40% new, 60% neutral

What We Like About EnRoute Les Pommiers Pinot Noir 2018

Fragrant dried rose petal and berry potpourri introduce a lush, juicy entry. With lovely fruit and spice notes on the palate. Darker raspberry, blackberry, plum, cherry, and currant flavors fill the middle. With dark chocolate, pepper, sage, clove, and other touches of forest floor accents coming through at the end. 

Deep and rich of color, with an enveloping viscosity and nicely-balanced tannins, EnRoute Les Pommiers Pinot Noir 2018 is as luxurious as silk from start to finish.

Read Related Topic: Best Sweet Red Wine

What We Don’t Like About EnRoute Les Pommiers Pinot Noir 2018

Unexpectedly sweet. Certainly, too sweet to go with our good steak, which was a shame.

PROS

  • What a Pinot Noir should be
  • Just the right amount of oak and tannin
  • Good fruit but not overdone. 

CONS

  • After aeration, the metal in the nose goes into the body 
  • Way too much fruit. Jam bomb!

4. Paul Hobbs Russian River Pinot Noir 2018

Paul Hobbs Russian River Pinot Noir 2017

Product Highlights

Paul Hobbs is another Russian River Valley winery that aims to highlight a collection of estates and smaller growers that are from this very distinct AVA, defined by its geography. 

Their Russian River Pinot Noir 2017 has typically a crimson shade and the familiar aromas of violet and cherry. Although more unusually, and more interesting for it, with notes of Earl Grey tea. A previous vintage was rated among the top 1% of all wines in the World by Vivino.

To drink now until the end of the decade. The choice is yours. Also, what you pair it with. Although it was delightful with our goat cheese and wild mushroom tart. One thing’s for sure; serve at 50°-55° F

Features 

  • Winery: Paul Hobbs
  • Bottle: 750 ml, cork
  • Alcohol: 14.3%
  • Aging: 10 months in French Oak barrels, 45% new

What We Like About Paul Hobbs Russian River Pinot Noir 2017

We detected black raspberries, strawberry, honey, bouquet garni, and flowery crushed violets on the nose.  honeyed strawberry notes all emerge. With lots of upfront fruit, plenty of underlying depth and structure, and a great finish.

Aged on French Oak, there’s a lovely velvet texture on the palate, highlighting flavors of Damson plum, red clay, and orange peel. A fresh acidity then lifts it, lengthening the finish, for a medium-bodied Pinot that is beautifully polished but never seems to try too hard.

What We Don’t Like About Paul Hobbs Russian River Pinot Noir 2017

Unfortunately, the cork broke on us, but we might just have been unlucky.

Overall, we were a little bit disappointed. Fruity but astringent. Maybe it needs more time in the bottle. 

PROS

  • Elegant with an outstanding balance
  • One of the best Russian River Valley Pinots. 
  • Can drink this all-day

CONS

  • Rather deeply colored for a Pinot Noir
  • Could have had a bit more depth and length

5. Anthill Farms Tina Marie Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015

Anthill Farms Tina Marie Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015

Product Highlights

The winery lies in the heart of the Green Valley neighborhood, with its hillside very densely planted to create more vine competition and lower yields. This survival of the fittest delivers a combination of lushness to the intoxicating wines. 

Anthill Farms Tina Marie Vineyard 2015 is one of the more dense and powerful Pinot Noir vintages. Most others need minimal holding, but 2015 needs some time to let the tannins soften and for it all to come together. But you have plenty to look forward to when it does.

See Related Article: Best Fruity Wine

Features 

  • Winery: Anthill Farms
  • Bottle: 750 ml, cool wax seal, cork
  • Alcohol: 14.0%
  • Farming: Biodynamic

What We Like About Anthill Farms Tina Marie Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015

Bluish shades of fruit combined with lavender, mint, and spice add to the wine’s dark yet agile character. The nose swirls slowly from the glass with aromas of dark red cherries and raspberries and hints of clove and other spices. 

Anthill Farms Tina Marie Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015 is relatively light in weight and with it, thinner in style. The most flavorful black cherry fruit is complemented by sprightly tannins and buoyed with well-fitted acidity. The length is pleasingly long and fresh. 

What We Don’t Like About Anthill Farms Tina Marie Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015

We thought that it was not quite up to Anthill Farms’ normal standard. Especially compared to the previous year’s vintage that was rated among the top 2% of wines in the World by Vivino.

PROS

  • Fruity, light, and flavorful
  • Bright Cherry
  • Delicate
  • Well balanced and super smooth

CONS

  • A minerality to the finish that doesn’t quite work
  • Distracting green apple after taste

6. Walter Hansel North Slope Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Walter Hansel North Slope Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Product Highlights

This 2018 vintage is produced from the very highly regarded French Clone 115 Pinot grapes, known for their strong color with a purplish hue, superior bouquet, elegant rich aroma, and hints of small fruits. Also for their good structure, tannins, and length.

Walter Hansel winery has managed to capture the essence of all these, yet still, produce a Pinot Noir that is more signature to the Russian River Valley than to the French origins of the vines. 

Best to keep and drink 2022-2030, Walter Hansel North Slope Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018 has been highly-ranked with 95pts Robert Parker, Jr’s Wine Advocate, 94pts Antonio Galloni’s Vinous, and rates better than any other year for this wine by Vivino.

Features 

  • Winery: Walter Hansel
  • Bottle: 750 ml, cork
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Farming: Organic
  • Aging: In French Oak, 50% new
  • Production: Limited to 1,087 dozen

What We Like About Walter Hansel North Slope Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Of typically medium ruby-purple color, the weighty aromas of blackberries, cranberries, and rhubarb are accented by the further darks of blood orange, pipe tobacco, and forest floor. 

The palate is just a little lighter yet still medium-bodied with strong and clear flavors. The mouthfeel is more silk than velvet, fresh and with a long, lifted finish. This beautifully frames the plentiful and creamy flavors of black cherry, plum, mocha, spice, and licorice.  Floral overtones and bright acids add vibrancy.

What We Don’t Like About Walter Hansel North Slope Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Still a little too young, after all it’s recommended to drink 2022-2030, the aromas and flavors are still not defined enough and a little difficult to identify.

We’d have expected more, but then that’s probably the fault of our ‘impatience’ rather than that of the wine itself. 

PROS

  • Fruit forward crowd pleaser
  • Very luscious finish
  • Like a love child of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel

CONS

  • The mocha taste is a little too strong and overpowering
  • More power than a typically French Pinot

FINAL VERDICT 

As we’ve discovered, California’s Russian River Valley is famed for its outstanding Pinot Noirs. The best of which showcase the six distinct neighborhoods that make up this American Viticultural Area.

We were lucky enough to taste just a few, each with their own merits. If we had to pick one, we’d choose Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2017. But luckily we, and you, aren’t limited. Give more, or even all a try, and see for yourselves!

Best Russian River Valley Pinot Noir for 2021 [Our Reviews and Comparisons]

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