USA: West Coast - PINOT PALOOZA Skip to main content


America’s a big place. We could do an entire feature on the wine regions of the USA, but by way of an introduction, we’re starting with those on the West Coast. As Pinot Palooza expands into the country in 2019, we’ll delve much deeper.

Words by Bree Boskov, MW

Santa Barbara:

Just over an hour from Los Angeles, pinot noir from Santa Barbara (known as America’s Riviera) has all the glamour and swag of an Oscar’s after party. Glossy, bright red and black fruit, so polished and full that it almost dances out of the glass. This is the Katy Perry and Justin Timberlake collab you’ve always wanted.

Dive down into the Santa Rita Hills and you’ll find pinot that’s fine-boned yet chiseled, that hits the high notes like Mariah but with the grace and strength (and legs) of Beyoncé.

This coastal, high-altitude region with its white bentonite clay earth is so perfect for growing pinot it has both Masters of Wine and sommelier Rajat Parr of Sandhi and Domaine de la Cote putting down vines and making racy, sexy and energetic styles of pinot noir in these hills.

Wineries to watch out for …
Santa Barbara: Sanford & Benedict
Sta Rita Hills: Sandhi
Santa Maria Valley: Au Bon Climat & Qupe

Sonoma County:  

It might be cabernet country, but that hasn’t stopped a couple of cowboys from planting pinot in Sonoma. Known for its forested hillsides and coastal ledges, Sonoma County is also a leading region in the biodynamic and organic wine movement.

Sonoma County’s more classic pinots are high-toned with hints of jammy sweetness. Like the Eagles, it’s the classic All American crooner – mellow yet memorable.

Along the fringe on the Sonoma Coast, with its fog-shrouded hillsides and massive red wood trees, is where you’ll find the outliers. Its pinots are all bright fruits, red citrus and cinnamon; a little rough around the edges with slight salty and smoky flavours, like Johnny Cash or Leonard Skynard.

As for the Russian River Valley, its pinots are Bon Jovi: poppy and fun, and can do no wrong.

Wineries to keep an eye out for:
Sonoma County: Kistler
Sonoma Coast: Littorai
Russian River: Cobb


Oregon pinot is cool and earthy, savoury and smoky with a burst of cherry cola fruit. It’s folksy like Neil Young and rootsy like the Black Keys.

Pinots from the Willamette Valley are often compared to Burgundy. Uber elegant wines that command attention.

On the other hand, pinots from Portland eschew any hints at mainstream. This region is the Pink Floyd of the pinot world – wildly creative and a little feral but undoubtedly beguiling.

Pinots made in the state’s south on the border of California are more widely pleasing than any others in this region. Bathed in warm sunshine and surrounded on all sides by mountain peaks and rugged rogue river valleys, these pinots are just like Keith Urban: everyone’s mum loves them.

Wineries to keep an eye on:
Willamette Valley: Cristom
Columbia Gorge: Hiyu
Southern Oregon: Dancin