A food pairing classic. An artistic icon. Red wine is the face of wine.
There are so many things to love. It comes in several varieties, from the smooth-and-soft merlot to the fruity pinot noir. It can be used to supplement a medley of recipes, is delightful at room temperature and heavenly when mulled on a cold winter’s eve. I’m happy to be a fan.
Here are twelve of the best red wine brands, with some of I’ve tried and some I want to. Even better? None of these go beyond $35 so you don’t have to break the bank in the name of good wine.
1. Townshend Cellar
Sometimes it’s tough for me to finish a bottle of wine on time. I’ll avoid a drink to fall asleep faster at night (or forget I opened a bottle entirely) and it’ll linger overlong in my fridge, going bad prematurely and leaving me feeling like I flushed a few dollars down the toilet.
Not so with Townshend Cellar. This local Washington winery has done a lot to usher me into the world of wine with their delicious bottles, beautiful vineyards, and in-person events. While COVID-19 has me avoiding gatherings for the foreseeable future, I’m grateful for the opportunity to get to see the craft up close.
Townshend Cellar boasts a solid variety of red wines, white wines, and dessert wines, many of which I’ve been able to try. While dessert wines are usually too sweet for me, I have to give their sumptuous chocolate raspberry a tip of my hat.
The Townshend Merlot is my favorite to date, silky smooth and rich from start to finish. It’s followed close behind by the Townshend Riesling and its poppy apple and pear notes, hearkening to some of my favorite hard ciders.
Ranging comfortably between $12 to $30 (and with regular discount events), you can find Townshend Cellar at their site here or at your local grocery store if you live on the West Coast.
Here’s to beautiful packaging design! Someday I hope to collect all of these stunning bottles and display them in my kitchen.
Prophecy is a Californian-based winery and distributor that sources its stock from several regions, from the rolling hills of France to the misty forests of Washington. While I haven’t been able to try their white wines yet, I have enjoyed their Pinot Noir.
Their wine is simplicity at its best: while it doesn’t have some of the more robust flavors or heavy bodies of other bottles I’ve tried, sometimes that’s the goal. A smooth, light finish without a heavy alcoholic kick can be the perfect touch to round out your dinner for the night. With their low price point and breathtaking illustrations, they’re a great starting point for beginning wine drinkers.
Prophecy makes it easy to embrace your artistic taste in more ways than one. Start your introduction to the best red wine brands by picking up a bottle at their site here.
3. Dreaming Tree
I have to give a special shout-out to Dreaming Tree, one of the first red wine brands I ever tried. They originally caught my eye not just for their gorgeously rustic packaging, but for being co-founded by Dave Matthews of Dave Matthews Band: a band I’ve adored since I was a kid.
The rest, as they say, was history. Their Pinot Noir 2018 was a delicious and unforgettable experience, straddling a very fine line between sweet, bright and tart. Its lingering aftertaste and smooth finish complemented several subsequent dinners and, as of writing this, I’m planning on trying out their Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 and their Crush Red Blend.
Their entire repertoire goes for $15, which is a steal even before you take into account their ongoing charitable donations. Music fans and wine fans, you’ve finally found your great equalizer.
Time to go on a Dave Matthews band album binge! Find the Dreaming Tree selection at their site here, as well as at your local grocery store.
4. 14 Hands
This is one of the first brands I recommend to beginning drinkers. Not only are they more low-pressure than some wine brands, they have a large enough selection to keep you occupied for months.
14 Hands is a Washington-based winery with an impressionistic horse logo you’ve likely glimpsed while shopping. They’re popular not just for their low price, but for the wealth of variety on display.
More traditional wine drinkers will find plenty to love with their 2016 and 2017 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Red Blends. Wine drinkers with a sweet tooth will have moscato and rieslings to choose from, while those that want to step outside of the box can choose their selection of canned red wines.
I’ve had them myself and they’re the right amount of refreshing for those nights where you don’t want to bust out an entire bottle. Commit with a bottle of Reserva or start out simple with a few cans. You can browse 14 Hands’ impressive line-up at their site here.
5. Trinity Oaks
This a brand I’m familiar with on sight but haven’t had the chance to try. After learning a little more about them, I couldn’t have chosen a better time to put them on my shopping list.
From their logo to their philosophy, Trinity Oaks is a lover of nature. From the first page on their website, you learn about their devotion to making the world a greener place, with each bottle sold going to planting a new tree throughout California.
This is all the more staggering thanks to the state being ravaged by wildfires (and still is). They embrace the unique qualities of their coastal climate to provide wines that don’t taste like any you’ve ever tried before, so why not help them protect the terroir?
It’s times like these you’re really thankful for what you have. Right now, it’s the ability to try the best red wine brands in the comfort of my own home. Try a bottle of Trinity Oaks’ crisp pinot grigio or juicy chardonnay at their site here.
6. Josh Cellars
Another familiar face in the grocery store space, Josh Cellars has a deceptively simple approach and a rather strong reputation.
A Californian winery through and through, they started their brand back in 2007 and have since become a household name in the Pacific Northwest. A little more expensive than Prophecy or Townshend, their selection of red wines still remains in the comfortable range between $15 to $30.
They take great pride in their cabernet sauvignon, though they also offer merlot, pinot grigio, rose, chardonnay, and a red blend. They source their wine from some of the most famous regions in California, so Napa and Sonoma fans will find a lot to love here.
Their red wine consistently ranks high in user reviews and has enough variety to keep you engaged throughout the year. I’ll be trying their cabernet sauvignon soon myself. You can find their repertoire at their website.
7. Barefoot Cellars
This is a wine brand that really knows how to keep up with the times. They’ve been on fire adding low-calorie and spritzer options to their repertoire, determined to keep wine accessible no matter where you are on the journey.
While I’m more familiar with their canned selections and Moscatos, their red wine selection is nothing to sneeze at. They have all the classics, including two red blends, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and malbec. They even have a red Moscato for those that could use a few more rugged notes in their bubbly.
Those that want vigorous and rich flavors, however, might be better off with different options on this list. Barefoot Cellars still prefers to stay on the lighter side of life, prioritizing tangy, floral, and refreshing flavors over all else.
Affordable and delightfully fruity, Barefoot Cellars has earned its place as a household name. You can try Barefoot Cellars’ red wine selection at their site here.
Also on my to-try list, Apothic mixes a haunting visual statement with several mouthwatering flavor notes. Their bottles hearken back to my vampire novel reading days.
This winery hails from California’s largest wine exporter, according to Wine Searcher, and has been a hit for several years since its inception in 2010. Their Apothic Red Blend is a classic table wine in every way imaginable: its low price point of $9 pairs nicely with the rustic flavor notes of rhubarb and cherry.
I can easily see this bottle pairing with a little feta or a crisp autumn salad. Their most popular remains the Apothic Red and the Apothic Cabernet Sauvignon, though the bottle I’m the most curious would have to be their sparkling red. I’ve never tried one before and I’ll be damned if I pass up the opportunity!
Buy a red blend for your next dinner with a show or try out their sparkling red to extend your palette. You can find Apothic at their site here.
9. Love Noir
Here’s a wine I was saving for a special occasion. With magical packaging design and utterly decadent flavor notes, I’ve been looking forward to my bottle of Love Noir Pinot Noir for a while.
Supporting red wine brands means checking out the underdogs as well as the household names. Love Noir has just two red wines to their name, but both sound like bottles to remember. I scoured reviews on Total Wine, finding my interest piqued more and more by anecdotes on their wine’s body, oak aftertaste, and powerful flavor notes.
The creators are quite plain to stress the need for expensive-tasting wine without the receipt, which I can most certainly appreciate. Running at around $10, this is a soft and tasty bottle with the faintest hint of espresso.
Fall in love with pinot noir…and then some. You can find Love Noir at their site here.
10. Truth & Valor
How about another small red wine selection with a stunning black and gold packaging design? This is a brand I’ve discovered recently with several high notes, with a zinfandel and two cabernet sauvignon to their names.
One of the best details about red wine is how easy it is to mix into recipes. My mother has an absolutely sinful red wine infused pot roast recipe she pulls out when the weather gets cold. I’m also set to try some red wine blended pasta sauce for future dishes. This Paso Robles based winery makes it clear from first glance they embrace the romance and elegance wine brings to the table: their tasting notes prioritize red fruits, tobacco, oak, chocolate, and spice, with medium bodies and a lean toward heavier tannins.
All in all, they sound like a winery I’d be proud to display on my kitchen counter once I’m done. Ranging from $20 to $30 a bottle, you can find Truth & Valor at their site here.
11. Castaway Cellars
Let’s keep the ball rolling, shall we? My friend is saving for a special occasion, having gotten the opportunity to try it while traveling and falling in love in the first sip.
Anecdotes are one of the most powerful marketing tools out there. She is a huge fan of the Ripple Red Cuvee, currently going for a smart $25. While their pinot noir and malbec are under a higher price point, consider trying their merlot or their cabernet sauvignon first. The merlot’s flavor notes mingle soft spices with bold cherries and a hint of pepper, while their cabernet sauvignon sounds like a hearty experience with its dominant mocha and tobacco notes. These are the kinds of bottles you immediately link to your favorite dish or snack, because they’re simply too decadent to sip solo.
I might just have to buy my own bottle so I can satisfy my curiosity ahead of time. You can find Castaway Cellars at their site here.
12. Bridge Press Cellars
This last one is a glowing recommendation from a friend’s mother. They’re a huge fan of this brand’s Evil Queen red blend, so I’m willing to bet the rest of their red wine portfolio is nothing to sneeze at.
This little Washington-based winery prioritizes small batches of red wine, with a focus in cabernet sauvignon and merlot, though they also carry rose.
They pride themselves on powerful tannins, spice notes, and a powerful aging process. In fact, they actively encourage you to hold off and keep their wine on hand for a few years so you can truly appreciate its full potential. While I might be a little too impatient for that, I’m definitely going to try their Evil Queen so I can see what all the fuss is about!
Bridge Press Cellars are a celebration of specialization, a hallmark of the best red wine brands. While they mostly distribute their wines to restaurants and bars, see if you can snag one of their red wines at their site here.
Red wine teaches you how to focus on the present. These days? That’s no small feat.
When I drink red wine I’m not multitasking. I’m not thinking about emails I need to check or chores I needed to do hours ago. I’m kicking up my feet and watching a movie. Perhaps taking my time on an acrylic painting with one of my favorite soundtracks playing in the background.
If you know a friend or family member getting into red wine, link them to this list to help them relax, too. In the meantime: what got you into red wine in the first place?