The wine industry is full of a lot of different options at a lot of different price points. In this blog we will showcase our best wine picks of 2021 for wines that are priced $50 per bottle and below. There are many fantastic wineries and winemakers that have been perfecting their craft for well over 100 years in some instances making it very hard to pick just a few of our favorites! Wine making is no easy job and it takes many years to only get good at it, never perfect. Some vines have been cultivated for over a hundred years resulting in wines that have to be tasted to be believed. We’ve compiled a list of our favorites for the year including Red Wines, White Wines, as well as Rose so we have great choices for every palate.
$50 and Under Smart Buy Wines
Frank Family Chardonnay – You don’t appear on the National Register of Historical Places for no good reason. The Frank Family Vineyards were constructed way back in 1884 quickly becoming a staple of the California wine country. This winery is actually the third oldest winery in all of Napa Valley! This winery is the definition of started from the bottom now we here. In their first year they produced just 200 cases and now they produce almost 75,000 cases every single year. Their Chardonnay, the Frank Family Chardonnay, is certainly on the top of its’ game. The hue of this wine is of light straw with cascading aromas of toasted brioche, baking spices, and candied lemon rind. On the palate you get a full-bodied and creamy wine that is balanced by a lively acidity on the backend. See if you can taste the nuanced flavors of yellow apple, melon, baked pear, lemon curd, and even oak toast.
Bonanza Cabernet Sauvignon – Caymus has been a staple of Napa Valley and California wine lore for quite some time. Beginning their roots 50 years ago, they have plenty of experience under their wings to be able to crack our top wines list for wines $50 and under. Their first vintage in 1972 was only a measly 240 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. Today they are producing 65,000 cases of wine of some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon in the entire region. When we first opened Caymus’ brand-new wine, the Bonanza Cabernet Sauvignon, we were absolutely blown away. This beautiful medium ruby-red wine opens and just absolutely pops with scents of currants, dried roses, grape pomace, and fresh tilled soil. On your palate you will get a hit a flavor rush of blueberries, blackberries, and vanilla. Bonanza has a fantastic mouthfeel with its’ smoothness and silky tannins that just dance in your mouth. Although it is not a full blown Napa Valley Cabernet, you would never notice it.
Honig Sauvignon Blanc – A White Wine we could just not pass up is this one, the Honig Sauvignon Blanc. Honig was purchased back in 1964 as a beautiful 68-acre ranch in the Rutherford region of the Napa Valley. Despite being purchased in 1964, they did not start producing delicious wine until 1980. Honig is known for two wines, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Sauvignon Blanc bottle certainly does not belong in a garbage afterwards with the beautiful artwork of the California hillside displayed beautifully inside the bottle. Interestingly enough, the grapes for this wine are harvested under the moonlight where temperatures are cooler and the aromas and flavors of the wine are preserved. This wine is bright and fresh that brings flavors and aromas of peaches, lemon curd, white grapefruit, and passion fruit. The palate comes across with a perfect balance of citrus and stone fruit. Relish in the full and lengthy crisp finish of this wine.
Juggernaut Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon – Nestled on steep rocky slopes in California you will find Juggernaut Wine. The Juggernaut brand is an off-shoot of the already uber successful Bogle Vineyards and is already one of their best yet. The steep and rocky slopes are less than ideal for growing wine vines, however when accomplished, results in grapes that are loaded with rich, intense, and complex flavors not even found in the ultra-expensive wines. The intensity in the bottle is matched with the intensity outside of it with the beautiful artwork that adorns the label. It would be very hard to find a better Cabernet Sauvignon at a similar price with the ferocity of this wine. The Juggernaut Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon has a deep ruby-red color and the luxurious texture of black currants and vanilla. On the nose you’ll find a wonderful aroma of licorice and blackberry that follows all the way through to the palate. Even at 14.5% alcohol this absolute banger of a wine can be enjoyed thoroughly with a silky-smooth finish.
Conundrum Red – As a secondary brand to the wonderful Caymus and the Wagner Family, Conundrum Red really steps up to the plate and knocks it out of the park. Their Conundrum Red is sourced from premier California winegrowing regions making it an absolute juice bomb. This blend features the perfect blend of Petite Surah, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon to round it out making it complex but not unapproachable. On the palate you’ll get flavors of cherries and chocolate along with some smooth tannins. A pro tip is to chill this wine just a touch to really bring out its’ fruity profile.
Chappellet Mountain Cuvee Bordeaux Blend – Chappellet began with humble beginnings back in the late 1960s in a now well-known part of Napa Valley called Pritchard Hill. The terroir of Pritchard Hill allowed for the Chappellet family to create absolutely stunning Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux that can hang with the best of them. Their Chappellet Mountain Cuvee Bordeaux Blend is certainly one of them! This wine is blended with all of the traditional Bordeaux grape varietals including Chappellet’s very own grapes. All of these are blended to perfection to create the aromas of concentrated fruits and spices along with layers of red currant, cassis, cinnamon, vanilla and clove, and believe it or not, earthy forest floor and sweet toasty oak. On the palate is an experience all its’ own with plush and impeccably balanced tannins that carry the lush red and black fruit that bring you to an elegant and long last finish letting you savor every last drop.
Maso Canali Pinot Grigio – The Maso Canali estate only makes one wine varietal and has for 500 years meaning they are very good at making Pinot Grigio! The Maso Canali Pinot Grigio is grown in high-altitude vineyards that gives their grapes nice delicate tropical fruit flavors and refined acidity. They didn’t stop there either, they also select smaller batches of riper, late-harvest grapes to ferment and blend in with the rest of the batch which just enhance and add depth to their wine. This wine just radiates with its pale straw hue and packed with crisp citrus aromas. On the nose you will get floral notes to start and finish with ripe nectarine on the back end. This Pinot Grigio is a full-flavored, dry wine that is the perfect addition to our best wine picks of 2021 list.
Duckhorn Merlot – This vineyard is sure to make you quack! Duckhorn Vineyards has been iconic in the Napa Valley region since its inception back in 1976 by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn. Their first vintages were the 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and they only produced 800 cases of each! The winery was part of some fantastic company being one of the first 40 Napa Valley wineries ever. All that history and experience makes for a fantastic wine and the Duckhorn Merlot is no exception. This wine is blended from several different vineyards lots creating a rich and cohesive expression of the entire Napa Valley. On the nose you will get pure deliciousness with fresh black raspberry, vanilla, tea leaves, licorice, and pie crust. On the palate you will notice sweet red-fruit flavors of strawberries, plums, bing cherries, and logan berries. On the back-end you’ll get nice and smooth tannins with bright and mouthwatering acidity that will linger with the finish of maple, sweet spice, and cedar.
Invivo X Sauvignon Blanc – For this wine we had to go to a whole separate hemisphere! This wine is actually the hard work of Sarah Jessica Parker and it has been a huge hit ever since its release just a couple short years ago. This wine was produced in New Zealand with 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes giving it great drinkability. The wine is a blend of five different estates in Marlborough with vines aged between 3 and 11 years. We just could not not include the Invivo X by Sarah Jessica Parker Sauvignon Blanc in this top wine list of 2021. Open this sucker up and take in the abundant notes of grapefruit, passionfruit, honeysuckle, and citrus zest. On the tongue you will get succulent sweet fruit that carried with a soft and balanced acidity. On the back-end the fruit would be further elevated with longevity and persistence.
Orin Swift Abstract – Orin Swift has really burst onto the scene like no other winery really has. Ever since they were founded back in 1998, they have taken the wine world by storm. Orin Swift was started by David Swift Phinney during his studies in Florence, Italy. The origin of the name is a family affair with the Orin portion being his father’s middle name and Swift being his mother’s maiden name. Their wines are easily recognizable with beautiful and downright crazy artwork on their labels. The Orin Swift Abstract label includes a collage of hundreds of photos making it quite recognizable. This wine was aged for 8 whole months in both French and American Oak. The winemakers have spent years perfecting this Red Blend with the perfect combination of Grenache, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. This wine really sucks you in with notes of blueberry, black fig, strawberry, and rhubarb. You’ll taste this smooth yet bold red blend right away on the palate that follows with the richness of dark plum and ripe framboise. On the finish you will get black cherry and sweet licorice along with a quick punch of tannins.
Rombauer Chardonnay – The Rombauer vineyard was established back in 1980 and are celebrating over 40 years in the wine business all within the family! The Koerners were looking for a small-town in the agricultural environment so they decided to move to Napa Valley in 1972 along with their kids, a couple horses, and five dogs. They purchased a modest home on 40 acres in St. Helena and the rest is history. Their first wine releases were the 1980 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 1982 Chardonnay. The suggested retail price for both wines were only $12.50! The Rombauer Chardonnay grapes are harvested from the Rombauer family vineyard in the Carneros region as well as from select long-term partners. In the glass it is a pale yellow color with some hints of a green hue. On the nose you’ll be blasted with aromas of yellow peach, mango, and some slight citrus and vanilla spice. On the tongue you will be able to taste the creamy buttery richness that rounds out with mango and vanilla. On the finish you’ll notice a balanced acidity that ties everything in together creating this iconic wine.
Unshackled Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Blend – A couple of new releases from the critically acclaimed Prisoner Wine Company are the perfect additions to the Best Wines of 2021 list. This winery has rose to fame over the last two decades when they released their flagship wine, The Prisoner. The Prisoner Wine Company now produces many different wines that they source from over 100 growers across northern California. They have never stopped the innovation and their newest wines are the most innovative yet. The Unshackled Cabernet Sauvignon and Unshackled Red Blend are the perfect sippers for any occasion. The Cabernet Sauvignon is a total knockout opening with aromas of plum, blackberry, and a hint of olive that just tickles the nose. On the tongue you’ll get pure vibrancy with black stone fruit and dried herbs stemming from a solid tannin structure that a flavor-forward wine. This wine actually includes a touch of Petit Sirah, Syrah, and Merlot that brings a balanced acidity and boldness from the aging in French and American Oak casks for 11 months! Serve this just below room temperature and pair it with pork meatballs or an equally decadent dark chocolate or raspberry layer cake.
The Unshackled Red Blend will not be outdone by its counterpart. Equally tantalizing with the opening aromas of raspberry, blueberry, and crushed violets dance in the nose. Feel the punch of spiced dried cherries, florals, and a hint of white pepper on the tongue and full mouthfeel. This Red Blend has generous amounts of Zinfandel, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Grenache all blended together and aged in French and American oak casks for 11 months as well. This wine will pair great with BBQ Pork Ribs or even a Portobello Mushroom burger.
Justin Cabernet Sauvignon – The Justin Winery is no stranger to success with their wines receiving accolades year after year. They began their mission of making fantastic Bordeaux-style blends and it is safe to say that they have succeeded. They began back in 1981 planting their first vineyard and have expanded their expertise and acreage considerably since. Their Paso Robles vineyard is the perfect location to achieve this with soil that is full of fossilized limestone which stresses the vines creating grapes that perfectly exemplifies that of Bordeauxs. Not only is the soil perfect, so is the climate with the widest variation in day and night temperatures which give the grapes intense flavor with great balance and structure. If you haven’t already, you must try the Justin Cabernet Sauvignon featured in this top wines of 2021 list. To the eye you get a dark purple-ruby color that comes to a lighter rim and on the nose, you’ll be shocked by the aromas of ripe black and red cherries, blackcurrant and berry fruit, baking spice, sweet tobacco, and a hint of red and black licorice. On the palate you’ll get that dryness typically found in Bordeauxs with a full-bodied flavor punch of ripe black cherry, cassis and red fruit, baking spice, and oaky accents. The wine will finish beautifully with cherry and berry notes supported by oaky and barrel spice. Pair this with any hearty and meaty dinner and you’ll be amazed how it can amplify it.
Hampton Water Rose – If there is one thing Gerard Bertrand is known for, it is some of the best Rose in the world. One of his newest creations and collaborations was with none other than the legendary rocker Jon Bon Jovi and his son Jesse. The star power behind the Hampton Water Rose is not the reason this wine was included in our top wines under $50 2021 list, this stuff is the real deal. The grapes to create this beauty are hand-picked in Southern France and blended by the finest wine makers. The specific blend of the 2020 vintage is perfect with its 60% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 15% Mourvedre, and 10% Syrah. This wine is fresh and lively making it the perfect companion to your night out. This wine has a distinct minerality and surprisingly long finish that gets its intensity from ageing in French oak barrels. When you pop the top, you’ll be greeted by the aromas of red fruit, citrus fruit, and spices. On the palate you get the rush of cherry, watermelon, and strawberries. Pair this wine with partying and friends!
Michael David Winery Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon – The Michael David Winery has been in the wine game for over 150 years and that is just unheard of in the American wine industry. The Phillips family has been farming the Lodi soil going all the way back to the 1860’s and started to cultivate grapes since the early 20th century! The name had its origin back in 1984 when Michael Phillips opened a small tasting room at his parents’ farm stand and they have been churning out seriously delicious wine ever since. The other cool thing about their wines is that they are “Lodi Rules” certified which focuses on a set of over 100 standards that pertain to sustainability, environmental, social, and economic standards that set their wines apart from many other producers. The Michael David Winery Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect example of why Lodi is such a great wine growing region. The deep garnet color is mesmerizing in the glass and the aromas of cranberry, dark chocolate, vanilla, and exotic spices capture the nose. The palate is larger-than-life medium bodied, boasting in flavors of raspberry, cocoa nib, and pepper. The finish really stands out with an oaky and spicy finish that leaves you wanting more and more until it’s all gone!