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Best Karen Birmingham Wines

Best Karen Birmingham Wines
Latest posts by Lauren Vigdor (see all)

If you’re looking for extremely drinkable California wines that all bring something special to the table (or the glass), you should definitely check out Karen Birmingham. Her Lodi, California-based wines are fruit-forward and accessible, but each of them contains an element of the unexpected. Plus, she was voted Naked Wines’ fifth annual Winemaker of the Year!

I worked as a beverage director and bar manager for many years, and part of my job (one of the best parts!) was to choose the wine lists for the restaurants I represented. I would attend regular wine tastings (poor me, I know) and pick a selection of wines that I thought would best suit the guests we served. If I learned one thing from that job, it was that everyone’s taste is subjective, and drinking wine should be fun! That’s why I’ve put together this list of the best Karen Birmingham wines. There’s something for everyone here, and they’re all very accessible and drinkable! 

Bottom Line Up Front

My favorite Karen Birmingham wine is her 2019 Lodi Zinfandel. It’s a gorgeous, drinkable wine that’s exciting but unpretentious. It’s definitely a crowd-pleaser and is an excellent representation of the incredible wines coming out of Lodi. It’s also fantastic with food, so it’s good to have on hand for dinner parties!

Karen Birmingham Lodi Zinfandel 2019 | Naked Wines

This vibrant Zinfandel is one layer of lush, dark berry flavors after another, refined by generous aging in French and American oak, with a long, velvety finish that’s almost too good to be true. 

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My Picks at a Glance

Karen Birmingham Clarksburg Pinot Grigio 2021 — Best to Pair with Oysters at the Beach

Karen Birmingham Lodi Sauvignon Blanc 2020 — Best for a Mediterranean Lunch on a Patio

Karen Birmingham Lodi Sangiovese Rosé 2021 — Best for a Summer Seafood Boil

Klaren Birmingham Wines

Karen Birmingham Lodi Zinfandel 2019 — Best Thanksgiving Wine

Karen Birmingham Reserve Lodi Barbera 2020 — Best for a Cozy Pizza and Movie Night

Karen Birmingham Lodi Malbec 2020 — Best to Take on a Picnic with Cheese and Charcuterie

Karen Birmingham Reserve Clarksburg Petite Sirah 2019 — Best for a Barbecue with Friends

Who is Karen Birmingham?

Karen Birmingham approaches winemaking from the technical end. She developed her love of winemaking while in school and graduated with a BS in Microbiology and an MS in Food Science. She worked for a food research lab for a while before switching gears and returning to her love of winemaking.

Klaren Birmingham Picture

Karen has worked for some California viticulture greats, including Robert Mondavi. She currently makes wines for the Lange Twins and has created her own independent line of Karen Birmingham wines.

Karen Birmingham wines are small-lot wines made with grapes grown in and around Karen’s home of Lodi. Karen sources classic and interesting California grape varietals and adds her personal touch to each wine that she makes. 

Where Can I Buy Karen Birmingham Wines?

Karen Birmingham wines are sold exclusively through Naked Wines and wouldn’t have been possible without their Angels program. Naked Wines allows wine enthusiasts to essentially crowdfund independent winemakers by joining their membership program and purchasing wine through their site. 

Members (called “Angels”) can browse their list of wines from nearly 100 independent winemakers, read reviews, and even communicate with the winemakers themselves. Better yet, all of the wine on Naked Wines is sold at wholesale prices. You can learn more about the Naked Wines angels program here

The Best Karen Birmingham Wines

I chose the following wines because they’re drinkable, accessible, and universally appealing. That way, if you bring a bottle to a party with friends, you won’t be the only one drinking it! (Unless that was your goal, in which case, just bring a second bottle. Don’t be greedy.)

All of these wines have something unique about them that sets them apart from other wines made in this region. They all pair beautifully with food, and I prefer wines that are equally good without food, though not all of the wines on this list are. 

Karen Birmingham Clarksburg Pinot Grigio 2021

Karen Birmingham Clarksburg Pinot Grigio 2021

So I have a confession to make. I’m not usually a big fan of Pinot Grigio. There’s nothing I find particularly offensive about it; it’s more the fact that it’s just too inoffensive. I try not to let my inner wine snob out too much (because nobody likes her, trust me), but I can get easily bored when it comes to light white wines. 

The thing about Karen Birmingham’s Clarksburg Pinot Grigio is that it’s extremely un-boring. In fact, if you’re a “light, dry, and fruity” Pinot Grigio drinker, this might have too much acid for you. If you’re a Grüner Veltliner fan or even a Sauvignon Blanc fan who occasionally dabbles in Pinot Grigios, you’re going to love this one. 

This vibrant wine is crisp, refreshing, and fruity. It’s super clean and citrusy — perfect to drink chilled on a hot day. 

I would pair this wine with oysters, but it would be great with all kinds of seafood or even chicken. This one is also very drinkable on its own, so don’t feel like you need to save it! 

Karen Birmingham Clarksburg Pinot Grigio 2021 | Naked Wines

This bright, mouthwatering Pinot Grigio from your reigning Winemaker of the Year Karen Birmingham is as easy-sipping as it gets, humming with juicy splashes of lemony-lime flavor and a lively finish.  

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Pros

  • Super drinkable with or without food
  • Bright and very refreshing

Cons

  • Might be too citrusy and acidic for some pinot grigio drinkers

Karen Birmingham Lodi Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Karen Birmingham Lodi Sauvignon Blanc 2020

This super aromatic wine is crisp and tropical. It’s made with grapes from two different Lodi vineyards harvested in the middle of the night to keep the skin contact and sugar content low, resulting in a light, low-abv wine. 

Kim Crawford fans beware: this is not a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It’s got plenty of citrus flavors, but it doesn’t have as much of an acidic kick or sharpness to it, and it definitely isn’t the crushed grapefruit bomb you might be accustomed to. 

Karen Birmingham Lodi Sauvignon Blanc is full of tropical fruit, fresh green herbal, and vegetal notes. It’s on the light side and very refreshing. 

This would go great with a piece of grilled fish topped with a ton of fresh herbs. I would pair it with a salad made with feta, fresh cucumber, and herbs from my garden. You can also drink this one on its own!

Karen Birmingham Lodi Sauvignon Blanc 2020 | Naked Wines

This light and fruity Sauvignon Blanc is as crisp and refreshing as it gets, with juicy, vibrant fruit flavors, a splash of citrus and a lush, mouth-filling finish. 

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Pros

  • Very aromatic, refreshing wine
  • Can be consumed with or without food
  • Plenty of tropical fruit flavors

Cons

  • A little too light
  • Not citrusy enough for New Zealand Sauv Blanc drinkers

Karen Birmingham Lodi Sangiovese Rosé 2021

Karen Birmingham Lodi Sangiovese Rosé 2021

I love rosé in general, but some of my favorite rosés are made with Italian grape varietals (no offense to Provence, of course.) They’ve often got a bit of body to them and a zestiness that pairs beautifully with sunshine and warm weather. 

Karen Birmingham Lodi Sangiovese Rosé is juicy and crushable, with bright flavors and strawberry aromas. It has just a touch of residual sugar, which may make it a bit too sweet for Provence rosé drinkers, but it’s definitely an off-dry wine. 

That hint of sweetness means this rosé pairs wonderfully with spicy food. It’s a perfect companion to a spicy seafood boil but can definitely be sipped on its own as well (preferably while lounging near a body of water.) As a general rule of thumb, rosé is meant to be consumed immediately, so don’t let this one sit around until next year. 

Karen Birmingham Lodi Sangiovese Rose 2021 | Naked Wines

Bright and juicy like freshly-plucked wild strawberries – or even a watermelon jolly rancher – this mouthwatering Rosé is an instant refresher.

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Pros

  • Very drinkable, juicy, and zesty
  • Can be paired with food or sipped on its own

Cons

  • Might not be light enough for Provence rosé drinkers
  • Market price is one of the highest on this list

Karen Birmingham Lodi Zinfandel 2019

Karen Birmingham Lodi Zinfandel 2019

It’s nearly impossible to talk about Lodi wines without at least mentioning Zinfandel. No, I’m not talking about White Zinfandel — how dare you? (Sorry, there goes that inner wine snob again. It’s ok; she’s gone now.)

Zinfandel (the red one) is light-bodied but full of flavor. It’s jammy, smokey, and peppery, and it’s probably the varietal Lodi is most known for.  

Fun fact: Zinfandel is made from the same grape as Primitivo, the former being its American name and the latter its Italian name. 

Karen Birmingham Lodi Zinfandel is packed with dark fruit flavors and a touch of savory smokiness. She also has a Reserve Lodi Zinfandel, but it’s meant to be cellared for a few years before you enjoy it. I prefer this one because it’s ready to drink as soon as it arrives at your door. 

Zinfandel goes great with sweet barbecue sauces and anything spicy. I particularly like it with Korean barbecue. If you can control yourself, make sure you save a bottle or two to serve with your turkey on Thanksgiving.

Karen Birmingham Lodi Zinfandel 2019 | Naked Wines

This vibrant Zinfandel is one layer of lush, dark berry flavors after another, refined by generous aging in French and American oak, with a long, velvety finish that’s almost too good to be true. 

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Pros

  • Bold but light-bodied
  • Ready to drink right away
  • Pairs well with many different foods

Cons

  • Might be too bold for some people — in that case, let it breathe a bit and try again. If it’s still not for you, I’m sure you’ve got a friend who would be more than happy to drink your share

Karen Birmingham Reserve Lodi Barbera 2020

Karen Birmingham Reserve Lodi Barbera 2020

Barbera is one of my favorite wines, though it’s admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea. In Italy, it’s often grown in tandem with Nebbiolo and is almost drunk like a table wine. The wine is juicy, acidic, and herbal and is consumed young and often with food. 

California Barberas tend to be jammier and more fruit-forward than their Italian cousins, and Karen Birmingham Reserve Lodi Barbera is no exception. It’s rich and robust with fruity, berry flavors and just a touch of tannin.

This wine is made from grapes sourced from a single vineyard in Lodi. It’s meant to be consumed right away but will also age beautifully for a few years. Just make sure to store it properly. 

Barbera goes great with Italian food, but you don’t need to be pretentious about it. It’s the perfect wine to pair with pizza and pasta. I would save this one for my next pizza and movie night for sure, or pop open a bottle next time I’m making bolognese. 

If you plan to drink this wine without food, you may want to decant it or give it some time to breathe before digging it. It will help mellow out the flavors and leave you with a super smooth wine. 

Karen Birmingham Lodi Zinfandel 2019 | Naked Wines

This vibrant Zinfandel is one layer of lush, dark berry flavors after another, refined by generous aging in French and American oak, with a long, velvety finish that’s almost too good to be true. 

Check Price
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Pros

  • Perfect Italian food wine
  • Made with single-vineyard grapes

Cons

  • Considerable better with food than on its own
  • Might be too acidic for some California wine fans
  • Lacks some of the herbal notes of Italian Barbera

Karen Birmingham Lodi Malbec 2020

Karen Birmingham Lodi Malbec 2020

Many people associate Malbec with Argentina, but the grape actually originated in France. It’s full in body with plenty of dark fruit and spice flavors, but it doesn’t linger the way a Cabernet does. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a full-bodied red but don’t want something you need to drink with a meal. 

I think that Karen Birmingham Lodi Malbec drinks more like a French Malbec than one from Argentina. It’s loaded with plum and dark fruit flavors, but it’s not sweet. It’s a little bit peppery with medium tannins. This one is great right out of the bottle but would be better decanted. You could probably also age this one for a few years with some delicious results.

I would pair this one with spiced meat. It would be great with lamb sausage or a cheese and charcuterie board. 

Karen Birmingham Lodi Malbec 2020 | Naked Wines

This bold, full-powered Malbec is drenched in rich, mouth-filling dark berry flavors, woven together with a smooth, luscious texture from aging with French and American oak and a finish that lasts and lasts.

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Pros

  • Full-bodied red that can be consumed on its own or with food
  • Very inexpensive
  • If you forgot to save some Zinfandel (or, like me, you lack self-control), this one would be pretty good on Thanksgiving too

Cons

  • Too dry and peppery for Argentina Malbec drinkers

Karen Birmingham Reserve Clarksburg Petite Sirah 2019

Karen Birmingham Reserve Clarksburg Petite Sirah 2019

Despite its name, Petite Sirah is not just a cuter version of Syrah (aka Shiraz), though it is related. It’s a very bold, fruity, high-tannin wine that’s perfect for anyone who lives by the adage “the bigger, the better.” (So, incidentally, it’s not really “petite” at all.) 

Karen Birmingham Reserve Clarksburg Petite Sirah is made from grapes harvested in foggy Clarksburg, California. The wine is aged in French oak casks. 

This gorgeous, deep-colored Petite Sirah is bursting with dark fruit and berry flavors with a hint of vanilla. This is another one that will age exceptionally well, just make sure to drink it after a few years rather than decades, or you’ll run the risk of losing a lot of the acidity that makes this wine pair so well with food.

This wine is screaming to be paired with roasted or grilled meat, so bring a bottle (or two) to your next barbecue. You’re definitely going to want to decant this one, or at least let it breathe for a nice long while before you serve it. Seriously — open that bottle up at least an hour or two before you’re ready to drink it. You’ll thank me later.

Karen Birmingham Reserve Clarksburg Petite Sirah 2019 | Naked Wines

This big and bold red is loaded with rich, plummy flavors that’ll make you swoon.

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Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Huge, bold wine 
  • Pairs very well with food
  • Can be cellared for years

Cons

  • Too tannic for some people’s taste
  • Not great to drink on its own without food
  • Better with some aging, or at least decanting

FAQ

Question: What is a Lodi wine? 

Answer: Lodi is a wine region in Central Valley, California, just East of San Francisco. Lodi wines are any wines produced in Lodi, but the region is particularly known for Zinfandel. 

Question: How much is a Naked Wines membership?

Answer: A Naked Wines membership costs $40 a month. This money will accrue in your account and can be used to purchase wine on the site. 

Question: What is an Angel in Naked Wines?

Answer: A Naked Wines Angel is a participant in the company’s membership program. Angels deposit $40 a month into their account and can use that money to purchase wine through the site. Angels help support independent winemakers. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for California wines that are unique but still accessible, Karen Birmingham probably has something that will interest you. Her signature wines, sold exclusively on Naked Wines, are made with a focus on small-lot grape harvests and technical methods. 

My favorite Karen Birmingham wine is the 2019 Karen Birmingham Lodi Zinfandel. It’s the kind of wine I want to stock up on so that it’s always on hand to enjoy with dinner or bring to a friend’s house.  

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