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The Drinker’s Guide: Best Wines at Every Price

UPGRADE YOUR WINE CELLAR: You can find an amazing bottle at virtually any price. We asked the wine buyers at 12 of our favorite stores to pick their best.

MORE FROM THE DRINKER’S GUIDE TO CHICAGO: Web exclusive: Extended wine list | 20 Best Cocktails in Chicago (PLUS: our Foursquare challenge) | 29 Great Winter Brews | How to Build a Home Bar | Top-Shelf Spirits for Your Liquor Cabinet | Finding Your Go-To Cocktail | Duchamp’s Kris von Dopek on His New Cocktail | Winter Cocktail Recipe Challenge | Nine Stylish Items for Your Home Bar

SEE ALSO: Chicago’s Best Craft Beer »





$20 TO $40
OVER $40
2010 Les Traverses de Fontanès (Languedoc-Rousillon) $13.95
“This cabernet sauvignon has a fruit-forwardness that hints of Bordeaux, but at $14, it’s a steal. This is a great wine for people who think cabs are too big; it has elegance and long finish.” —Amy Lafontant, The Bottle Shop
2007 Scherrer, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) $28.50
“Scherrer makes full-flavored wines that express the personality of where they were grown. This cab has cassis and plum—with a touch of French oak. Only 280 cases were made.” —Shane Kissack, In Fine Spirits
2008 Round Pond Estate (Napa Valley) $42.99
“This is a Napa Valley cab where the stuff in the bottle is more important than the name on the label. This magnificent wine is full-bodied and velvety, yet structured. It overdelivers in a major way.” —Matt James, Wine Discount Center
2010 Borsao Tinto (Campo de Borja) $7.99
“This Spanish grenache is the closest thing to a five-in-one tool I have seen: good balance of fruit and acidity, versatile at the table, and more complexity than you’d expect for such a modestly priced wine.” —Bob Calamia, Binny’s Beverage Depot
2008 Vendrell Rived, L’Alleu (Montsant) $23.99
“The U.S. has been inundated with atrocious fruit bombs from Spain. Those are not real Spanish wines. This is: medium-bodied, with well-defined layers of fruit, spice, and herbs.” —Craig Perman, Perman Wine Selections
2006 Alión (Ribera del Duero) $79
“Many of the wines from this region in Spain have too much tannin. Not the Alión. This big, full-bodied tempranillo has Asian spice on the nose while maintaining a juicy core of fruit on the palate.” —Kevin Mohalley, Knightsbridge Wine Shoppe
2009 Poppy (Monterey County) $14.99
“I tasted this last summer out in California, and I was glad to see a wholesaler bring it in. This is a cool-climate pinot noir with a subtle touch of oak, a meaty aroma, smoky notes, and a refined, silky mouth.” —Barbara Hermann, Binny’s Beverage Depot
2008 La Follette (Sonoma Coast) $35
“A little smoky—but who doesn’t like a side of bacon with their wine? Bright red berries and cherry mingle with an unctuous umami, black sea salt, and red-dirt minerality. Surprising and very delicious.” —Rachel Driver, Lush Wine and Spirits
2009 Mugnier, Clos de la Maréchale (Nuits-St.-Georges) $79
“The Maréchale vineyard produces the highest quality pinot noir possible. I love this wine’s richness and density of fruit and its spicy minerality.” —Kevin Mohalley, Knightsbridge Wine Shoppe
2008 Barbi, Brusco dei Barbi (Tuscany) $12.99
“With sangiovese, you rarely go wrong buying the least expensive wine from a quality winery. This one is very Tuscan—lots of acid, enough cherry fruit, and an affinity for grilled meats and tomato sauces.” —Elias Bousheh, Andersonville Wine & Spirits
2008 Montevertine, Pian del Ciampolo (Tuscany) $32
“This sangiovese blend has sumptuous violet and rose petal on the nose, vibrant fruit, and subtle complexity, and it finishes with a touch of bright acidity. Excellent with pork.” —Nathan Adams, Red & White Wines
2004 Valdicava (Brunello di Montalcino) $89
“Conditions in Tuscany were perfect in 2004. With such pristine grapes, Valdicava made a stunning Brunello that has depth of fruit combined with floral scents. Decant if drinking now.” —Kevin Mohalley, Knightsbridge Wine Shoppe
2008 Earthworks (Barossa Valley) $16.95
“This juicy shiraz has flavors of wild blackberries and Black Forest cake and ripe tannins, yet it pulls back with enough acidity and elegance. It’s a big wine that doesn’t overwhelm the palate. You’ll want a second glass.” —Don Hupp, Que Syrah Fine Wines
2009 Luca, Laborde Double Select (Uco Valley) $24
“Luca wines from Argentina come in big black bottles that could double as weapons. This syrah is big and heavy too, but it is so well balanced that it drinks easily and almost has the elegance of a French wine.” —Amy Lafontant, The Bottle Shop
2007 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave (Hermitage) $229
“From an assemblage of 18 parcels with different soils, this Hermitage is incredibly complex. It’s a must-have for the syrah lover, with plum and cherry fruits and aromas of spice and incense.” —Kevin Mohalley, Knightsbridge Wine Shoppe






$20 TO $40
OVER $40
NV Avinyó, Cava Brut Nature Reserva (Penedès) $19.99
“This is an outstanding value in cava, Spain’s sparkling wine. The brut nature style—no added sugar—is fashionable in Spain, but it takes well-farmed fruit to craft a balanced wine.” —Craig Perman, Perman Wine Selections
NV Henriot, Brut Souverain (Champagne) $36.99
“This great bottle from a family-owned house shows you’re not following the crowd. The grapes—equal parts chardonnay and pinot noir—are all from the best vineyards of Champagne.” —Elias Bousheh, Andersonville Wine & Spirits
2006 Vilmart & Cie, Grand Cellier d’Or Premier Cru (Champagne) $79.99
“Eighty percent chardonnay and 20 percent pinot noir, this Champagne will get even better with age. It has depth, minerality, and, most important, deliciousness.” —Matt James, Wine Discount Center
2010 Château de La Greffière (Mâcon) $14.99
“I’ve been buying this wine for ten years, and I think it’s the finest Mâcon for the money. It’s a pure expression of chardonnay—refined, long, and elegant with subtle oak. Perfect with food.” —Barbara Hermann, Binny’s Beverage Depot
2009 Servin, Première Cuvée Les Pargues (Chablis) $27
“In college, I thought Chablis meant bad, sour wine. Now I think of it as the cleanest, most refreshing white wine on the planet. This wine is gulpable stuff and smells as fresh as it tastes. A real treat.” —Amy Lafontant, The Bottle Shop
2009 Jean-Nöel Gagnard, Les Chaumées (Chassagne-Montrachet) $49.99
“Essentially, this is a classic white Burgundy showing power and great acidity, as well as beautiful orchard fruit and even a hint of lightly buttered popcorn.” —Matt James, Wine Discount Center
NV Beckmen Vineyards, Late Harvest (Santa Ynez Valley) $16
“Tom Beckmen took a chance on an unplanted 365-acre property that, it turns out, could produce world-class Rhône varietals. This wine has notes of burnt pineapple, fresh cream, and honey.” —Rachel Driver, Lush Wine and Spirits
2008 Château Les Justices (Sauternes) $34.99 for 375 mL
“This wine has the classic profile of Sauternes: voluptuous yet with delicate floral and fruit notes. It’s a fantastic match for blue cheese, foie gras, and duck breast—and a steal at this price.” —Tracy Kellner, Provenance Food and Wine
2010 Leitz, Geisenheimer Rothenberg Riesling (Rheingau) $89.99
“This Eiswein is a clean and refreshing gathering of ripe pears and stone fruit. The fact that the grapes are picked the day after Christmas adds a magical element.” —Matt James, Wine Discount Center
2010 Clean Slate (Mosel) $9.95
“This German riesling is the very wine served at The Pump Room today for $12 a glass. This is a wine even men enjoy. It’s got nice acidity; it’s 10 percent alcohol, so it’s not too dry or too sweet; and it’s wonderful with food.” —Amy Lafontant, The Bottle Shop
2010 Brooks Sweet P (Willamette Valley) $25
“Founded in 1998, this winery practices organic and biodynamic farming in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. As the name suggests, this riesling is on the sweet side, but it is balanced with peach fruit and great acidity.” —Shane Kissack, In Fine Spirits
2007 Egon Müller, Scharzhofberger Spätlese (Mosel) $99
“The vineyards are blue slate and steeply pitched at a perfect angle to the sun. The freshness of this wine is incredible—almost like biting into a Granny Smith apple.” —Kevin Mohalley, Knightsbridge Wine Shoppe
2010 Domaine Frissant (Touraine) $14.99
“A baby Sancerre from the neighboring region of Touraine, this wine has all the zip of New Zealand sauvignon blancs without the over-the-top grapefruit and residual sugar. It’s affordable and tasty.” —Dean Schlabowske, Cellar Rat Wine
2010 Heidi Schröck (Neusiedlersee-Hügelland) $25.99
“This Austrian sauvignon blanc could fool people into thinking they were drinking one of the finest whites from the Loire Valley. The nose is of salty minerals, and the flavors of citrus and litchi.” —Matt James, Wine Discount Center
2009 Domaine Pascal Cotat, Les Monts Damnés (Sancerre) $49
“Sancerre is the best place to grow sauvignon blanc. Aromatic with a zippy lemon-lime zest, this wine has a mouthwatering freshness of fruit that keeps you coming back for more.” —Kevin Mohalley, Knightsbridge Wine Shoppe


MORE FROM THE DRINKER’S GUIDE TO CHICAGO: 20 best cocktails in Chicago (PLUS: our Foursquare challenge) | 29 great winter brewsHow to build a home bar | Top-shelf spirits for your liquor cabinet | Nine stylish items for your home bar | Finding your go-to cocktail | Duchamp’s Kris von Dopek on his new cocktail | Winter cocktail recipe challenge

SEE ALSO: Chicago’s best craft beer »


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