Here are a couple of tips to help you find your next great bottle of wine!

Have Fun Searching for Good Value Wines.
There are many wines in the $15 to $25 range that can be just as satisfying as those that are $30 and up.

Make friends with someone at your Favorite Liquor Store.
If you are a complete novice, that would be a great start. Give him/her an idea of what you like and budget and go from there. If you have some experience it is not a bad idea either – you can have some great conversations and pick up some good tips and suggestions.
But do beware, some just want to push product and some might just have a different pallet than you. It doesn’t hurt to have more than one friend or store.

A great deal of wine information is available online – isn’t everything available online? LOL!
Many sellers of wine produce publications with great information not only on wine but food that might be paired with wines.

Bottles and Labels

After a while you will get a feel for good quality labels and bottles that just feel solid. If a bottle has an indentation (referred to as a punt) at the bottom that you can pretty much stick your entire thumb in, odds are that the label and topper is professional, round out the presentation. This is an indication of the level of pride that the wine maker is putting into the bottle.

Fuzion from Argentina is a perfect example of what NOT to buy. Thin flat bottom bottle. I have noticed that they have stepped up the look of the label but don’t be fooled. This wine is made from a collection of dregs from a bunch of Argentinian producers and total cost of the product bottle and all is likely less than a buck and half. Tastes like the home made stuff – Vintage Thursday – that the person brings to a dinner party …once … and never gets invited back because he/she was drinking everyone else’s wine.

New World and Lesser Recognized Regions
California is a great example. If you were to look at two wines that were exactly the same and one was from Napa Valley (everyone knows Napa right?) and the other, such as one of my favorites J. Lohr, from Paso Robles near San Jose you will likely pay more for the wine from Napa.
Note: J. Lohr is also a perfect example of a professional presentation in a bottle – above.)

Don’t overlook Vintage products for good deals either. It is not all expensive in there.

Australian wine was all the rage years ago, and the prices were driven up. I have had very little in recent years.
New and increased global demand from Asian and Indian markets are maintaining and driving demand for product from the well-known regions of Tuscany and Bordeaux and of course Champagne.

Argentina, Chile, Spain and South Africa has some awesome products and plenty of it at bargain prices. I have found some rather aged reds in the Spanish sections at great prices.

Read the label on the back of the bottle, there is plenty of good information there. It is a big wine world out there so explore a bit and have some fun doing it. There are so many other lesser known grapes that are worth trying. The label will give you an idea of what to expect.

Bubbles and Champagne
Champagne comes with a price tag – it is unlikely that you can find any south of $60.00. I have had my share of bubbles and can tell you that there are many Bruts, Cava’s and Proseccos that can satisfy your pallet in the $25.00 and under range. I have covered a number in recent issues here on the Traveling Golfer.

Just two weeks ago I was surprised to see a Champagne in the mid $50.00 range. I asked one of my favorite liquor store ladies about it. She replied with “yummy bubbles.” I asked, “how much yummier than what I have been buying for $20.00?” Her reply “not much.” Just what I thought.
Steak night? If you have never had Italian, Amaorne – treat yourself. A few years back you could not find Amarone for under $50 but there are now plenty of options in the mid $30.00 range. Treat yourself – you are worth it!

There is nothing better than sharing your finds with others of a like mind. Before you know it a dinner party breaks out and the wine finds are served. The next thing you know you are buying cases together and talking wine. Real ambitious to grow the flavour and value of your good find…you might even consider putting some of that case in a crawl space or a wine cooler for a couple of years.

Maybe we will delve into good corks and storage options in an upcoming issue…

Enjoy this month’s selection of wine finds:

Veuve Clicquot Brut – ChampagneFrance – 750 ml – $72.85Santa happened to be in town and it was a very nice treat to share with a special friend over Christmas.  Certainly this has fine fruity bubbles with a medium to full body finish.  The question here is – at $73 is it 3 times as good or flavourful as the many other quality Brutes which are combinations of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay?   Personally, I think NOT!  
Toasted Head ChardonnayCalifornia USA – $18.95Here is a hot one for you!  Great eye-catching label.  Talk about another pleasant surprise – living up to my promise to drink more white I went back to one I remember enjoying some time ago!  I did not remember it being sooooo smooth and buttery with a hint of oak.  I had it with spicy seafood pasta and it was a perfectly satisfying pairing!  It might have to become a regular.  
Marques De Riscal Rioja ReservaRioja, Spain – $26.10Here is a sexy bottle for you!  Gold fishnet stocking lets you know that there is a little elegance to behold or held – depends who you might be with!  Another that I had not had for a long while and soon to be stocked up on.  Rich and a little on the spicy side with dark fruit flavours!  Just so happens I found one in my cellar from 2007 – must drink soon! 🙂  
J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California – $23.95An all-time favorite, I always have some in the house.  There’s a reason why this Cab is the most popular red in the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. It’s full bodied and packed with black cherry, blackcurrant, cedar, vanilla and spice. Equally at home with a casual steak sandwich or a thick rib-eye steak.  
Forty Creek Whisky – Premium Barrel Select, Grimsby Ontario – 750 ml bottle – $28.75Don’t ask me why but if someone asked me if I would buy some Forty Creek Whisky out of Grimsby, Ontario I would likely say “highly unlikely.” Shame on me!  This was a gift and was certainly a pleasant surprise for a guy who loves his Crown Royal and Woodford Reserve   Double Oak!
A beautiful amber in color, this offers up a hint of caramel even before it hits the lips, a very smooth finish, be looking for apple, vanilla and subtle oak.  Try it, you will like it!