Great Wines Under $20

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The other evening I had dinner out with friends at a restaurant I hadn’t been to before.  For 1 glass of red wine, I paid $21.42 Canadian.  True story.  I took the receipt to prove it.  It was $18.85 plus 15% tax.  I was telling my friends at work, and we started listing off great wines that you can get a whole bottle for $20.  That became the logic behind this wine blog.  Buying a great bottle of wine for the price of what I paid for a glass.  Let me apologize to my American friends, wine is so much more expensive here in Canada, so I’m guessing the wines listed below are probably under $10 in the States.  In any case, enjoy!

  1.  Casillero Diablo Merlot – $14.99

Just to be clear, I didn’t order an expensive Bordeaux at the restaurant, I ordered a Chilean Merlot.  And although they didn’t state brand names, it could very well have been this one.  Casillero De Diablo is the most famous Chilean wine brand in the world and this impressive Merlot is under $15.

2.  Ravenswood Zinfandel

The last time I was in Florida, I paid $7.19 American for this wine.  It sells for $19.99 here and Zinfandel is the best BBQ wine, in my opinion.  Try it with ribs, and let me know what you think.  Fun fact, every year Ravenswood hosts a party for the people who have the logo tattooed on them.  I love wine, but I don’t have any wine logos tattooed on me.  That’s true love.

3.  Cono Sur Reserve Pinot Noir – $19.99

There was a time when there was an unwritten rule that stated ‘don’t buy a Pinot Noir under $20’, as the heartbreak grape tends to fetch a higher price.  Most are $30 and up, but this one from Chile is a beauty that broke the stereotype for Pinot Noir under $20.  Many wine critics have give this wine 90+ Points, and the Reserva in the name tells you it’s been aged!

4.  Domaine De Tariquet Sauvignon Blanc

French wine sometimes gets a bad rap for being expensive, but that’s not always the case.  The Domaine De Tariquet Sauvignon Blanc is $15.99 and deliciously crisp with citrus flavors that will go with any appetizer you are serving.  Sauvignon Blanc is such a food friendly wine, it goes with just about everything.

5.  Freixenet Brut Vintage Reserva

Like the bubbly but don’t want to pay the big bucks for Champagne?  This Cava from Spain should be on your shopping list.  The word ‘Brut’ in the title tells you it’s not sweet, and it’s made in the traditional method, exactly like Champagne, where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle.   This company, Freixenet is the largest producer of sparkling wine in the world.  They know what they are doing, and this bubbly is $18.99.

5.  La Mascota Cabernet Franc – $17.48

And last, but definitely not least, you simply cannot talk about great value wines without paying a visit to Argentina.  The La Mascota Cabernet Franc tastes like a $40 bottle of wine.  Wine critic Tim Aitken gave it 93 Points, and it’s only $17.48 a bottle.  This is a great wine at a great price and definitely my Wine of the Week.

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Till next week, stay optimistic and enjoy the wine



Women & Wine

Women have become a powerful force in the world of wine-making.  Around the world women are garnering deserved attention, in what was once a male-dominated environment.  Today we salute the women making waves in the wine world and the wonderful wines they are creating.  The 4 ladies pictured above are pioneering women in the wine world in Idaho.  Here in Nova Scotia we don’t see many wines from Idaho but when I travel, I will be sure and look for them.  All around the world, these talented ladies are making names for themselves.

Meet Genevieve Janssens – Robert Mondavi Winery – Napa Valley

Robert Mondavi Winery has reached almost legendary status, not only in the Napa Valley but around the world.  This is Genevieve Janssens, winemaker at Robert Mondavi Winery in the Napa Valley.  She is carrying on the quality of care that her mentor, Robert Mondavi had for great wine, because she believes he had the same wine-making style as her father.  She was raised in France and moved to California in 1978 to work with Mondavi, and loves the Napa Valley for its innovation and creativity.

Robert Mondavi Winery has a long tradition of making great Cabernet Sauvignon, in a variety of price ranges.  This one won’t break the wallet, as it is priced under $20.  A great compliment to lamb or steak, this full-bodied wine is easy to drink and easy on the pocket book.

Meet Marlize Beyers – Hidden Bench Winery = Niagara Region Canada

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When my sister went to visit her daughter in the Niagara region a couple of years ago, she bought me a bottle of Hidden Bench wine and I loved it.  Sadly, we can’t buy it here in Nova Scotia, but it is fantastic wine, and made by this lady, Marlize Beyers.  She is a graduate of the prestigious University of Stellenbosch Viticulture and Oenology program and is a perfect choice to carry on the tradition of creating terroir-based wines right here in Canada.  Like this Pinot Noir.

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This is the wine my sister bought home to me and it sells for about $32 in Ontario.  It features gorgeous flavors of sweet ripe cherries and has a marvelous lingering finish.  This is an organic Pinot Noir and it’s very tasty and food friendly.

Meet Gina Haverstock – Gaspereau Vineyards – Nova Scotia

Last but not least, it’s impossible for me to do a wine blog about women in wine, and not talk about Gina Haverstock from Gaspereau Vineyards in the Anapolis Valley in the province I call home, Nova Scotia.  She  worked at Jost Vineyards and became a Certified Sommelier, and then went to Brock University to study Oenology.  She then worked in the Rheingau region of Germany as well as Burgundy France.  She has a soft spot for cool climate wines and is considered the mother of Nova Scotia Rieslings.

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My regular readers know how much I love Riesling, especially with Thai food and anything with a little spice.  Riesling is a great food wine.  I love the apple and pear flavors in a Riesling, and this crisp beauty from Gaspereau doesn’t disappoint.  For readers that are able to pick up a bottle, I think you’ll love it.  It sells for about $22 here in Nova Scotia.

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There are women in every wine region in the world making incredible wines, and today we salute all of them.

Till next week, Cheers



Another Great Wine Tasting

Last Saturday I met a bunch of great new people at a wine tasting my friend Sam (Samantha) hired me to do.

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It was a nice small intimate gathering of friends who love wine & food, and we had fantastic charcuterie boards made by the hosts.  There is nothing like great cheese, bread and meats to compliment a wine.  And we got to try a few new wines together.


This award-winning sparkling Prosecco from Mionetto was our first wine of the evening, and  the LCBO recommends you serve this wine with cured meats, cheese and crisps.  So it was a perfect way to kick-start the evening.  A nice smooth easy to drink Prosecco, at a fantastic value, $19.99.    There is the perception that sparkling wine has to be expensive, and with great wines like Italian Prosecco and Spanish Cava, that’s just not the case.  This is an example of a quality sparkling wine at a great price.


As something completely different, I like to do that at wine tastings to get people out of their comfort zones, we tried this Aligote from the Burgundy region of France.  I have to say, I was a little disappointed in the wine.  I found it a little flat tasting with not much structure and no lingering finish.  It was $25 and honestly, this winner from a previous wine tasting was the better white wine.

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I bought this to another wine tasting, because it gets such rave reviews.  It’s a great value at just $20 a bottle and proof that just because a wine is more expensive, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.  This blend of Trebbiano, Chardonnay with a touch of Sauvignon Blanc is a winner.

One of the guests bought my wine of the week from last week.  The Porta 6 wine from Portugal which is a blend of  50% Aragonez, 40% Castelão and 10% Touriga Nacional.  And I’m willing to bet most people have not tried  Aragonez and Castelao grapes, which are native to Portugal.  This easy to drink red blend is a guilt-free pleasure at under $15 a bottle.


My wine of the week, however, is the last red wine we had that evening.

One of the questions I get asked on a regular basis is where the good value wines are coming from, and Argentina tops the list.  This Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was deemed by Decanter magazine as one of the top exceptional wines from Argentina with lots of personality.  This is a great wine for just $21 and is a great ‘meat’ wine, ie steak and roast beef, but it was also fantastic to drink all on its own.  Ripe berry fruit, with notes of vanilla and tobacco, this good structured Cabernet also had a great finish.  This was the winning red of the evening.

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Have a great weekend everyone.  Till next week, Cheers


March Madness Wine Edition

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March Madness has become the term for the NCAA Basketball Championships in the United States.  For me, it’s waiting for winter to end and Spring to show its face.  Here in Halifax, we’ve actually had more snow in March than we did in January or February.  Snow or not, it’s a great month to discover new wines.

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Besides, who doesn’t love sitting in front of a fire place on a chilly evening with a glass of wine and a good book.  This is my current read, and I’m loving it.  Half way through.

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Tried a new white wine this past week,  and wanted to share for all my white wine loving friends

The Quail’s Gate blend consists of 3 grapes, Chasselas, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.  All the grapes for this wine were hand picked and blending took place after the grapes were fermented.  The blending of grapes can take place during fermentation or after.  By blending after fermentation, it allows the individual personalities to shine through in the wine.  This Quail’s Gate blend, which sells for $19.99 here, is from British Columbia, and is a wonderful example of great wines on the market made right here in Canada.

So, I’m doing a wine tasting tonight and was at the NSLC picking up wine for that yesterday evening and had the pleasure of trying some great new wines.


For a treat wine, try this wonderful Italian blend from Farnese.   This is an example of a full-bodied wine with grapes that include Primitivo, Merlot, Sangiovese, and Malvasia just to name a few.  It’s $40 a bottle and you won’t be disappointed with this treat wine that goes with every meat dish you can imagine.

Here’s the wine I had yesterday evening.


This Piemonte Barbera is young, but so good and it is meant to be consumed now.   Although it’s deep and dark in color, it’s actually a light to medium-bodied wine.  It was delicious tasting, with soft tannins and easy-to-drink fruit flavours of strawberries and cherry.    At just $17 a bottle, it almost made my wine of the week but not quite because hold on….


Isn’t this the prettiest label you’ve seen in a while.  Mario was hanging out at our Larry Uteck location having people taste a wide variety of wines, including this one.  This is the Porta 6 from Portugal.  It’s so good, my NSLC sold out of it yesterday but Amber tells me more is arriving today.   It is $14.99 a bottle and that price tag will blow your mind.  It’s so smooth and so easy to drink  with gorgeous flavours of plum and some pepper on the palate.   I didn’t get to take one home because I was lucky to get a taste, but I’m going up today to buy a few.   The label also makes a great conversation piece if you’re sharing this one with friends.


I’m excited about the wine tasting tonight,  i’ll be meeting all new people except for the lady that hired me.  It’s one of the reasons I enjoy doing this so much, and they’re in for a big treat  because I have a lot of new wines, which I will share with you next week.

Have a great week



Wine & The Oscar’s


The 91st annual Academy Awards, also known as The Oscar’s ran Sunday evening past, and I got together with a few friends for a viewing party and some wine.

Oscar night

We had a hoot as we watched the Oscar’s being awarded.  Greatest part of the evening for me was Queen and Adam Lambert rocking it to open the show.

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And although I am a big fan of Queen and their music, I don’t believe Bohemiam Rhapsody was all that and a cup of tea.  I enjoyed the movie, but between the historical inaccuracies of the film, and the fact it was so obvious Rami Malek was lip-syncing had me wishing the Academy showed more love for Vice, A Star is Born and The Wife.  Plus, let’s give a big shout-out to Marc Martel, the Canadian Singer, who was the voice of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.  Yay Canada.

Speaking of a hooray for Canada, I am planning a trip to the wine country of the Niagara region in Ontario later this Spring.  My niece Tonya lives in Beamsville, and close by is the  Inniskillin Winery.  One of the wines I am interested in trying is this Montague Chardonnay, which is a single vine Chardonnay.  What single vine means, is that on many occasions a winemaker will use grapes from several different grape-growing regions to go into a single wine.  It’s more cost-efficient and you have a larger group of grapes that allow you to make a massive amount a certain blend.  A single vine wine tends to be a little more pricey, and the reason is location, location, and location.  Especially in white wines, which are more sensitive to the environment around them.   You can buy here it in Nova Scotia for $31.99 which is an excellent price for a single vine wine.

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Our local NSLC just introduced and had a tasting of the Bruce Jack wines from South Africa.  I tried the Shiraz and the Chenin Blanc.  Chenin Blanc originates from the Loire Valley in France but I think this winery did a really good job of giving it some personality.  Chenin Blanc is known to make dessert and sparkling wines, but some say the straight up chenin blanc can be bland and neutral.  Although this great value Chenin Blanc is fairlly neutral, I enjoyed the acidity and the stone fruit flavors.  The Shiraz had some plum flavors with exotic spice and I found both wines, priced at $15.48 per bottle, very good values from South Africa.

And my Award for my wine of the week goes to….


Farnese is a commune located about 100 miles northwest of Rome.  It’s also a winery that makes from everything from a $12 Sangiovese to this Edizione Montepulciano, a grape variety and a town in Tuscany.  There is also a little Primitivo added and Negromara.  This beautiful wine is $46 a bottle, so a treat wine for most of my readers.  But it is so rich and so good, and has gorgeous flavors of toasty tobacco and black currants.   The winemaker says in this part of Italy there are no bad harvests, only great and outstanding.  This is an outstanding wine.

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There’s a storm coming to Atlantic Canada, two back to back storms actually.  Stay safe and make sure you have your storm wine.

Till next week, Cheers