Tight Wad: Budget Friendly Finds

By Dave Tyler

On Friday the 13th of April I was lucky enough to do my first class after having been away for a while and it was one of my faves!  Finding something delicious and that doesn’t break the bank can be tricky sometimes but we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity.  Almost all of these wines were my first time trying them and I would definitely say that I was pleasantly surprised with all of them. There were definitely a few standout gems but overall it was a great evening had by all.  For being Friday the 13th I would say that we were quite lucky actually!

I am going to go through the wines in the order that we tried them.




Dunes & Greene Pinot-Chardonnay Brut Sparkling
This is one of my favourite sparkling wines for a great price!  If you’re looking for a budget winner this would definitely fit into the category.  There is something wonderful about bubbles and it’s even more fun when they are so affordable! This great tasting sparkling wine is from the Eden Valley region of Australia. Made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir it shows delicate aromas of lemon zest, fresh strawberries and cream. On the palate, look for Chardonnay flavours of subtle citrus notes and fresh acidity. The Pinot Noir complements this by adding richness and texture. The result is a full flavoured sparkling wine with a refined finish. Enjoy with appetizers, seafood, Chinese takeout or just whenever you feel like sipping (or quaffing) some bubbles. $18.99

Fox Run Vineyards Traminette
This was one of my favourite wines of the night.  I was so impressed by the quality and even more so because I haven’t had the chance to try a wine made from Traminetter grapes before either.  Traminette is a grape cross of Gewürztraminer and French American hybrid grape, Joannes Seyve 23.416. You get a lot of the same characteristics of the Gewurztraminer, but the vines are hardier, produce more, and resist cold better.  It was actually created in 1965 at the University of Illinois. A very unusual wine made in New York State’s Finger Lakes region! “This relatively new grape shows aromas of fresh fruit salad, along with exotic tropical fruit notes. We recommend serving this wine lightly chilled as an aperitif. Enjoy this wine with savoury dishes,” according to the winery team. $16.99

Plan B Chardonnay
Seriously tasty Chard at a price that cannot be beat! “This is a modern Chardonnay from the wonderful Margaret River region of Western Australia. Margaret River is world-renowned for producing excellent Chardonnay. Sourced from vineyards across the southern, cooler end of the district and bottled whilst still fresh and lively,” according to the winery team. “Chardonnay is the disputed King of the whites and holds the trump card. The King is nervy and elegant, with a mineral accent and backbone of citrusy acidity. The velvet cloak, the creamy countenance and steely resolve, it’s all there; in a perfect textural juxtaposition. $16.99

Backhouse Pinot Noir
It’s not often that your able to find a delicious Pinot Noir at a great price but this definitely fit the bill.  Easy-drinking Cali Pinot that is almost too easy to drink! Here’s what the winery has to say about it: “Soft and elegant with crimson colour and flavours of plump red berries and dark cherry on the palate. Pairings: Savoury dishes and roasted meats.” We agree! One to buy by the case for your next casual party, or to have on hand as your house red. $19.99

Best’s Gold Rush Cabernet/Merlot Blend
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate calls Best’s winemaker Viv Thomson — whose great-grandfather bought the winery in 1920 — “one of Australia’s great living wine treasures!…Still very much an under-the-radar producer, Best’s is no newcomer in Australia. In fact, this winery plays an integral part in the history of Australian wine. Founded in 1866, Best’s is one of Australia’s oldest family-owned wineries with some of the oldest vines in the country.” Pair this well-balanced, well-priced red blend with burgers, steak, ribs, you name it. $19.99

Feudo Maccari Nero D’avola
Nero D’avola is wonderful grape from southern Italy, originally Sicily that you don’t see too much of.  It needs lots of heat and very dry conditions. That’s why it does so wonderfully in its home soil.  This little gem is fantastic. For being this price and drinking so amazing I think it was the sleeper hit of the night.  91 points from James Suckling for the 2015 vintage of this intense red wine from Sicily! The review: “Very aromatic and enticing with dried strawberry and spice character. Medium to full body, silky tannins and a savoury finish. Hints of citrus and berry on the finish.” $21.99

Botijo Rojo Tinto
This wine from the Aragon region in Spain is named after the “Botijo” clay water jugs that have been used in the area for centuries.  ”One of the most exciting projects in the whole of Aragón. All their vineyards are dry-farmed, head-pruned and all the grapes hand-harvested,” according to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate! This well-priced, rustic, fruit-driven red wine is deliciously quaffable and made with indigenous yeasts and grapes grown on old vines. Don’t miss your chance to try it now.  It is hard to believe the wine that you get from this bottle for the price! $19.99

Lan Reserva Magnum
This was the most expensive wine of the night, however, it is the equivalent of 2 bottles.  This was by far the favourite of the night! If you have never had a Magnum this is definitely a great entry point to try it out.  This is a 2010 mostly tempranillo wine that already has some age on it and is drinking fantastic. It is aged in French and American oak barrels for up to 16 months and then aged in bottles for 24 months before being released for sale.  It is soft and elegant with lots of fruit flavour but also some developing tertiary flavours of earth, forest floor, mushroom and just plain delicious! Try this magnum to get started and you will never turn back from how amazing it is to crack open a bottle with friends. $59.99


It was so much fun to get back into teaching tastings and such a wonderful group of people to share it with as well.  I can’t wait for my next class and really hope to see you there!

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