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February 2016

Build Confidence in Finding Great Wines…These Top Quality Wines Are Guaranteed to Be Some of the Best Food Pairing Gems. All for Less than $15… by Patrick Cress

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Us wine drinkers often run into this common dilemma:  we love to find a bargain, yet often times the best quality wine doesn’t fit in the “let’s make a deal!” category.  Plus, there are always too many choices and it gets confusing or overwhelming.  So we sometimes either settle for 2nd best, strikeout when trying to save money or end up splurging on the bottle that we end up not liking.

Whether you’re buying a bottle for a special occasion or for everyday, it’s a bummer to feel like you have to compromise quality for quantity and/or price. There’s a lot of wine out there that’s either overpriced and makes us feel duped, or that tastes too cheap if we’re on a budget.

To help you avoid paying big money for a wine that turns out to be a disappointment, I’ve narrowed down a list of my top choices for the world’s best values in wine from these countries:  Argentina, Chile, Spain, and Portugal that all price under $15.

I’ve picked my fav’s – that way you don’t have to worry about making the wrong choice OR get stuck spending too much money on something you don’t like. Choose from these wines below and you’ll win every time. These choices are some of the best quality wines that you’ll find easily for prices under $15.

Argentina’s national varietal is Malbec.  It originates from Southwest France and was discovered to flourish in Argentina’s alpine climates. Look for Mendoza as the chief appellation (or winegrowing area) where most of the best Malbecs come from. Try the malbecs with little to no oak.  These wines are what I call food versatile.  They go well with so many different types of food from veggie dishes to salmon, to chicken, pork, lamb and even steak.  

  • Bodegas Hinojosa “H” Malbec 2012, Mendoza$14.99
  • Finca Mosso Malbec 2014, Lunlunta, Mendoza$14.99
  • Tomero Malbec 2012, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza – $13.99
  • Viamonte Malbec 2013, Lujan de Cuyo Mendoza – $13.99


Chile is super versatile with the varietals it offers.  Carménère can be an amazing value but it can be challenging to find ones that don’t taste solely like bell peppers – so be careful.  There are so many great values from this country.  I’d focus your efforts on Sauvignon Blanc as well.  Try a shrimp salad and simple lemon vinaigrette with the Sauvignon Blanc and try braised lamb shank and sautéed sweet peppers with the Carménères.

  • Chocalan SB 2013, single vineyard, Maipo – $12.99
  • Las Mercedes Carménère 2011, Estate, Single Vineyard, Maule Valley  – $12.99
  • Koyle Carménère 2012, Gran Reserva, Alto Colchagua, Chile – $14.99


Spain might be my favorite appellation for the perfect balance of old and new world styles.  You can get so much bang for your buck. Look out for Garnacha from Navarra, Godello and Mencia from Galicia and Monastrell (Mourvedre) from Jumilla for some of the most delicious bargains. I’d recommend a butter lettuce salad with granny smith apple, goat cheese and walnuts paired with the green apple acidity of Godello.  I also love pork loin and hibiscus cherry sauce with the fruitiness of Garnacha and Roasted Chicken with the vibrant acid of Mencia.  

  • Vina Reboreda Godello 2014, Ribeiro, Galicia – $13.99
  • Brezo Mencia 2012, Bierzo – $14.99
  • Menguante Garnacha 2014, Cariñena –  $11.99
  • Hilanda Monastrell 2012, Jumilla – $11.99


Portugal is the latest rising star of top value wines of the world.  Most of y’all have heard of Vinho Verde and there are many delicious ones for summer quaffing.  Look out for the latest sub-appellation of Vinho Verde called “Monção e Melgaço”.  It is becoming a place for great quality.  My other favorite appellations are the Douro where Port is king but still reds art fantastic and Alentejo in the south.  I love oysters and grilled sardines with Vinho Verde.  Check out Chicken Mole with still reds from the Douro.  The rosemary like herbal quality and hint of cacao will make you blush once you’ve had that pairing!

  • Luis Pato Maria Gomes 2013, Beira, Portugal – $11.49
  • Muralhas Alvarinho / Trajadura 2014, Monção e Melgaço, Vinho Verde –  $13.99
  • Fundacao Batalha De Aljubarrota 2013, Alentejano, Portugal – $10.99
  • Flor de Crasto 2013, Douro – $11.99


You actually don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a really fantastic wine. Nor do you need to get overwhelmed by hundreds of mediocre choices at Trader Joe’s.

If you know what to look for, you’ll always come out on top. The selections I gave you are great places to start. They are some of the BEST top quality wines set at unbelievably affordable prices. Play around with them and let me know what you think.

Don’t forget to leave me a comment on your thoughts, insights or questions below. Let me know other wines you’ve found to be delicious for under $15…I’d love to do a write up on it.

Thanks so much.

Next week’s topic will focus California Chardonnay’s and what makes it so controversial yet celebrated in the world of wine.



Welcome to the Cress Wine Design Blog!

My name is Patrick Cress and I have a natural gift of helping people understand the world of food and wine in a simple and creative way.

With over two decades experience in the restaurant business I have learned to help restaurants thrive by designing wine lists that are accessible and profitable, guided customers to find the perfect food and wine pairings and trained staffs to feel confident talking about wine.

I’ve developed a style that combines hospitality, approachability and confidence in knowing how to choose the perfect wine for any occasion. So I have decided to compile my best tips such as the perfect pairing ideas, places to get quality wine for cheap and what to pick for special events in a series of weekly blogs.

Some of the topics include: Gruner is for vegetarians, what to bring to a dinner party for under $15, “is that French on the wine bottle ‘cause I’m lost?!”, the top 3 countries that give bang for yourHome-Page-Photo-450x300-flipped buck, etc.

These blogs are designed to make you into a better wine consumer without the pretension or having to spend a ton of money. You’ll discover a new found confidence as you apply what you’ve learned and experience the power of truly understanding this art.

Wine is the perfect alchemy of Mother Nature and human artistry. It is the glue to a celebration of life: graduations, romance, achievements, even dinner! Wine has been enjoyed for centuries by the likes of royalty, common people, poets, artists and monks. It brings family together helping to inspire sharing, stories and laughter. It can sweeten the blow of a broken heart. It helps set the stage for healing and connection.   With the right guidance you, too, can truly become a savvy wine consumer.

Check out my post on 5 quality sparkling wines under $20 here.

I’d love to hear from you.   Why do you love wine? Tell me about your story. What are you curious about?   Do need help finding wine for an event or are you having trouble picking wines to pair with dinner?   What are your 3 most burning questions on how you can become a better wine consumer? Leave me a comment, and I will be sure to answer any question you have regarding the wine business through this blog.