14 Sommelier-Approved Wines For $20 Or Less

UPDATE: You could use a load off this Friday, and what better way than to relax with a bottle of wine? This story was originally published on September 14.
Just as a killer pair of heels can top off the Perfect Outfit, a great bottle of vino can complete an amazing meal. But, even if you don't own a cellar, it doesn't mean you can't kick it up a notch from the ol' Three-Buck Chuck.
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So, with a strict budget in mind, we tapped Chicago's expert sommeliers to get the tasting notes on the best brands to buy on the cheap — that could fool even the most serious wine snobs. Though our task wasn't easy, our grape gurus delivered with a hit list of 14 incredible vintages pricing out at $20 and under. These domestic and international finds — in both red and white — will impress even the toughest dinner-party critic. So, get the stemware ready: We have a feeling this cheat sheet is worth a toast. Or three.
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Alpana Singh, Boarding House
We can't wait for this master sommelier (and "Check Please" host) to get into her new resto this fall!

White: 2010 Acustic Blanc — $19
About: "Montsant is the region just surrounding Priorat on the north-eastern edge of Spain. The Acoustic Blanc blends indigenous white grapes from the region: Garnacha Blanc, Macabeo, Garnacha Gris, and Pansal. With notes of honeysuckle, peaches, melons, and just downright juicy, fruit flavors."
Goes With: "Would be excellent with cheese and charcuterie, Mediterranean takeout, or even guacamole and chips." Available At: Any Chicago area Binny's.

Red: 2010 Chateau Sainte Eulalie Plaisir d'Eulalie — $11
About: "Minervois is located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, an area chock-full of wines that are plenty of bang for your buck. This is a blend of 30% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 40% Carignan. Flavors of dark blackberries, plums, and figs with a dense, full-bodied texture."
Goes With: "Enjoy it with meatier dishes that are grilled, braised, or roasted."
Available At: Any Chicago area Binnys.
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Brian Duncan, Bin 36
If you're craving more wine knowledge, Duncan's classes at the River North restaurant are as fun as they are informative.

White: 2010 Botani, Moscatel — $12.99
About: "Just in time for fall with fresh, ripe flavors with a great balance of floral and mineral, green apple, orange, grapefruit with subtle, white flowers and fresh-squeezed lime for acidity. A hint of anise and spice on the finish."
Goes With: "Great with salads, cured and smoked meats, soft cheeses, mild curries, shellfish, seafood, vegetarian dishes, quiche, omelets, sushi, or risotto."
Available At: Any Chicago area Binny's.

Red: 2009 Finca Sandoval, Signo, Bobal/Syrah — $15 to $17
About: "Full-bodied, powerful and intense with black, spicy fruit, layers of minerals, rich, dark chocolate, and a seductive texture that keeps you coming back for more."
Goes With: "Built for slow-braised meats, roasted or grilled veggies, beef, pork, and poultry, hearty stews and wild game."
Available At: Any Chicago area Binny's.
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David Flom, Chicago Cut Steakhouse
How could the owner (and sommelier) of a steakhouse not know wine?

White: 2011 St. Clair Sauvignon Blanc — $13
About: "Matt Thompson and Hamish Clark have developed a true expression of the fruit of Marlborough. It's very clean and refreshing."
Goes With: "This wine is the perfect starter wine whether it's by itself, or with shellfish or a salad."
Available At: Any Chicago area Binny's.

Red: 2011 Vina Cobos Felino Malbec — $14
About: "Paul Hobbs has been in Argentina for 30 years. He understands the grape and the land as good as anyone in Argentina. I love his ability to bring such ripe fruit with multiple layers of complexity that I can't find in some Malbecs."
Goes With: "This wine is perfect for a fall evening or with a great lamb dinner."
Available At: Any Chicago area Binny's.
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David O'Day, director of wine for Del Frisco's Restaurant Group
The Texas-based steakhouse will be moving into the old Esquire Theater space on Oak Street this winter, and we hear the wine list will be as impressive as the space itself.

Red: 2009 Penley Estate Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon — $16.99
About: "Penley Estate is a family-run winery with history dating back to 1858. Warm days and cool nights provide ideal conditions for the vines to ripen to maturity. The wine has a dark crimson color with hints of purple. Plum, blackcurrant, and blackberry are the dominant fruits. There are light hints of cedar, vanilla, and toasted oak. The Cabernet fruit is complex but provides an elegant and balanced finish."
Goes With: "This wine is delicious by itself or pairs well with any grilled or roasted meat."
Available At: Any Chicago area Binny's.

White: 2011 Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling — $16.99
About: "Riesling produces one of the most versatile and food-friendly grapes on the planet. Two iconic winemakers work together to bring a fascinating dynamic of new and old-world techniques to this unique project. The wine is a light-golden color with hint of green. Peach, pear, orange, and lime aromas jump from the glass."
Goes With: "Try it with any seafood, Asian cuisine, or my personal favorite — sushi."
Available At: Any Chicago area Binny's.
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Keith Mallini, Prasino
Sustainable wines from a sustainable restaurant sommelier.

Red: 2009 Bodega Bouza Tannat Las Violetas — $15
About: "A perfect fall red. Dark red and black fruit flavors and nicely balanced tannins."
Goes With: "This wine is great with our grass-fed Illinois ribeye steak frites, so it would be perfect for steaks on the grill (or in the broiler) at home, too."
Available At: Gourmet Grape, 3530 North Halsted Street (at Addison Street), 773-388-0942.

White: 2011 Colterenzio, Pfefferer Moscato Secco — $11
About: "End of summer white — crisp and balanced, peachy with a little white-pepper zing."
Goes With: "Great aperitif for sipping on the last days of patio season, or paired with light bites like prosciutto and halloumi cheese with tomato jam."
Available At: Gourmet Grape, 3530 North Halsted Street (at Addison Street), 773-388-0942.
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Ryan Arnold, RPM Italian
One of the hottest new restaurant openings of 2012 has a killer wine list to match.

White: DeFalco Falanghina — $14
About: "A bright, crisp wine with tones of ripe melon and pear."
Goes With:" Lighter fare such as seafood like our sea bass crudo."
Available At: Noble Grape, 802 North Bishop Street (at Chicago Avenue), 312-846-1204.

Red: Tasca d’Almerita Nero d’Avola — $15
About: "This wine possesses a strong characteristic of strawberry fruit with soft tannins and good acidity."
Goes With: "Pairs well with tomato-based pastas or pizza."
Available At: Noble Grape, 802 North Bishop Street (at Chicago Avenue), 312-846-1204.
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Scott Harney, ENO Wine Room on Michigan Avenue
Need a glass of vino after all that Mag Mile shopping? This little cozy wine bar is the perfect destination.

White: Il Brut and the Beast Vina da Tavola — $20
About: "One of the coolest white wines you will ever find. A natural wine blend of Cortese, Favorita, and Moscato, It has just a little spritz to it, but is bone dry. If that isn't unique enough, it's made at a commune in Piedmont where they make their own cheeses, meats, and wine."
Goes With: "Perfect with Robiola cheese."
Available At: ENO, 505 North Michigan Avenue (between Grand and Illinois Streets), 312-321-8738.

Red: Inama Piu Carmenere — $14
About: Carmenere was once used in Bordeaux but is rarely seen in Bordeaux now. Most people know it as a value red from South America, so a Carmenere from Italy is surprising to many people. For anyone looking for a Cabernet, it is a much better bang for your buck alternative.
Goes With: Perfect with any heartier dish or robust cheese. Of course, it has the signature acidity found in so many Italian reds, so it goes well with a wide range of foods
Available At: ENO, 505 North Michigan Avenue (between Grand and Illinois Streets), 312-321-8738.
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