Grub Guides

Bottle Service: The Top Wines for $50 or Less at 12 Great New Restaurants

Extra points for a cool label.
Extra points for a cool label. Photo: Melissa Hom

It’s time for another installment of Bottle Service, in which we ask a noted wine expert — this time, Christie’s rare-wine specialist Scott Torrence — to select the best $50-and-under bottles (one white and one red) at the city’s most-talked-about new spots. No longer shall you blindly pick the second-cheapest bottle on the list: Just follow the guidance below — and feel free to crib Torrence’s tasting notes, too.

White: Domaine de L’Ecu, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Classique, 2011 ($42)
“This is my white wine choice to pair with seafood dishes: The mild qualities of Muscadet will allow the food to take center stage. The acidity can make this wine seem rather steely, so it’s best served very cold.”

Red: Domaine de Montrieux, Pineau d’Aunis, Vendomois Rouge, 2011 ($47)
“I’ll order this light red when I like a wine to be refreshing and not heavy. It’s bright and cheery, not dark and heavy.”

The Clam
White: Grüner Veltliner ‘Hinter der Au,’ Diwald, 2012, Niederösterreich, Austria ($48)
“Grüner can be quite exotic: The flavors can sometimes replicate the experience of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc rolled into one … weird, I know.”

Red: Cannonau di Sardegna ‘Costera,’ Argiolas, 2010, Sardinia ($48)
“It’s a very approachable and user-friendly wine. Expect a ruby-red color and light berry flavors with a touch of sour cherry to finish it off.”

White: Köfererhof Valle Isarco Kerner, 2012 ($50)
“It has just enough acidity to stimulate your appetite. I’d pair this comfortably with just about anything from the sea or garden — especially with a dish that’s grilled.”

Red: Cipriano Teroldego Rotaliano, 2011 ($48)
“This grape is quite common in the Northeastern part of Italy, and is often a winner with newcomers due to its dark fruits and earthy aromas.”

Telepan Local
White: Albariño ‘Adega’ Condes de Albarei, 2012 ($36)
“It’s like Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s not. It’s what you should order while waiting on an order of fried foods to arrive.”

Red: Beaujolais, Cote de Brouilly, Potel-Aviron, 2010 ($48)
“When a Beaujolais Village is on offer, I’m generally all over it. Wine buyers go to great lengths to find tasty ones because of dated American notions of this terrific French varietal.”

Fung Tu
White: Guillox Broux Mâcon-Villages, 2012 ($44)
“When eating at Fung Tu, the flavors are complicated, so keep your wine simple yet appetizing. Unadulterated Chardonnay is a good pick.”

Red: Domaine du Mortier “Dionysos” St Nicolas de Bourgueil, 2009 ($48)
“This is a terrific vintage bottle. I love seeing these on lists, and almost always order them when they’re under $50.”

White: Prosecco Col Fondo “L’Essenziale” Ruge, 2012 ($42)
“When Champagne is a bit much for the occasion, I look for dry Prosecco. ‘The Essential’ is a great answer for the prelude to cocktails after work.”

Red: Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese DOC Marcaleone Crealto, 2010 ($42)
“A great starter red: I’d order this when the early courses are light and uncomplicated. Grignolino is a terrific choice, and a bold one, too. It’s not often that this is offered.”

White: Domaine Mardon Quincy Loire, 2012 ($50)
“While not as popular as Sancerre and certainly not as expensive, Quincy offers a great bang-for-your-buck. Freshness, citrus, and acidity are the hallmark characteristics.”

Red: Thalvin (Alain Graillot) “Syrocco” Zenata, Morocco, 2010 ($44)
“This is likely the finest syrah from Morocco you’ll every lay your hands on. Velvety-soft fruits with all the ripeness that you would expect under the Moroccan sun.”

The Peacock
White: Estadon, Côte de Prôvence Rosé, 2012 ($40)
“Rosés pair so well with early courses, as well as lunch menus. No need to over think your choice — other than to make certain it comes out properly chilled. And not overly so!”

Red: Vina Ijalba Livor Rioja, 2012 ($38)
“If you’re looking for value, check out this un-oaked Tempranillo from Rioja. The fruit profile is fresher and brighter than the typical Reserva, as it sees far fewer months oxidizing in oak.”

Villard Michel Richard
White: Bernard Baudry, Chinon, Loire Valley, 2011 ($42)
“With deep lists such as this one, keep your selection simple and direct. Find a great producer of an off-the-beaten-path wine. Voilà, Baudry! Strawberries, minerals, and freshness.”

Red: Marcel Lapierre, Morgon 2009 ($49)
“After you peel yourself away from the amazing Bordeaux and Burgundy lists, you’ll stumble upon a serious dedication to the Gamay varietal. The intensity of Marcel Lapierre’s wine puts many Bourgogne and A.C. Burgundy bottles to shame.”

M. Wells Steakhouse
White: Santa Barbara County, Chardonnay, Au Bon Climat, 2011 ($43)
“With California Chardonnay, you know what you’e getting — and it’s not Muscadet.”

Red: Langhe, Freisa, Borgogno, 2011 ($50)
“Expect bright and plummy fruits with some acidity. Freisa can be wonderfully pungent and perfumed.”

Ristorante Morini
White: Pignoletto Fattoria del Monticino Rosso, 2012 ($40)
“From the little-known grape called Pignoletto. Lively and crisp, it begs for a seafood partner. Order this to impress the sommelier with your off-the-wall choice.”

Red: Rosso Piceno “Pongelli” Bucci, 2006
“This 50/50 blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese is new world-ish in approach. It’s a rare opportunity when you find something with age for under $50.”

The Cecil
White: Bricco del Sole, “Moscato d’Asti,” Piedmont, IT, 2012 ($38)
“The delicate bubbles give it some lift and freshness, while the grape’s natural inclination towards green apples and peaches work well.”

Red: Purple Hands, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR, 2011 ($45)
“Purple Hands is a terrifically priced wine: soft Pinot fruit, easygoing tannins, and acidity. Enjoy as a standalone wine, or with a meal.”

Bottle Service: The Top Wines for $50 or Less at 12 Great New Restaurants