Budget Bottles

Inspired by another thread, post your budget bottle finds or requests here. All types welcome.

I’ll start off with a champagne request: what are the best options under $50? I had Moutard recently for $25, which I thought seemed like a good deal. Veuve is also able to be found for $46. But what others should I be seeking out?

I’ll also add, for gin, I think Gordon’s is a pretty dang good well gin for the price (typically under $20 for a handle). Sure, there are much better and more interesting, but for the price, Gordon’s is pretty solid.

I hope you get some answers. I tried this one with wines, but no feedback.

I like Stolichnaya vodka more than pricier ones like Belvedere. To my taste, Russians do vodka best. I get it for $20 - $23.

1 Like

American Whiskey:

Under $15 it’s hard to do better in bourbon than Evan Williams (black label). Under $30 it’s hard to do better than Old Grand-Dad 114 (at 57% abv and the same mash bill which goes into the lower strength and generally inferior Basil Hayden’s). For rye, George Dickel Rye, distilled at the MGP factory in Indiana, is a good bet <$20 (at Total Wine).

There are far better values in American whiskey than Scotch. Most Scotch blends under $30 are generally avoidable.

Single Malt Whisky:

Tomatin 12, which can still be found in the vicinity of $30 is the reigning champ among fruitier whiskies. The Glen Moray Chardonnay Cask (similar price) is a good look for something funkier. For decent peat, alas, you have to go up to $40 and Laphroaig or Ardbeg 10. Highland Park 12, still findable <$40, is the overall best all-rounder.

Though not focused on budget bottles per se I have a post on stocking a well-rounded single malt bar without breaking the bank on my blog that some may find useful. Elsewhere on the blog, I have reviews of most of the others mentioned above (all but the Dickel Rye).

There’s no real decent Armagnac or Calvados available <$40.


Thanks! Definitely agree that Old Grand-Dad is a solid bargain.

Forgot to mention this in my original post, but I’ve found that a bottle of Campari is typically $4 cheaper at Trader Joe’s than anywhere else ($19 vs. ~$24).

Never saw your question . . . just looked, and couldn’t find it . . . .

Wines are – IMHO – far more subjective than distillates, in no small part due to the myriad of options out there. Secondly, there is the issue of location: what might be available in, say, Manhattan will not be the same as what is available in the San Francisco Bay Area, let alone in Wichita. (This is not an issue that affects the majority of distillate brands, the new wave of “artisanal spirits” being the obvious exception.)

I would look at this List of 89 Champagnes Under $50 or this List of 60 Champagnes Under $50 (which contains very few duplicates from the first list). I have yet to find any from this list I truly disliked, though some I prefer more than others. That said, this is where the subjectivities of taste come into play.

1 Like

K&L is a good place to shop for Champagne or pretty much any French wine. Their direct imports are sometimes the best values on the market.


I keep finding ones that are exceptional values and then the price goes up. Ruinart, for example. Sometimes you can get good prices when a brand is trying to break into the US market or a particular state.

Roederer Estate and Gruet make some of the most Champagne-like domestic sparkling wines and you can find them at very reasonable prices.

@Jason - Much appreciated! Completely understand the subjectivity/geography comments, but these lists seem like great places to start. I don’t know much about champagne, to be honest, but am eager to learn.

@robert - Thanks, bobby! Will definitely look into those labels. Appreciate the thoughts.

Okay, I get it. Thank you. And thanks for the links, they will definitely help!

Thanks for responding @Jason.

This is great. Thanks Robert.

I told a friend I was interested in learning more about wines (I’m a vodka girl). He used to have a good sized collection, but sold most of them. He said he was tired of worrying about temperatures, storage, theft, etc. His suggestion was to go a place in my neighborhood - like Osteria Mozza - who sells some nicer wines by the glass, sit at the bar and order different glasses. This way we’re not spending a lot on one bottle and finding out we don’t like it. This is not a cheap experiment, but helpful.

Now I really wish we had paid more attention to my poor stepdad when he was going on and on, trying to teach us about wines & champagnes - Instead of standing there with beach towels over our shoulders, rolling our eyes and waiting for him to take a breath, so we could escape to the beach or other parts. It would have been a less expensive lesson too, as the wines were in our house! Oh sigh…

Okay, I got confused. All the quotes and links got me turned around :confused:. Thanks @President_Mochi for the links! And thanks again @Jason for the insight.

We have a free day and are off to go window shopping & eating. Looking forward to catching up with you guys later.

Happy Eating… And drinking!

Tastings at wine shops are a cheaper way to try a lot of wines.




1 Like

My presumption is that you live in the greater LA area . . .

In addition to the three stores Robert mentioned, you might want to check out

In Santa Ana, https://www.winex.com/default.php
In Santa Monica, http://wineexpo.com
In Signal Hill (Long Beach area): https://thewinecountry.com
In Costa Mesa, https://www.hitimewine.net
In LA, http://www.larchmontvillagewine.com
In West Hollywood, http://www.du-vin.net/index.php
In Manhattan Beach, http://www.manhattanfinewines.com

there is something else that may help you: how you buy wine.

I would recommend you find a wine retailer who has a truly knowledgable staff. Try to describe the type(s) of wines you like, and don’t like, and see what they recommend . . . then, go back – whether you liked the wine or not! – and tell the sales rep what you thought of the wine. The more they understand your tastes, the better their recommendations to you will be.

In an ideal world, of course, every store would have knowledgeable employees, but in a day where most wine is purchased at supermarkets, stores like BevMo, Cost Plus, Target, Sam’s Club and Costco – well, let’s just say you need to go to a real wine merchant.

Or, actually, several. I recommend that you buy no more than 66% of your wine from one retailer, and spread the rest around among a handful of other stores. The reasons for this are serious: 1) no one store can carry everything; 2) every store specializes in something different – one may (e.g.) focus on Italian wines, another on California, or wines from Down Under, etc., etc., etc. If you only frequent one store, you are limited to that store’s inventory.


Oh yes, for me of course. But I try to think up fun date ideas. A wine tasting would bore the husband. But sitting at the mozzarella bar at O.M., eating cheeses and trying wines might get him on board.

Thanks for taking the time @Jason. Really good advice. We actually live close to Larchmont and W. Hollywood. Those locations will work well.

Also close by: Domaine LA has fun and casual tastings on Sunday afternoons (sometimes w/ cheese, sometimes w/ very good food vendors—BBQ, bahn mi, oysters, etc): http://domainela.com

Gruet is my go-to-open-at-any-time sparkler. Very good QPR. I usually get mine @ Topline in Glendale for around $12 a bottle. Since they are located in a small warehouse on San Fernando Road (vs a prime & $$ retail location), their prices on everything are great across the board. http://www.toplinewine.com/home.html

Thanks! I thought of but didn’t mention them. Really friendly and helpful. The staff also put nice care into wrapping gift bottles.

I knew they did tastings but didn’t realize it was all that. It certainly puts my friend’s idea in a much more expensive and maybe less fun light :grin:.


their tastings are usually around $15 for wine and food and yes, really friendly folks and they always have an interesting selection of wine. Also, I believe they recently started a $5 tasting on Friday nites @ 5pm (which I should have gone to while I was still working @ Cahuenga/Melrose).