Let's face it, we'd all love to be on the local, sustainable, organic bandwagon and say we shop at the co-op exclusively, but no denying an entire bag of groceries seems to come to a mere, magical $32 every time at Trader Joe's. We'd all love to shop at our local wine shop, too, but bottles under $10 might as well be on the endangered species list in some neighborhoods. Having to delve into the wine department of this California chain recently for a side project, I found some a few bottles worth snagging by the case. These wines may not be available at every Trader Joe's, but I found them at most. Don't expect earth-shattering revelations upon first sip, just solid wines that taste exactly how they're supposed to taste -- at a great, 2004 price.
Santa Rita 120 merlot ($6.99): Chile makes the affordable red wines that Napa and Sonoma couldn't possibly achieve due to land demand alone. Santa Rita has a few different tiers of wine, and this is their lowest-priced label. This merlot has juicy black fruit and is light enough to serve before or without food.
Archeo nero d'Avola ($4.99): TJ's always seems to have some southern Italian unpolished gem hiding on the shelf, and it's worth $5 a bottle to try and find it. Nero d'Avola will remind you of syrah, without the thick, overly dry berry taste you get on the cheap end of syrah. This wine has a plummy edge to the berry flavors, with a little bit of spice and soft finish.
Vieille Tour La Roche Bordeaux ($6.99): There was a time -- OK, a loooong time ago -- that cheap Bordeaux littered wine shops. This quintessentially French bottle has higher-toned fruit with a little more acid. Put it in a decanter and see what your guests say.