Judy, youre in luck in living in the Bay Area where you have a good selection of almost anything in the world. At this price point, I can suggest several that you can easily find locally and which are made in big quantities that are widely distributed. Prices outside California may be 15 to 25% higher. This is the fall tasting season when importers are showcasing their new wines. I havent tasted the new vintage of several of these yet but expect them to be fine considering the quality of the respective vintages and producers. Ill try to give you a sense of the different styles rather than a specific description of the wine.
98 Falesco "Vitiano", $8 This is from Italys fast-improving Umbria region next to Tuscany, made from Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It will have a more acidity and structure than a Calif. wine. At the same time, this was a very ripe year and there should be plenty of explosive fruit here too. The highly regarded winemaker, Richard Coterella makes some very collectible, expensive cult wines too, but he really delivers quality for daily drinking too. Prior vintages Ive tasted can compete with wines twice the price. If you like it, buy a case before it disappears. Available at Wine Club.
98 Laurel Glen Calif. "Reds", $8 Winemaker Patrick Campbell makes extremely long-lived Cabernet Sauvignon. Concerned about the lack of Calif. wines for every day drinking that would bring in new wine consumers, he created this blend. The corks are embossed with various party bosses, e.g., Mao. Good intensity and balance for such an inexpensive wine, with a bit more Petite Sirah in this years blend, lending more depth and spiciness. High on the pure deliciousness scale. Patricks a good friend, but Id drink his wine even if he werent.
98 Guigal Cotes du Rhone rouge, $8 Mostly Grenache in a soft-tannin, juicy style with lots of red cherry, strawberry, spice and a little earth. A great year in the Southern Rhone and one of the most consistent producers. Very versatile food wine, try this one with garlicky stuff.
98 Carchelo Jumilla Monastrell, $8 From an up and coming region of Spain that makes the most Australian style of wines in the old world. This one is mostly Mourvedre (Mataro or Monastrell) with lots of jammy black fruit, a lashing of buttery oak and a black pepper undertone. This producer also makes a Syrah thats a little more and also recommended.
98 Rosemount Australia Cab/Shiraz, $6 How can they make this much flavor at such a low price? Lots of ripe, round fruit upfront, low acid, and no flaws. Not a complex wine but a reliable value.
I cant get you all the way down to $5, but here are some crowd pleasers for a little more.
99 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc, $9 - A workhorse of a wine that puts many higher-priced SBs to shame. Attractive blend of ripe melon and gooseberry with grassiness and vibrant acidity.
99 Canyon Road Calif. Sauvignon Blanc, $7 Amazingly consistent year in and year out. Bright grapefruit and melon flavors with good acid balance and an almost imperceptible bit of sweetness in the finish to round it out and make it more friendly.
98 Travis Monterey Chardonnay, $9 Clean, crisp and fruit-driven with the zestiness typical of the Central Coast. As negociant Dan Kravitz said to me, "I cant afford to muck it up with new French oak at this price!" And, I think the wines better for it.
98 Vega Sindoa Navarra Chardonnay, $9 But if you love buttery oaky Chards, this Spanish one delivers at a steal. And, it has better balancing acidity than most Calif. Chardonnays at three times the price.