Moral: It is possible to get a good house wine for $5.99 or less if you--or your friends--know where to find the bargains.
If, however, you are looking for something in the $6.99 to $9.99 range, here are a few suggestions from Estelle, LeAnn, Ron, and me. Note: Wine prices can vary by several dollars from store to store, and you may have to try several sources to find the under-$10 price. We're from the Chicago suburbs, but since these stores are chains, I'm assuming you can find similar deals just about everywhere in the U.S.
Clos du Bois Chardonnay, Costco
Clean Slate Riesling, Binny's, Sam's Wines
Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Binny's (now on sale for $8.99)
Folie à Deux "Menage à Trois" blend, SavWay, Binny's, Target
Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Binny's (now on sale for $7.99)
Rex Goliath Cabernet Sauvignon, Binny's, Sam's Wines
Alamos Malbec, Fresh Market, Binny's, Sam's Wines
Tin Roof Merlot, Whole Foods, Sam's Wines
Bogle Petite Syrah, Costco, Fresh Market
Gnarly Head Zinfandel, Binny's, Sam's Wines
For the Wall Street Journal's wine writers, a budget wine's price ranges from $10 to $16, more or less. (Wall Street, it will be remembered, is in New York, where only 13.9% of metro area housing is affordable--up from 5.1% two years ago. Perhaps we define "budget" differently in Chicago.) If you're looking for wines in that price range, check out "Buying Wine on a Dime" by David Kesmodel, along with "Budget Wines," an annotated list of 25 under-$16 wines recommended by five experts.
The garage door just went up, and the dogs ran downstairs. Sounds like it's time to stop typing and start tasting.