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Reply to "is it silly to ask....."

For reds that are widely available, lower in price and pretty consistant IMO:

Prices are general

Bogle Petite Sirah ($10)

Robert Mondavi Merlot and Cabernet

Cline Red Zinfandel ($15?)

Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel ($15) - Usually the best Zin for under $20 year after year

Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Cabernet (most of Kendall Jackson is not good, but this one is for the money ($20-$25) which is cheap for cabernet that's drinkable.

Some J Lohr

New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are some of the best white wines for the money.

Others will hopefully chime in, and there are SO many wines but the above produces a lot and are easily available. Any decent store will have them or be able to suggest something.