Discerning tastes and an economic downturn are fighting, and it looks like declining pockets are winning. But for wine drinkers who've gotta have it, but haven't got enough for it, there has to be a solution that doesn't include turning off the cable.

Discerning tastes and an economic downturn are fighting, and it looks like declining pockets are winning. But for wine drinkers who've gotta have it, but haven't got enough for it, there has to be a solution that doesn't include turning off the cable.

To find out, we headed to the home of "Two-Buck Chuck," Trader Joe's, where an entire line of wines sells for $3.39 a bottle.

Sure, it's cheap wine you can actually drink, said Pete Saas, the Easton store's "first mate" (assistant manager). But double that investment on a $7 or $8 bottle and you'll really get your money's worth, Saas said.

"They honestly taste at least twice that, if not more," Saas said, which means they're perfect for sipping and respectable enough to bring to a dinner party. He highlighted his three favorites, including the store's first organic selection.


Trader Joe's Grower's Reserve Zinfandel (2007)

Region: Paso Robles, California

Cost: $6.49

Flavors: Rich and full-bodied with chewy tannins

Goes well with: Hearty big game and heavy red meat

Who'll enjoy it: Someone looking for a thick red wine with teeth

Pete Saas' advice: "For an organic zinfandel, California, high-quality, $6.49 a bottle - phenomenal. We've been trying for a long time to get an organic that's under our label."


Napa River Merlot (2004)

Region: Napa Valley, California

Cost: $6.49

Flavors: Smooth and rich essences of black cherry and oak, with a medium body

Goes well with: Saucy pasta or pizza, or barbecue

Who'll enjoy it: New red wine drinkers, or those looking for Napa-quality wine on an Ohio budget

Pete Saas' advice: "Generally, you can't find any Napa wines for under $12 or $13. And the quality is there - we've taste-tested them next to Napa-quality wines ... and they stand right up to them."


Honey Moon Viognier (2006)

Region: Northern California

Cost: $7.99

Flavors: Sweet and crisp with aromas of honeysuckle and peach

Goes well with: Sushi or spicy foods

Who'll enjoy it: Those making the transition from white zinfandel

Pete Saas' advice: "Viognier is often described as a great segue-way wine. It's sweet, so it's not going to be like icky wine to [the unfamiliar], and it tastes really good. And it's just really beautiful, too. You can tell I'm passionate about it."