Like everything else, if it's cheap, it's usually cheap for a reason. If it's really cheap and popular and suddenly morphs into a wine of cult status for less than $3/btl, there is a problem. The sheer volume makes it nearly impossible to guarantee that the wine is made from good grapes, noble labor sources or without a-lot of chemical adjustments.
I didn't want to be impressed; I went in with a critical eye, looking for flaws and was pleasantly surprised.
Trader Joe's is one of the largest wine retailers in the country, which gives them tremendous bargaining power. With the guarantee of volume, they can negotiate for lower prices, giving them an edge over a smaller retailer.
Some of these great values are: the Mark West Pinot Noir ($9.99), which is well-balanced with lovely cherry fruit. Another good choice would be the Ravenswood wines, which are always crowd pleasures with their big, jammy fruit. TJ's carries both the Lodi Zinfandel ($10.99) and the Sonoma Zinfandel ($12.99).
My favorite wine was the 2002 La Loggio Barolo for $12.99. Barolo never costs $12.99 in fact Barolo tends to be very expensive. I was certain that this wine would be terrible, instead it was delicious; not the powerhouse, age-worthy, king that is Barolo but a good wine that I would drink again.
I finally found a flawed wine in the 2005 Il Valore Marchese Giovani Sangiovese ($3.99) it was sour and disjointed. However the 1995 D'Aquino Chianti Riserva ($5.99) was really good with bright, lively fruit and good smokiness. Another delightful value was the Marques de Caceras Rioja Blanc ($5.99) bright, crisp and clean, this was a great wine with last night's halibut dish.