We've spent many trips to France finding what we call everyday red wines - nothing fancy, just a mellow, relaxing drink. We often just look at what the locals are buying in the supermarket - Cotes du Rhone, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvigon reds for as little as 2 euro a bottle, thats about £1.90 or just under $3. In fact we just bought a load back in the car! Not that any of this is helpful to you in the USA!
It really depends whether it is a wine to have with a meal and what sort of meal, on its own, everyday drinking, special occasion....
I was once given a case of Alsace wines, which were pure heavenly.
For drinking on its own on a summer evening, I love white zinfandel.
With reds, I like the cabernet sauvignon varieties and find I get the best taste/spend ratio by looking out for certified varieties from Bulgaria and similar places.
Bollinger vintage is a good champagne and my general favourite. I vastly prefer it to Dom Perignon, even though it is half the price. The best ever bubbly I've had is Mumm Millesime, which I found in a wine warehouse in Calais. I've never managed to find it again