I am a very inexperienced wine drinker. In fact, I've had wine maybe three times in my life (if you include champagne). I've never liked wine either, but I am attempted to broaden my horizons in the new year and would love some suggestions. If my taste in other alcohol would help to point us in the right direction, I prefer fruity drinks where I can't taste the alcohol. Screwdrivers and Melonballs are two of my favorite drinks. I generally only drink vodka or rum drinks. Does anyone have any suggestiosn for a good wine I could try (preferably less than $20 a bottle and easy to find in my local Pinellas County stores)?
It's hard to answer that type of question, so many wines out there are good enough to start a lifetime of exploration.
2 from France that are easy to drink (IMO and YMMV )
Red : Beaujolais (Brouilly)
White : Alsace (Gewürztraminer )
I like both of Max's suggestions and would add Barbera and Nero d'Avola from Italy, and Toro from Spain for red. For white I would add German Riesling and make the specific reccomendation of "Dr. L" -- but a lot would do the trick; also, New Zealand Sauvignon Banc and make the specific reccomendation of Kim Crawford which is available almost everwhere, usually for under $15/bottle.
i'm a relatively recent wine convert myself, after a career of miller lites and fruity drinks.
for me personally, pinot noir is what finally helped me enjoy wine. since it's so popular now, there are tons of pretty good pinots readily available. they tend to taste like they have less alcohol, and can be very "light" and smooth for a red wine.
another little piece of advice is to look for coppola's wines. i know they're not terribly popular with wine "purists" but i've found them to be the most consistent and approachable for beginning wine drinkers. and they're relatively cheap.
Start with the no-brainer wine here.... Riesling.... Start with German Kabinett ripeness... it's lower-alcohol (in general), and has a sweet edge. 2004 and especially 2005 are great recent vintages to try.
Also check-out Moscato d'Asti, a sparkling wine with a sweet edge to it that almost everyone likes...
Also try a dessert wine.... Sauternes is great place to start.... do a half bottle from a good vintage. Look for 2001 or 2003 in half bottles around $25.00... great to get your feet wet with this delicious wine.
I love gewurztraminer, but there's so many bad or "unexciting" ones out there... riesling is alot more abundant and predictable for a novice to start with...
Can't say about Pinellas County although on the other coast (palm beach, broward counties), there are numerous great wine shops. I started out learning wines in PB County almost 20 years ago.
With the size of the metro area I'm sure Tampa Bay will have some great shops too. I would strongly recommend that you find the very largest selection possible and then patronize that store and meet some wine clerks who know what they're talking about. Alot of clerks don't :)... then you can use them to build your knowledge base.
Most of us drink wines because they go extremely well with meals ... for example I rarely just sip wine for the sake of sipping though I consume fair amount of wine every month.
If you are a 'steak' person that should be no problem to suggest some good red wines that go with it.
If you are a 'seafood' or pasta guy - some other wines would pair better with it.
You should pick a food that you love and try to find a wine that will enhance this dish even more. That would be the best place to start your wine 'appreciation class'.
When you finally reach the point when you recognize that the meal is not the same anymore without the wine - you have graduated ;)
Two wines come immediately to my mind:
1.) Good GR Rieslings, at the Spälese level, or above
2.) Caymus Conundrum - friuit-forward, good acid, and a good floral nose.
Do not serve either too cold, or you'll miss what they have to offer. You can find both at, or near your price point. As for what is available to you - well, I have no clue.