Choosing good and fruity red wine - need recommendations
I enjoy fruity red wine that is not too dry. Good example - some varieties of Shiraz from Australia, some Merlots and Cabernets from California. Generally, I noticed that the wines from the warmer climates are fruitier and less dry. Simple examples would Trader Joe's Shiraz or Whole Foods Shiraz from Australia - both are inexpensive, not very sophisticated, but match my preference.
I wanted to try better varieties at higher price points ($15-$20). However, whenever I go to the wine stores and ask about fruity wine that is not too dry, I always get recommendations that end up being very dry and not fruity at all. I guess I don't know how to explain my taste to the "experts" at the stores. They start talking about "big" and "bold" and "earthy", etc. Just a few days back, I asked for a fruity wine and got recommendation for Perrin & Fils Cotes du Rhone Villages 2007 which cost just 10.99. As usual, this wine ended up being just a bit fruity and very dry.
Beaujolais is what you should try, particularly from the communes such as Julienas. (Gamays from Touraine or the Loire will also be of interest--I think Eric Asimov from the Times wrote a column about them a few weeks back...easily checked on their blog site.) Since you live in NYC, apparently, check the BottleRocket store--they seem to favor this style of wine in many of their offerings. Other intensely fruity wines that may appeal are Grignolino or a well made Bardolino (Astor WInes has one that is reasonably priced, extremely fruity and not from a big commercial house.) I have found Freisas to often have an intense fruity quality (a bit too much for my taste.) Certain bottlings of Valpolicella will also work (it will depend on the vinification style of the maker.)
There are a lot of big, juicy California Zinfandels well within your price range that I believe you would like. IMO, this grape is the best of the California productions. Your wine shop can suggest the big ones to you, which I call cocktail wines because they are so big and fruity, they tend to overwhelm food. I’ve had several well-made but big Spanish Garnachas that you might prefer over French Grenache blends such as your Côtes du Rhône Villages.
Using the Matrix analogy: will it be the red pill or the blue pill? If you're curious and maven-like, take the red and start buying books and stick with Chowhound Wine. Learn a ton, so that you'll quickly be able to discern for yourself and know why.
If you're not inspired enough or not inherently maven-esque (no judgment), then go blue find a very talented wine retailer. Are you in NYC (LeoNYC)? I like Astor. Go to tastings. Tell them what you loved that you drank recently, and let them guide you to the next thing. Great retail wine shops make it easy.