|A price you won't see again, even in California.|
We called it 'Two Buck Chuck', but Charles Shaw wines always sold for $2.99 at my store here in Kansas City. Pricing varies based on state-by-state liquor taxes and transportation costs. According to NBC, the highest price was $3.78 in TJ's stores in Ohio.
Still, Trader Joe's was desperate to hold the original $1.99 price as long as possible in California. I'm sure they squeezed Fred Franzia as hard as he squeezed his grapes, in order to control that cost.
Honestly, I had trouble recommending it at any price. All batch processed wines vary, and while I occasionally tasted a Charles Shaw wine and thought it was decent at the price, I more often found it undrinkable. There are more than a few people who call it 'Two Buck Upchuck', but I think that's a cheap shot. (I did occasionally cook with it, and you can usually use it as the basis for a decent sangria.)
We sold several $5-$10 wines that were easily twice as good as our $2.99 Charles Shaw stuff. I always advised customers to buy something twice as good and drink half as much of it.
However, if you're really desperate for the cheapest possible booze, buy one bottle and taste it. If you like it, immediately buy a case or two. If you don't like it, try again in a month. It really varies quite a lot from batch to batch.
According to the unusually loquacious Alison Mochizuki, spokeswoman for Trader Joe’s: