Tips for ordering wine
But I've recently read two posts on ordering wine in restaurants that contain good advice and are worth keeping in mind.
First, there's Waiter Rant with How to order Wine Without Looking Like an Asshole. More of an etiquette guide for the novice wine drinker or, more so, the arrogant wine drinker who doesn't know what the hell he's doing but thinks he looks good (and the masculine pronoun is very appropriate here, as this is behavior rarely exhibited by women). To sum up: don't show off and don't show up the waiter; as the Waiter says, "Its wine, not the Blood of Christ. Don't worship it. Enjoy it."
Second, Meg Hourihan's How to order a good bottle of wine. Interesting strategy, that doesn't require wine knowledge and makes picking a bottle more of a logic puzzle: "What I look for is a slight discrepancy, like if there's something that's a bit older than its peers but whose price doesn't seem to be correspondingly high." Quick tip: pick the wine that's mid-range in age and price.
Or stay home and just make your own. With a kit, it's simpler than brewing beer and when I made two batches a couple years ago I think I priced it out at $2/bottle. And that was buying the bottles new. Save your bottles to reuse them and subsequent batches will be even cheaper.