Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Walmart wine

By Jessica Yadegaran
Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 at 4:35 pm in Uncategorized.

Anyone tried Wal-mart’s answer to Charles Shaw? The big box store’s under $3 label goes by the name Oak Leaf, and whispers in the wine blogosphere indicate it’s “not that bad.” I believe they make a Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

I’m thinking of doing a public blind taste off between Oak Leaf and Charles Shaw. So I need some preliminary comments about the wines. Has anyone tried them who can give me some opinions? Share them here. Thanks!

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  • Amber

    oh just the thought of turning to Walmart instead of Trader Joes for some cheap wine hurts my heart LOL

  • http://ibabuzz/corkheads Jessica

    Exactly. People are so attached to Trader Joe’s and their Two Buck Chuck that we should do the tasting and see what the blind results are. Any other opinions on this?

  • Dave

    I tried Oak Leaf and the Chardonnay wasn’t too bad — considering that expectation aren’t that high on a $2 wine. You can pull off an okay white at that price, sometimes, if you are lucky. But that’s much harder to do so with a red. Oak Leaf Merlot was overcropped, stemmy, and barely drinkable.
    Look forward to you “recession” wine tasting!

  • Dennis

    There is a article, dated September 7, 2007, in Business 2.0 Magazine interviewing Fred Franzia whose company makes Two Buck Chuck. In this interview Mr. Franzia states that he was in talks with Wal-Mart regarding creating a similar wine for them. It is possible that this is the Oak Leaf brand now carried at the stores.

    If it tastes good … drink it!

  • Jessica Yadegaran

    So you’re saying Franzia may be making the competition’s wines?

  • Shannon

    I’ve had Charles Shaw (red) on many occassion. I’m not too picky, and I thought it was exceptable; however, I was a little unsure about a Walmart wine, but more than happy to give it a try @ $3.00. I thought it tasted very nice, and even my snobby white wine drinking friends have switched over. Good job Oak Leaf.

  • Jessica Yadegaran

    Thanks Shannon

  • jane

    Hi. I tried the Oak Leaf wine…….Horrible!! Bitter taste. But then again, I’m a semi-sweet person. I don’t like too sweet wines and I sure don’t like dry. Why do wines not say what flavor and whether it’s semi-sweet or not. I’ve seen “sweet” or “dry” but no ‘semi-sweets’. Just my opinion. :-)

  • http://ibabuzz/corkheads Jessica

    Hi Jane. The best thing to do is ask your wine merchant or server if the wine is “off dry.” You’ll typically see that term when referring to sparkling wines or Champagne (demi-sec). As for reds, the term “fruity” is also a good indication that it might be a bit sweeter than other dry reds. Often when our brains detect a lot of fruit in a wine we interpret it as sweet. Hope that helps.

  • Marianne Ames

    I have tried Oak Left Pino Grigio/Chardonnay blend and it is FABULOUS for the money! Great summer sipping wine especially here in Arizona – – very refreshing and tasty!

  • http://ibabuzz/corkheads Jessica

    Good to know! What other Chard-Grigio blends do you like? How did you stumble upon this blog?

  • Ed

    Tried the Cabernet and was satisfied. Wine was well balanced and not too thin. Remarkably, the wine wasn’t too acid, which I have found common in inexpensive wines.
    It passed my test and I will buy again. I would like some info on who is bottling this for WalMart. If you hear anything let me know.

  • Beatrice M. Forniss

    I’m really impressed with Walmart’s Oak Leaf Chard, I was really surprised at the taste and flavor. I was extremely satisfied and fooled a friend during a wine tasting. It’s a good deal for the price and yes, I am a kendal Jackson, Robert Mondavi kind of girl. It’s a fun wine. It’s remarkable for the price.

  • http://ibabuzz/corkheads Jessica

    Thanks Beatrice. What did your friend think it was?

  • Marlene

    I love the Chardonnay/Pino Grigio blend! When I first bought it, I was expecting it to be terrible and I was pleasantly surprised! Love it!!! In fact, I went back that next weekend and bought 5 more bottles. You can’t beat the price! I turned another girlfriend on to it and she loves it also!

  • Fred M

    Oak Leaf Vineyards (Ripon, Calif.) does not really exist as such; instead it is a production facility of The Wine Group, Inc. Oak Leaf wine is the private label non-vintage wine marketed by The Wine Group (the box wine people) only to Wal-Mart stores. (Not E&J Gallo as some reviews contend.) Headquartered in San Francisco (about 70 miles west of Ripon), The Wine Group’s labels include such well known brands as Corbett Canyon, Inglenook, Mogen David, Franzia, Almaden and Glen Ellen wines. The firm recently relocated their operations center from San Francisco to Livermore, Calif., about mid-way between San Francisco and Ripon. Privately held, The Wine Group was once part of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of New York. And being privately held, its operation and products are kept pretty much secret. It doesn’t even have a corporate website, although it does have brand-related sites. Strange for the second largest wine producer in California (more than 40 million cases produced annually), second only to Gallo. Oak Leaf wines are very similar to Bronco’s Charles Shaw wines (affectionately nicknamed “Two Buck Chuck”) which sells for $1.99 at Trader Joe’s stores. Headquartered in Monrovia, Calif., Trader Joe’s 300 stores has sold millions of cases of what the trade calls “extreme value wines.” Due to transportation charges to outlying states, the price can be a dollar more. The Charles Shaw label is a brand of the Bronco Wine Company (Ceres, Calif.) owned by John and Fred Franzia (formerly of Franzia Brothers wines.) The Franzias (nephews of Ernest Gallo) sold the Franzia brand name to The Wine Group and started Bronco Wines and they are competitors. The Franzia family, which now has no relationship to Franzia brand boxed wine, has made wine in California for over 100 years. Bronco is California’s third largest wine producer. Oak Leaf Vineyards (which doesn’t even have its own telephone number) is one of hundreds of wine brands bottled by The Wine Group in Ripon. It does not release the private labels of the wines it makes but there are many. Oak Leaf wines come in five varietals: Cabenet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio/Chardonnay and White Zinfandel. The standard 750-ml bottles with an artificial cork have an elegant label that shows four seasonal oak trees, one for Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. We are not one to place a lot of importance on awards since it seems all wineries get them. But Oak Leaf Vineyards did win a gold medal at the prestigious Florida State International Wine Competition and Silver and Bronze at the 2008 San Francisco Wine Competition. Incredible for a $3 wine! And the Summer-2008 edition of “O at Home” magazine (an Oprah Winfrey publication) featured Oak Leaf wine on its cover with the tag line: “The $3 bottle of wine that will blow you away.” On page 19, they picture Oak Leaf Chardonnay and call it “The steal of the season.” I like the Cabernet Sauvignon best myself. It is a full favored, medium body wine with a fruity aroma of berry, spice, vanilla and oak …pretty smooth and no unpleasant aftertaste. This is not a sophisticated wine but a terrific value at $2.97. Wine snobs won’t like it because it is inexpensive and comes from Wal-Mart. But the fact is that it is better than one would expect. I certainly have had $10-$15 French wine far worse. Wal-Mart sells out of it fast, so I buy several bottles whenever they have it. So far, it has been consistently good …a problem with low price wines. (One bottle may be good, the next not so good.) The Oak Leaf brand is perfect for an everyday wine to compliment dine-in dinner and snacks on the patio. Goes with almost anything. I rate it an “80″ out of 100.

  • http://ibabuzz/corkheads Jessica

    Thanks Fred. We’ll be doing an Oak Leaf/Charles Shaw taste off in the near future.

  • clint

    thanks Fred
    appreciate all the info
    I will try O.L. too

    what is your favorite value wine?

  • http://ibabuzz/corkheads Jessica

    Yeah Fred, what do you like?
    I always seem to turn to Chilean/New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

  • Tamara

    Tried the cabernet savignon last night…pleasantly surprised…very smooth. On par with many $12-$14 wines.

  • Ed

    I was drinking Yellow Tail for several years because I really liked the mellon, vanilla, oak flavors (and price); however, after drinking the Walmart Oak Leaf Chardonnay for a few months, the taste of the Yellow Tail was more acidic and bitter than I had thought. I’m hoping to find out where Oak Leaf comes from. I like it as much as a $10-$13 bottle of Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay.

  • Jessica Yadegaran

    Thanks Ed. Wow. Maybe this is a story. Read Fred’s post above to find out where it comes from.

  • Jon from Dallas

    I buy my Oak Leaf wines at the Neighborhood Walmart in Uptown Dallas. This is no ordinary Walmart, for it sits squarely on the edge of downtown in an upscale urban locale. The clientele is young, professional and well-healed.

    The beer and wine section has always done a stiff business, but Oak Leaf has brought new dimension to the wine sales. When the brand hit the store several months ago, it sat on the shelf for a couple weeks without notice. I thought the price was mislabeled, but I tried the Gregio and the Cab anyway.

    Oh my! This was a helluva wine…never mind the cheap price. I immediately stocked-up. Soon Oak Leaf had their own shelf at the end of the wine aisle, but that was then. Today the stockers don’t even bother with shelves. They just leave the cases on the freight pallet and wheel-in the stuff by the truckload! There is one stocker assigned to the Oak Leaf shipment conveniently located next to the self check-out. All day long the kid stands there zipping-open the cases with his trusty box cutter and watches the bottles fly out of the store.

    I love fine wines and don’t mind paying $25 or more for a nice bottle, but for a nightly table wine Oak Leaf is the ticket. One curious note: While the Oak Leaf label is handsome and almost sophisticated in design, there’s no vintage date. At $2.97, what’s the point?


  • Wes

    I love Walmart’s Oak Leaf wine! the Chardonnay! I can’t tell much a difference between this wine and a $10 bottlie of wine. I recommend it!

  • dt benjamin

    Walmart’s Oak Leaf is the BEST!!!! I have fooled the most savvy connoiseurs with this wine……Don’t let the price deceive you—this product is PHENOMENAL!!!!!!

  • dt benjamin

    This product is PHENOMENAL!!!!! I have served it to the biggest wine snobs on the planet and they all thought they were drinking a $100 bottle of wine! What a great surprise! The Pinot Grigio is Outstanding!!!! Don’t tell too many people about it because the price will go thru the roof!

  • Patricia from New Jersey

    I am an avid fan of “Two Buck Chuck”, but I am curious about Wal-Mart Oak Leaf wines. Does anyone know where the wine is being sold in New Jersey? I plan to serve it at our next cookout.



  • Jessica

    Hopefully someone will know, Patricia. I did a search for you and found nothing. Good luck.

  • Jen

    My friend swears by the Walmart wines. She convinced me to pick up a couple bottles. The Sauvingon Blanc was the first I tried and it was just awful, it tastes like it was fermented in rubber, something very wrong. I trust my friend so I figured it was just a bad bottle. I am trying the Merlot tonight and it is actually quite nice, a bit lighter in flavor than most merlots but still quite good and drinkable.

  • Badvegan

    Tried the shiraz after an above post. Make no mistake this is a true american shiraz made in the new world style, it is as different than a syrah as one could get. For $3 thats not a bad thing.

  • Jessica

    Right, it’s a shiraz all way.

  • Frank Peel

    Having lived in France and Switzerland for many years,
    and drinking red wine with my dinner every day because
    the Harvard Medical School says that red wine from a
    cold climate in moderation is excellent for very many
    and different health reasons, I am absolutely blown
    away by the Walmart house label, Oak Leaf, which sells
    in Florida for under three dollars and in Arizona for
    under two dollars, different reds, whites and roses.

    This is a magnificent contribution to human happiness
    and good health by Walmart, probably a larger contribution
    to health reform than the hopeless mess now being
    mangled to pieces by Obama and Congress. As Will
    Rogers said, when Congress is in session, no American
    is safe.

    I defy anyone to show me anywhere in the world outside the USA, any large production wine of comparable quality for less than three or four times
    the Walmart price, and often even more than that. In Norway you’ll pay
    ten times the price.

    To your good health…… with Oak Leaf.

    Frank Peel
    Florida and Switzerland

  • Jessica

    Wow, that’s the best endorsement I’ve ever heard. Cheers to you!

  • Deborah Wilson

    Just discovered these Walmart wines last week! The Merlot and the Chardonnay. Just lovely wines, both taste and price wise. Will definitely try the rest. The only problem with this is I really really like shopping at Target. Long story how I ended up in Walmart, but bye bye Target.

  • Don

    OK…..I’ve had the Two Buck Chuck for several years, also have a good selection of wines here. I purchased a bottle of Oak Leak Savignon Blanc from WalMart for $1.97 and since then have bought about 12 more. I am mostly a red wine drinker but Oak Leafs SB is great through the pallet. Also their malbec is another outstanding one. Ho long do you think this good thing will last????

    Wining in Norh Carolina

  • chuck

    Okay, you’re going to laugh (or yawn) at my automotive analogy, but it bears hearing:

    I once asked a colleague as to why – just WHY general motors was making a Cadillac version of their suburban/Yukon vehicles which truly held their segment in a historically dominant fashion.

    His answer was – the plant was being underutilized – meaning it had excess capacity and was hence not being leveraged hard enough.

    Okay. I can see that. Add another model and get more use out of your expensive tool (the plant/workers).

    Click your heels and come back to Wal-Mart wine country:

    You have to admit, these buyers at Wal-Mart are intelligent and shrewd.

    They looked at the challenge of introducing a house brand wine, analyzed the wine industry and concluded that there was a lot of excess capacity.

    Crudely translated – that meant the “market” could only absorb a certain amount of big label, mid price to pricey wine variants.

    More specifically, even though Sterling Chardonnay is a pretty good mid priced bottle, the market only wants so much of it and the producers are left (literally) with grapes on the vine (excess capacity).

    Enter Wal-Mart geniuses.

    They see this situation and enter into clandestine agreements to purchase that excess capacity without disclosing the source.

    At their plant, they carefully mix and blend these batches to come up with a palatably (is that a new word?), semi consistent concoction they can call a pinot girigio, or chardonnay, or Shiraz or cab sav.

    This is my conclusion, because after sampling multiple bottles over a year, I have determined palatable inconsistencies with their labels – which in themselves are inconsistent with industry standards (translation: a bottle of Sterling chardonnay tastes consistent 90% of the time) – Wal-Mart labels are much less so.

    Interpretation: they are purchasing industry excess capacity and bottling it under their house name.

    How else can you conclude it?

    $2.97 for a bottle of Shiraz that tastes 75 – 80 % as good as a $15 bottle????

    I’ll suffer that trade anytime.

    Sure, I’ve had a bad (inconsistent bottle or two), but that risk (IMO) outweighs the benefit.

    Here’s mud-in-yer eye!

  • Katylee

    I love the Cabernet. Personally, after returning from a 6 year stint in Europe, I was dismayed at the cost of a decent bottle here in the states. The Oak Leaf wine is quite acceptable, and I am happy to have it sans pretentiousness!

  • Jerry M

    Oak leaf is a very good and you cant beat the price☺☺☺☺☺☺☺

  • Elaine Horetski

    Just stumble on your page glad I did. Going to Walmart
    tomorrow going to buy one of each….Thanks everyone

  • ppgp

    thought a $3.oo wine must be awful, but having tasted the Oak Leaf Chardonnay when i first arrived in Fla, and was having it at many parties, loved it. Really loved it!. Ususally i would buy better wine because cheap wine gives me a terrible headache, but this is a winner. Have been buying it for years. Trying to find out what it would cost to ship a case.

  • Cheryl St. Germaine

    Bought the Oak Leaf Sweet Red to cook the mushrooms in, took a swig and ended up drinking the whole bottle. Next day…went and bought another. So Good!!! I just told my best friend in France about this wine and she laughed. Wait til she tries it! It will blow her mind. 2.97 a bottle!!! And, tastes better than some of the 30. dollar wine I have bought.

  • Christine

    I moved from Upstate NY to Texas a couple of years ago, and was sad to see so little NY wine on the shelves here. I had my NY favorites, and what I had tasted from Texas so far just didn’t fit the bill. I almost didn’t buy the OL for two reasons, its is dirt cheap, and I like med sweet red wine that does not have the oak aged taste, so sweet red could potentially be a oaky tasting syrup. I figured for $2.77, what do I have to lose… I have purchased many bottles since, I love this wine, and have turned several people on to it. It is light and smooth, a lot of fun to drink. Tastes best chilled. I have not had a bad bottle. I do not want Walmart to know that I would pay more for this 😉

  • Larry

    I bought two bottles of the Chardonnay, with the thought: Well, it’s really cheap because Walmart is keeping the price down. After trying the first glass,and then opening the second bottle to make sure the first had not gone bad, it went down the drain. Other folks who left comments apparently like it and I really am happy for them. But it’s just not working for me.

  • Bill Loftin

    I have purchased and consumed Charles Shaw for years and always thought it was a great wine and not just for the price. When you get up to about $10.00 or more for the production wines you can expect more than Charles Shaw but not in all cases. We (my wife and I) have been buying Fox Brook for the last couple of years for our table and daily consumption wine and found it to be generally a little smoother and more vanilla in taste. I just tried the Walmart brand (Oak Leaf) today and find it to be acceptable as a table Chardonnay but a little more tart than either Fox Brook or Charles Shaw. Wine is an individual pallet and i think it’s a good value as production wines go.

  • Bill Loftin

    I agree for the most part of Chucks analysis. Just a side note. I have purchase and consumed some really fine wines over the years. In spite of the outrageously good wines i have also found that the grapes don’t crush the same every year and in spite of attempts to always get the exact blend there will be variations. It’s not always a case of source it is more often a case of conditions of growth. Here, Here for Trefethen and Rombauer. Just pull out the big bills and enjoy!