Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Wine World's Best Buy

Though I can not detect eight different flavors within one sip of Cabernet, I do have a good wine palate, and I was skeptical a couple years ago when I read that a new vintner was attempting to create quality products at Boone’s Farm prices. However, those products are now on store shelves and I am happy to report that the goal has been met.

Each bottle produced by Oak Leaf Vineyards retails for $2.97, and is available – prepare to gag, wine snobs of the world – exclusively at Wal-Mart. That second fact is something you would never guess from the taste (their wines have won awards at two highly regarded competitions this year, namely the Florida State Fair International Wine Competition and the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition) or from the label (which depicts an oak tree progressing through the seasons).

I know from personal behavior that it’s hard to like wine without developing at least a bit of snobbery, but trust me, if you have any wine snobbery inside of you, it’s time to open your mind or else both your taste buds and your wallet will be missing out. After trying four of Oak Leaf’s offerings, here are my takes.

Cabernet Sauvignon: This was my favorite. It had a peppery taste which provided that classic Cab spiciness, yet its fruit flavors were more noticeable than with most Cabs. Also, it felt smoother on the tongue than most – there were discernible tannins, yet my mouth did not dry up and pucker. This wine is an ideal match for steak, so if you’re looking to craft a really memorable evening at home, go here on my sister-in-law’s blog and you will find the perfect entrĂ©e to pair it with.

Pinot Grigio/Chardonnay: For me, this is what white wine is all about, so you might want to know that I’m a red wine guy who opts for whites only when I’m dining on nice seafood or sitting outside on balmy days that put me in the mood for something light and chilled. Naturally, the Pinot tempered the Chard’s oak while the Chard kept the finished product from being overly sweet, but that’s far from the whole story. This wine had a crisper texture than most true Chardonnays I’ve consumed, and as far as flavors are concerned, it tasted of citrus with apple underneath. Just right for sipping beside the pool. If you care to know, the blend is 51% Pinot, 49% Chard.

Chardonnay: Tasting like a mixture of a little pear with a lot of vanilla, this had less oak than the majority of Chardonnays out there. The only drawback – and it was so minor I hesitate to even bring it up – was that its texture started out silkier than I prefer in a white. But this was only slightly so, and when I reopened the bottle the next night, the silkiness had moved to my favorite level: noticeable-but-not-distracting. Plus, the wine was just as fresh and flavorful on the second night as on the first one.

Merlot: I give a definite thumbs-up to the first three wines, but not to this one. Its fruit flavors were there, but sat several rows behind its acidity, which simply is not the way a Merlot is supposed to be. It did taste better the second night, but the drawback remained and I see no reason to buy it when the others meet such higher standards.

It’s easy to sum up Oak Leaf Vineyards. The first point is that its wines (other than the Merlot) will not let you down when it comes to enjoyable, everyday drinking. The deal-clincher, is that it sells for a great deal less than many more recognizable wines. If you want something that is dependable, tasty and affordable, why purchase Woodbridge when Oak Leaf is better, not to mention when you can bring home three bottles of Oak Leaf for the same amount of cash as one Woodbridge?

PS: Oak Leaf also makes a White Zinfandel, but I did not try it for the simple reason that I can not stand White Zinfandel.

PPS: If you’re still hesitant, maybe you will feel better knowing that Oak Leaf’s winemaker, Mario Pulido, has received good marks in the past for his work with Gallo and Turning Leaf.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks John for your post on wine! I love wine and I will give this a shot esp if it will save me some money!!