The Winking Owl Chardonnay is a non-vintage $2.89 California wine sold by ALDI. The Winking Owl wines (produced by E & J Gallo) are the ALDI competitor to Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw wines or 2 Buck Chuck (produced by Bronco Wines). The back label mentions toasted oak as a flavor, so this Chardonnay sees some sort of oak conditioning, oak chips or possibly oak barrels (though at $2.89, oak chips are more likely). The Winking Owl is also listed as semi-sweet and medium to light bodied. Non-vintage wines use grapes from more than one harvest, when the grape yield is plentiful and the prices are down, buy a lot of juice and in years when yields are low and prices are up, buy only what you need. The alcohol content is 12%.
The color is a shiny and clean, golden wheat yellow. This is one of those wines where the aromas hit you when you are a foot away from the glass, the nose is a blend of ripe apple and pear, along with a little green apple Jolly Rancher candy. This is a light bodied Chardonnay, it’s slightly watery upfront, but builds as it goes along. It starts with Anjou pear, Yellow Delicious apple and a light, sweet taste that borders on butterscotch, which I suppose is what the back label was referring to with the toasted oak. There actually is a transition to the mid-palate (which you would not expect for an under $3 wine), which adds subdued, tart grapefruit and lime. The acidity shows up on the mid-palate and is a little out of balance, but not too bad. The finish while not very flavorful lasts for quite some time.
There are two surprises concerning the Winking Owl Chardonnay, 1) it does not taste like a California Chardonnay and 2) with that said, it is a very drinkable $2.89 White wine. The butterscotch/toasted oak flavor is a bit overpowering for a light bodied Chardonnay, but other than that the Winking Owl is crisp and refreshing. It has to be very difficult to produce a satisfying sub three dollar wine, so it is remarkable that the Winking Owl Chardonnay drinks as well as it does. But, for me, the best cheap Chardonnay value is still the Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay , it is a sells in the $5 to $7 range and is a very solid Chardonnay.