Winking Owl Cabernet Sauvignon

Winking Owl Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $3
Maker: Winking Owl Vineyards, Modesto, California
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 12.0 %
Our Rating: 6 out of 10

Winking Owl Cabernet Sauvignon is a non-vintage offering aimed at the market niche popularized by Two Buck Chuck from Charles Shaw Wines. Unfortunately, it matches the price but misses the mark on quality. The bottle of Winking Owl Cab I tried was thin in color and flavor; in general, it was one big earthy off-note, and most of it went down the drain.

I’m hoping that I just got a bad bottle – others have reported more success with this inexpensive brand. The Drank Tank says, “And if there is one thing we are missing in the USA that they do have in Europe, it’s CHEAP wine that doesn’t make you ralph. Thank you Aldi for this piece of Europe. WINKING OWL is absolutely the best value wine I’ve ever had.” Perhaps Winking Owl can use “Doesn’t Make You Ralph” as their new tag line. Crumbs to mark the path comments, “super great value red… excellent & smooth…maybe new favorite.” I saw some favorable forum postings, too. I like inexpensive reds as much as the next blogger, and I find it hard to reconcile the plonk I tasted with what everyone else seems to be saying about this Cab. I guess for $3, I can afford to try another bottle.

I did find one review that was closer to my own assessment, posted by Kathleen Purvis of McClatchy Newspapers:

Awful aroma, nasty flavor. “I’d say it’s corked, but it had a plastic cork.”

Winking Owl Vineyards seems to be an exclusive brand of the Aldi supermarket chain, which seems to be trying to stage a small-scale emulation of Trader Joe’s with their inexpensive house brand wines. If you are looking for an ultra-low priced wine, we’d suggest Oak Leaf Cabernet Sauvignon as a somewhat better alternative.

33 thoughts on “Winking Owl Cabernet Sauvignon”

  1. As far as I know, Aldi and TJ’s are owned by the same company/family.

    I was so glad to see your review of Winking Owl. I have no idea what those other people were drinking, but a couple of years ago, my boyfriend and I bought a bottle of the same wine you tried and it was awful. Aa you say, thin–very little flavor, and what there was was unpleasant. In fact, it’s become the standard against which Wine (and other things) That Don’t Taste Good are judged. If I say something was bad, he says “Was it as good as Winking Owl wine?”

  2. I have to say that living in the California wine growing area, I’m not wanting for choices here. But I’m certainly no wine snob either. I was visiting in Indiana recently and tried the Winking Owl brand a relative went on and on about also purchased at Aldi. We don’t have those here in CA just Trader Joe’s. Which if the same family or Corp owns them I’m s sticking with TJ’s. Much better quality selections. Anyway, the Winking Owl was indeed a flat-liner in flaver and character. Charles Shaw seemed to be more appealing with each sip I took. One glass was more than enough. Another decent bodied
    3 to 4 dollar wine is Crane Lake that a few large supermarkets and some wine stores carry. It is a fruity middle of the road Cab and the Merlot isn”t too bad either. I haven’t tried the white wine though. Winking Owl should go blind.

  3. Greetings:
    I;m an 85 year old jigger that loves your wine except, I have a problem opening and getting the stopper out. Guess I am getting too old.

    Do you have a hint of what I can do do overcome this problem?

    1. Yes, but buy a 20.00 wine opener that uses a charger to hold the opener when not in use. Mine is an Emerson wine opener. Go to online & order one, go to & they will direct you to a seller or maybe ebay. Ask for(wine opener with a charger) hope this helps old jigger, I am getting there!!

  4. I like both the Cabernet and expecially the Chardonnay. I have tried other cheap wines (under $4) and could not stand them. I prefer the Chardonnay over woodbridge which I can get a $10 per 1.5 L

  5. I have a good friend here in Sarasota, fl thats love your Merlot but cannot find it in any of the stores. Can you help me to locate a store that carries your brand here. Thank you so much.


    1. Aldi, carries a lot of German things as well, much cheaper than a regular market. Google Aldi market to find the closest one to you. Hope this helps….:)

  6. I blind folded 6 of my best friends that drink wine all the time (once a day) I set before them Winking Owl Cab, 2 buck chuck, and Crank lake which is made by the same winery as 2 buck chuck; and I asked them what would be the lowest price they would pay for a bottle of the wine. They liked them all and said they would pay 6-7 dollars for each.

  7. I blind folded 6 of my best friends that drink wine all the time (once a day) I set before them Winking Owl Cab, 2 buck chuck, and Crank lake which is made by the same winery as 2 buck chuck; and I asked them what would be the lowest price they would pay for a bottle of the wine. They liked them all and said they would pay 6-7 dollars for each.
    My brother who thinks that plungerhead is the best had a drink not knowing what kind it was or how much I paid for winking owl and he thought it was a good wine I drink it every day why spend more?

  8. well, I got both a red and a white wine by Winking Owl and for the price they were both GREAT! Rule of thumb – if it’s not the best to drink alone, you can always cook with it and turn it into a sangria or wine cooler – can’t go wrong!

  9. Winking Owl Cabernet Sauvignon is a very smooth enjoyable red wine. The taste exceeds many of the more expensive reds. Guests would definitely not guess the affordablity if you chose to serve it as “house wine” in a carafe or decanter. I think I will have that 2nd glass!

  10. I only have one concern – is there something in here ( besides the alcohol ) that will kill me?

    Like presevatives or something in the process perhaps…

    Only one bottle of these cheap wines ever offended me, and they are usually just fine.

    The other day I looked like a rich man bring four cheopo bottles of wine to an afternoon party.

    1. Nothing in there should kill you, Peter. Might be sulfites as preservatives, but they aren’t deadly as far as I know. That’s the great part about inexpensive wine – you can be generous with it!

  11. Recently bought WI Chardonnay & Merlot. The Chard lacked flavor; the Merlot was better. TJ’s Chard is good.

  12. Correction again – I bought Shiraz – not Merlot. This is why I shouldn’t email before noon at the weekend, ha.

  13. I am drinking some Winking Owl Shirraz as we speak that I bought at Aldi here in Tampa, Florida.
    The Aldi stores here in Tampa all carry Winking Owl. The Shirraz is by far the best of the wines, IMHO. When we drive to Tampa, we stock up on it, before they run clean out of it.

  14. I think that this is the same exact wine packaged under the Walmart “Oak Leaf” brand. Both lines are, IMHO, very balanced and delicious, albeit hardly distinguishable from one another, though I sometimes find a tang in the Pinot and sometimes some thing special in the Shiraz – but that could be my imagination or mood.

    I’m sure they must package the same wines under many names, and many price ranges, because they would compete favorably with any $10 bottle.

    These are all California wines, so don’t expect any Australian “plum” or other standout signatures from other countries. Think “balanced.”

  15. Winking Owl’s Cabernet Sauvignon is to wine, what smooth jazz is to contemporary jazz. The operative word here is “smooth”. This wine does it for me. I have tried much more expensive brands. All they managed to accomplish was to bite my palate, and to bite my wallet. Wink at me anytime. 🙂

  16. My wife & I here in Illinois (but please don’t hold that against me) go through 1-2 bottles/week of the WO Cabernet. So far, never a bad bottle…but it MUST be decanted for at least 1½ hours. Makes a huge difference. In fact, if you have a glass or two and know that you’re going to finish the bottle the next day, leave it in the decanted overnight.

    Otherwise, decant for 1½ hours & return the remainder to the bottle.

    Incidentally, the price at our Aldi recently dropped to $2.69.


  18. I’m an Aldi fan but I think the Winking Owl Cab is pretty bad. The nose was ok, but everything else is questionable or worse. I don’t mind the Chardonnay at all. None of the reds have appealed to me very much. I normally like shiraz but the Winking Owl was off. The Charles Shaw reds I’ve had have been better.

  19. Does anyone know if Winking Owl wine is vegan friendly? I’m not a vegan but have a bad allergy to eggs. I recently learned that many wines are filtered through egg whites, but most of the time its not labeled.

  20. I just finished a bottle of winking owl merlot. I’ll never buy another. to my horror three strange looking objects showed themselves when I finished it. I could not detect they were there until the wine was gone. They look like small drill tools of some sort. I need to know who to contact about it. I can not find any kind of number to call or address to write to on the label. Any one know it????

  21. How can you verify the alcohol percentage in Winking Owl? I was shocked when I realized that I drank almost a full bottle – by myself – one evening and felt as if I had consumed nothing! A little bit scary – so I have a friend over who hardly drinks and thought she might consume less. However, she was affected the same way! Could that be the alcohol percentage or something else? Any comments welcome.

    1. Nancy, all wines in the US show the alcohol content, although often in impossibly small type. It’s not uncommon to see it printed vertically, in a tiny font, and a light gray color. Cabs usually run 13.5% vs. Winking Owl’s 12% label number, but that wouldn’t enable you to drink a bottle without feeling it (unless you can do that with other wines, too).

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