The New Two Buck Chuck?

Look out Trader Joe’s!  Walmart wants a piece of your Charles Shaw action.  They, as many others before them, are launching their own low cost label; Oak Leaf.  This from Wine & Spirits Daily:

“In a world where cheap wines generally hail from other countries, Wal-Mart’s private label Oak Leaf wine is joining the ranks of Two Buck Chuck, selling for less than $3 a bottle but to a much bigger consumer base than Trader Joe’s. Oak Leaf took gold and bronze at this year’s wine competition at the Florida State fair and even appeared in Oprah’s “O” magazine. Wal-Mart partners with The Wine Group to produce Oak Leaf. Oak Leaf is almost sure to see a spike in sales as the sour economy encourages consumers to save money, trade-down, and – as you’d have it – shop at Wal-Mart.”

Looks like they have a pretty good marketing push behind this one.  No Walmart’s in San Francisco.  Someone else want to give one of these a try and send me a review?  I’ll be happy to post it.

Wine Search Engines?

Have you used them?  I have used a bunch of sites to try and hunt down information but this article in the San Francisco Chronicle was the first I had heard of a subject matter specific search engine for wine

“Wine types have long bemoaned the fact that search engines don’t share our view of the world. If we type in “Barbera,” we don’t want to know about “Hanna.” So there’s plenty to like about Able Grape ( Rather than the usual scattershot approach, it scours wine-specific Web sites and lets users divide their results by such categories as “official body” and “press,” providing a shorter path to the most useful info. Difficult-to-parse sites like that of INAO, France’s regulatory agency for appellations, are readily accessible.”

Able Grape looks like it is attempting to be the Google of wine search with its nice clean interface.  Another that I’ve come across in the past but never vistied the home page until now is Scrugy.  There they take the Yahoo portal perspective with lots of content up front with search bundled in.

Now that I found them, what’s next?  Put them to the test with some of the wines I have yet to find information for.  And just for fun let’s add Google in to see if these wine specific search engines find something different.  First up was the 2005 Melipal Malbec.  Able Grape was the only to find the winery which was a huge win.  They had appeared to return the Wine Spectator Pick of the Day as well but the result took me to a laundry list with this wine not to be found.  Google did take me to the Wine Spectator write up and also turned up some individual write ups.  Scrugy on the other hand found neither of these but lead you to loads of tasting notes.  I tested a number of others and the results were somewhat comparable. 

At the end of the day these all have a place at the table.  Google is what you expect it to be.  Able Grape may turn up a gem that Google missed and Scrugy will get you straight to tasting notes if it can find them.  I’ll continue this experiment as I search for wine information and see if I can’t perhaps provide some more insight.  If there are any other wine specific search engines out there that you are using let me know!

The WinePod?

As someone that has always wanted to make wine this caught my eye when I was on 

“You know the story: Silicon Valley venture capitalist quits his day job to become a winemaker. That’s what Greg Snell decided to do–with no prior winemaking experience and no vineyard. “I was doing work in the semiconductor industry and reading books on winemaking and had an epiphany to design a custom personal winery,” he said. The epiphany is now reality in the form of the WinePod, a 4-foot-tall personal winery, which sells for $3,500 at Just insert grapes, plug it in, and poof, the WinePod ferments, presses and ages your wine based on commands received wirelessly from your home computer. Interactive software guides you through everything from punch-downs to rackings. The WinePod can accommodate a batch of 15 gallons of any grape variety, whether you use your own or buy frozen, destemmed grapes sourced from various vineyards in Napa and Sonoma ranging in price from $250 to $1,000. The entire process lasts up to a year and the end result is your very own homemade wine. “I’ve been working with it for almost a year,” said satisfied WinePod user Tom Lorincz of Hollister, Calif. “I had done small home winemaking before, the old way in bins and in small tanks, which was kind of a messy, cumbersome process.” The initial batch of 250 WinePods sold out, so if you want one of your own, you’ll have to join a waiting list. The good news, though, is plans are to ramp up production to about 100 WinePods a month by 2008. Let the home winemaking begin.”


Crazy no! One of these days I want to make my own wine, not sure this is the experience I had in mind though… If anyone out there has used it let me know how it went!