Bourbon-barrel finished wines: trendy gimmick or legit category? Well, yes to both questions.
Oak barrels are expensive and decades ago some struggling wineries flirted with buying used bargain-basement bourbon barrels to finish wine. Today, bourbon-barrel wines are well past that quirky niche as major wineries jump on the bourbon barrel band wagon.
Bourbon-barrel wines particularly are aimed at the millennial male market with their bold, ripe wine flavors loaded with vanilla, caramel, candied fruit, extreme oak toast notes. Bourbon barrels receive a much heavier char than wine barrels, and the oak and bourbon flavors often are flagrant in the product.
Wine purists may scornfully sniff these wines are more a wine beverage than a classic wine—but there definitely is a market for the product. The wines clearly are different, but appreciate them for what they are. If you enjoy bold wines and bourbon flavors, why not tip a glass that provides both?
• Robert Mondavi Private Selection Bourbon Barrels Chardonnay Monterey County 2015: Big oak, really big bourbon barrel influence, vanilla, maybe some chardonnay grapes in there somewhere—hard to tell. $11-14 Link to my review
• Robert Mondavi Winery Private Selection Bourbon Barrel-Aged Cabernet Sauvignon, Monterey County 2015: Very fruit-forward, significant brown sugar, caramel, chocolate, oak elements which will thrill some, dismay others. $13-15 Link to my review
• Apothic Wines Inferno 2016: Wine beverage that clearly has devoted following of sybaritic drinkers. $15-17 Link to my review
• Barrel Road California Red Wine 2015: Niche in commodity market. Adventurous? Give it a shot. $15-17 Link to my review
• 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel-Aged Gold Rush Red 2016: Easy drinker, tastes like cab-led blend rather than bourbon-oak infused wine. $17-21 Link to my review
• 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel 2016: Somewhat reserved effort, still massive and distinct, just not quite as over-the-top as some other bourbon barrel makers. $17-21 Link to my review
• Exitus Bourbon Barrel Aged Red Wine 2016: Fun to drink for those who want to party down. $19 Link to my review
• The Federalist Zinfandel Bourbon Barrel Aged 2015: Does not transgress into excesses of some bourbon barrel efforts. $18-20 Link to my review
• Cosentino Winery Cigar Bourbon Barrel-Aged Cabernet Sauvignon 2016: Bourbon flavors are not as pronounced. Tasty, smooth, easy drinker. $22 Link to my review
• Cooper & Thief Cellarmasters Red Wine Blend 2014: Maker threw all red grapes available into this knowing bourbon barrels would mash everything together. $25 Link to my review
Last round: I tried to write a joke about wine and pi, but it just went on forever.