Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel…A New Flavor Twist for Wine

Winemakers have done it for centuries.
Beer brewers are doing it now with their own special twists.

Barrel aging, that is!

Winemakers use barrels in the aging process to achieve various characteristics.  Wine aged in new oak barrels develops strong flavors of cedar, tobacco, vanilla.  Older, neutral oak barrels might add a more rounded characteristic to the wine.  American oak barrels tend to give the wine more peppery spice flavors, whereas French oak imparts softer, sweeter notes.

A recent trend in beer-making is to age the beer in oak casks of various kinds.  Oak casks that were used to age wine can impart color and fruit notes, for example.  Beer can be aged in casks previously used to age bourbon or other whiskies.  These beers can take on an intense flavor of whiskey and great complexities.

Perhaps it was only a matter of time until winemakers would try this same, whiskey-influenced trend.

Sure enough, I found this Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel.

1000 Stories refers to our American heritage, “a heritage woven with a thousand stories.”  Part of the wine was aged in traditional oak barrels, with other parts aged in new, charred bourbon barrels.  The blended wine finishes aging in old bourbon barrels from well-known distilleries.  Some of the barrels used are 13-year-old, single use barrels.

The perfect place to taste this Zinfandel?  By the bonfire, of course!

This Zinfandel hails from Mendocino County, a cooler climate for Zinfandel.  It initially showed that classic cool climate red fruit both in the nose and on the palate.

After the wine sat in the glass for ten minutes or so, it really opened up and developed the flavors I was hoping to find.
The toasty, charred oak aromas are intense along with ripe blackberry and hints of whiskey.
The front palate is soft and lush giving way to ripe black cherry flavors.  A subtle taste of bourbon along with some vanilla notes pleasantly unfold.  A nice zing of spices and medium tannins add some complexity to the wine. The longer it sits in the glass, the more these bourbon flavors develop and intensify.

Or, maybe I was just influenced by the brightly-burning logs and curls of smoke billowing skyward!

Either way, this Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel was a fun way to celebrate our inaugural lighting of the bonfire!

Sipping by the bonfire or campfire;
Pairing with grilled meats;
Anyone who likes a smoky note to their richly-fruited red wine.

About the author: Sue Navratil

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