Boozy Barrels

The wait-staff routinely engage in something they refer to as exercise, which involves a great deal of sweating and hard work for no obvious benefit. One wait-staffer engages in something called “jogging” which is little more than a slow run. It’s remarkably similar to something dogs would find entertaining, which has raised our suspicions about that particular human. Fortunately, no dogs have been brought into the household…yet.

Our other human frequently plays a game called “tennis”. We’ve found that we enjoy this sport, as it seems to involve hitting other humans with a small ball. Admittedly, not the primary purpose, but it happens often enough that tales of quick dodges and close shaves are often part of the recounting of the day’s game.

Recently, this particular human participated in a weekend tennis fund-raiser. Mixed in with the tales of quick shots and missed overheads was a story about wine. Participants were given the chance to select a numbered cork that was paired to a bottle wrapped in brown paper. (No relationship between the cork and the bottle.) Our human claimed a bottle of zinfandel called 1,000 Stories. What makes this wine unique is the aging process, which involves time spent in bourbon barrels.

Bourbon barrels are made from American oak, then charred on the inside. This provides Kentucky bourbon its distinctive smoky flavor, something unheard of in wine. Our anticipation rose quickly, as we imagined the potential this held for our beloved grapes. Would the zin, a powerful grape, find a balance with this unusual aging method or would the wine be lost, and a bottle of smoke be the only contents?

Unfortunately, the bottle never made it home. It seems the bottle was knocked over on a hard concrete surface and all was lost. Not a single drop was ever drunk. The wait-staff, however, were also intrigued by the possibilities and made a point of tracking down a pair of replacements.

We opened our own bottle immediately, and we were quite happy with the results. The mighty zin was more than a match to the bourbon barrel. There was plenty of blackberry jam flavors, with a hint of oaky smoke and a quick bit of spicy heat near the end. But there was an intriguing addition to this wine – a burst of vanilla and bourbon smoothness that appeared after the wine had been swallowed.

This was a wine that could have been lost in a fad-of-the-moment flavor; a little too much preference for the bourbon side, and the zin would have become just another victim of the current whiskey rage. But Fetzer, the winery behind 1,000 Stories, has kept wine as the heart here, and they have found an intriguing new possibility for aging that can add to rather than detract from traditional methods. It’s not a method that would work for all grape varietals, but the selection of zinfandel was masterful.

So next time you feel like you might want something different, pick up a bottle of bourbon barrel zin from 1,000 Stories. You won’t be disappointed.

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