Once upon a time oak barrels, for aging wines, were in short supply. But when the need was there, practicality won the day. In a throwback scenario, today’s red is aged in new and used Bourbon barrels, just as some were decades ago. The result is fascinating. The wine is made by Bob Blue, a legend in the history of Fetzer and Bonterra wineries. I met him years ago and, after tasting a full lineup, he showed me around Bonterra’s organic vineyard site. I recently tasted a 2005 Bonterra Syrah from my own cellar, and I’m here to tell you his wines age beautifully, with vibrant, cooler climate fruit that Mendocino County is famed for. Today’s red, a 100% Carignan, is an unusual varietal for California, but it is exciting to drink tonight or in a few years – your call. Blue has tamed the roughness and most of the rustic quality that often defines this prolific grape. It’s simply an excellent wine – as much for its originality as its inherent deliciousness. Either way, a unique experience and a great conversation starter awaits.
2016, 1000 Stories, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Carignan $19 srp*
A deep purple color coating the glass. Dark, languid bouquet of black cherry, charred smoky wood and a warm, briary brooding nose with exotic herbal overtones. Flavors are sappy, primary and clean. The texture is soft and accessible, deceptively smooth with balanced plum, olive and pepper notes. Its lip-smacking tannins caress rather than beat you up on the finish. So, grill up a steak, an onion, mushroom and zucchini kebab or some spicy popcorn – I tried that – and enjoy! Drink now-2024.
*I also enjoyed and highly recommend the 2016, 1000 Stories California Zinfandel, Bourbon Barrel bottling. I found the Carignan a bit more brooding and exciting, but please consider the Zin as well. It is also $19.