Last year, I wrote about 1000 Stories Wines – California reds which derive a particular character from being aged in used bourbon barrels.
If you’re interested in more of the backstory about these wines, I welcome you to bounce over here for a refresher about these fairly interesting bottles.
Short version: Many wines are aged in barrels of one type or another. You’ll see wines aged in French, American, or Hungarian oak most commonly. The interior of these casks are usually “toasted” to some degree. The more toasting, the stronger the oaky flavor. Bourbon barrels, taller and thinner than most wine casks, as well as more heavily toasted, could potentially add a boatload of flavor. Even after being used, a barrel can still impart distinct flavors to whatever’s stored inside it.
Finding old bourbon barrels sounds like a difficult step, but, according to the legal rules governing distillation in the U.S., Bourbon can only be aged in a new cask. After that, the barrels have long been sold to distillers making whiskeys and other spirits – and sometimes beer makers. The recent “Bourbon Boom” has, naturally, added a great number of additional barrels to the market, and some winemakers have jumped at the opportunity to ride that particular wave of popularity.
1000 Stories produced the first California Zinfandel aged in bourbon barrels, which I tried when I wrote the initial article, alongside their proprietary “Gold Rush Red” blend. Fast forward a year and a month, and the Wine Fairy delivered another pair of 1000 Stories wines to my doorstep. No Zinfandel this year, but I got to try this year’s model: 1000 Stories 2017 Gold Rush Red, as well as the 1000 Stories 2017 “Prospectors’ Proof” Cabernet Sauvignon.
(Bonus points to their marketing department for proper use of the trailing apostrophe!)
One change I can report between last year’s vintage and this – Bob Blue, the winemaker at 1000 Stories, has dialed back the alcohol content somewhat. The Gold Rush Red now clocks in at lower than last year’s 15% alcohol, while the Cabernet sits at 14.5%. Don’t think this means that these wines are trending towards delicate. Nosiree. This pair of reds pack a considerable punch. Both should be opened for at least 30-45 minutes before you get down to drinking.
The Gold Rush, although slightly toned down, resonates with my comment from last year: “It’s a big ol’ bomb of intense dark fruits, especially plums and dark cherries.” My notes from now give it some plums and vanilla on the nose, with a body of ripe dark fruit, loads of tannin and graphite. The finish is very smoky and tannic. Will need an accompaniment of strong cheeses or grilled meats to really reach its best.
The Prospectors’ Proof gives me leather, vanilla, and a bit of an herbal note on the nose. The body was somewhat lighter than I expected after last year’s Zin. Some more restraint to be found here. Body’s got that classic cherry and currant flavor of Cabernet, along with a fair amount of smoke. The finish is charcoalish, with a note of green pepper that I wouldn’t have expected outside of Bordeaux. The wine’s a bit shy – the flavors fade in and out as it gets air over time until it finds its footing. Once it does, it’d be nice next to steak, mushrooms, or other grilled goodnesses.
1000 Stories has also added a bourbon barrel-aged Chardonnay and Carignan to their portfolio. I'll be curious to see how those would end up.
These wines retail for $17-20. If you’re interested in a bourbon-tinged vanilla and smoke flavor with your wine this winter, it’d be worth giving these a go.