Tag Archives: E. & J. Gallo

Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beychevelle, Talbot, Clos du Marquis, Gloria

Photo by Tracey & Doug. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-2.0After hitting Pessac-Léognan in our last post, we’re are going to continuing our overview of the 2017 Bordeaux Futures campaign by heading to St. Julien to look at the offers for the 4th Growths Ch. Beychevelle and Talbot, Clos du Marquis made by the Delon family of Château Léoville-Las Cases and the well-regard unclassified estate of Ch. Gloria.

First time visitors to the series are well served by starting with our very first Bordeaux Futures 2017 post covering the offers of Palmer, Valandraud, Fombrauge and Haut-Batailley. That post lays the groundwork out for our approach here at Spitbucket with buying futures for the 2017 vintage.

At the bottom of the page there are links for additional posts in this series. You can also subscribe to SpitBucket to get the latest entries delivered right to your email.

Now onto the offers.

Ch. Beychevelle (St. Julien)

Some Geekery:

The origins of Beychevelle dates back to 1565 when it was owned by a member of the Foix Candale family who owned the historical estate of Ch. d’Issan in Margaux.

However, the name “Beychevelle” came about during its time under the ownership of Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, the Duke of Epernon, who as Admiral of France commanded high respect with ships lowering their sails in tribute as they passed by his estate on the Gironde. The local terms for “lower the sails”, becha vela and baisse voile, eventually became Beychevelle. The estate pays homage to this history with the sail boat featured prominently on the label.

Photo by PA. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

The beauty of the Chateau at Beychevelle has prompted comparisons to the “Versailles of Bordeaux”.


Over the next couple centuries Beychevelle would see a series of owners (including Pierre-François Guestier of Barton and Guestier fame) until the 1980s when it was sold to a group that included Japanese whiskey maker Suntory and the negociant firms Barriere Freres and Oenoalliance.

Today Ch. Beychevelle is part of a portfolio that includes the 3rd Growth Château Lagrange, large Haut-Medoc estate Château Beaumont, German wine producer Weingut Robert Weil, the Suntory Tomi no Oka Winery in the Yamanashi Prefecture as well as joint ventures with Champagne house Laurent-Perrier, sparkling wine producer Freixenet, Georges Duboeuf, Domaines Barons de Rothschild and E & J Gallo.

The Suntory group brought Philippe Blanc in as technical director with Romain Ducolomb, formerly of Ch. Clinet in Pomerol, joining him in 2012. Since 2008, the estate has been in the process of converting all its vineyards to organic and sustainable viticulture and have earned ISO 14001 certification for the property.

Ch. Beychevelle’s 14 plots of vineyards are scattered throughout the commune of St. Julien and includes a small plot that is technically outside the AOC boundaries in the Haut-Medoc commune of Cussac. However, due to the estate’s historical use of the vines dating back before the 1855 classification, they have been grandfathered into permitted use for Beychevelle’s Grand Vin and second wine, Amiral de Beychevelle. Other parcels include neighboring plots that border the 2nd Growth estates of Ducru Beaucaillou, Léoville-Barton and Gruaud Larose.

The 2017 is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 4 Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Around 25,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

93-95 Wine Enthusiast (WE), 92-95 Vinous Media (VM), 93-94 James Suckling (JS), 90-93 Wine Spectator (WS), 90-92 Wine Advocate (WA), 94-96 Jeff Leve (JL), 92-94 Jeb Dunnuck (JD)

Sample Review:

Only 52% of the production went into the 2017 Château Beychevelle (they normally shoot for 60%), and the blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc that’s still aging in 60% new oak. This inky purple-colored beauty gives up loads of blue fruits, black cherries, underbrush, and a touch of minerality in a medium to full-bodied, pretty, elegant package that’s very much in the style of the vintage. This estate has been on a serious roll lately, and the 2017 isn’t going to break the trend. — Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $77
JJ Buckley: $75.94 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Oakland location)
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $443.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping (no shipping if picked up at Tustin, CA location)
Total Wine: $79.97 (no shipping with wines sent to local Total Wine store for pick up)
K&L: $74.99 + shipping (no shipping if picked up at 1 of 3 K & L locations in California)

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $95 Average Critic Score: 93 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $96 Average Critic Score: 93
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $100 Average Critic Score: 92
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $81 Average Critic Score: 90

Buy or Pass?

I wholeheartedly agree with Dunnuck that Beychevelle has been rocking it for the last decade or so, making several bottles (like the 2009 WS Ave $121) that I would put on par with many 2nd Growths. Sadly (for consumers) this success has not been a well kept secret so the prices have risen quite a bit over the past several years.

That’s what makes seeing a 2017 average under $80 such a surprise and a very solid Buy that I’m going to jump on. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the price of this one rise when the bottles finally hit the market closer to the $90-100 mark that the 2014-2016 are fetching now.

Ch. Talbot (St. Julien)

Some Geekery:

Photo by Peter I. Vardy. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-self.

The tomb of John Talbot who died fighting against the French in the Battle of Castillon.


Named after John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, who died in 1453 in the decisive Battle of Castillon during the Hundred Years’ War, it is not exactly known what the English commander’s connections were to the St. Julien property. Clive Coates notes in Grands Vins: The Finest Châteaux of Bordeaux and Their Wines that there is no evidence that Talbot owned any property at all in the Medoc.

However, with the English being such avid consumers of Bordeaux wines, many Bordelais during the 15th century had English sympathies during the war so it’s possible that the estate was named in honor of those sympathies.

The modern history of Talbot began in 1917 when it was purchased by the Cordier family who were notable negociants. For several decades, the Cordiers bypassed the Place de Bordeaux and en primeur system by selling their wines directly (and exclusively) through their negociant firm. But now Talbot is available through several firms and merchants.

The same year the Cordiers bought Talbot they also purchase a stake in the 2nd Growth Ch. Gruard-Larose which they later sold in 1997 to Jacques Merlaut. In 1999, the family acquired the Haut-Medoc estate Chateau Senejac which was ran by Lorraine Cordier until her death in 2011. Today both Talbot and Senejac are managed by Lorraine’s sister, Nancy Bignon-Cordier with Stephane Derenoncourt and Jacques Boissenot as consultants. In 2017, Jean-Michel Laporte (formerly of La Conseillante in Pomerol) was brought on as technical director.

Among the unique viticultural practices of Talbot is the use of Genodics technology that uses electromagnetism and sound waves emitted into the vineyard to control growth.

Unlike many other Left Bank estates with their many scattered parcels, the vineyards of Talbot are essentially one large block of 102 ha (252 acres) neighboring the trio of Léoville properties Las-Cases, Barton and Poyferré.

Photo by Mike Case. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under PD-self

I’ve not had this 2000 Talbot but given my experience with this estate, I’m willing to bet that this wine still has a lot of stuffing and life.


The current ratio of red grapes planted is 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc with the amount of Cabernet Sauvignon in the vineyard steadily decreasing since the 1990s in favor of the other three varieties. Around 25,000 cases a year are produced.

Critic Scores:

92-93 JS, 91-93 WE, 90-93 WS, 90-92 VM, 87-89 WA, 90-92 JL,

Sample Review:

The 2017 Talbot is powerful and dense, but also a bit rough around the edges, with burly tannins that add to that impression. It will be interesting to see if the 2017 acquire more finesse during aging. Based on the wine’s persistence, there is a reasonably good chance that will happen. Intense blue/black fruit, gravel, smoke and licorice add to the wine’s dark personality. Tasted two times. — Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $57
JJ Buckley: $56.94 + shipping
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $335.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $56.97
K&L: $54.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $62 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $70 Average Critic Score: 92
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $50 Average Critic Score: 91
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $55 Average Critic Score: 89

Buy or Pass?

While I’ve enjoyed many bottles of Talbot over the years, these are not wines for the impatient. Even the very warm and ripe 2003 vintage (WS Ave $81) needed at least a decade to finally open up and start delivering pleasure. I probably won’t even think about touching another of the 2005s (WS Ave $124) in my cellar till at least 2020.

Perhaps Laporte’s influence and the increase of Merlot in the vineyards will gently shift Talbot to a more approachable style but that remains to be seen. But for now and with my goal of seeking more short-term “cellar defenders” from 2017, I’m going to Pass.

Clos du Marquis (St. Julien)

Some Geekery:

Originally created by the Delon family as a second wine of the 2nd Growth Léoville-Las-Cases in 1902, today Clos du Marquis is its own entity with its own second wine, La Petite Marquis.

The vineyards for Clos du Marquis are separate and distinct from the Léoville-Las-Cases parcels. Located in the northern end of the commune they are flanked by neighboring vines of 2nd Growths Léoville Poyferré, Léoville Barton as well as Pichon Lalande across the border in Pauillac.

However, the estate is still worked by the same viticulture and winemaking team as Léoville-Las-Cases with Jean Hubert Delon managing the property and Bruno Rolland as cellarmaster.

The 2017 vintage is a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Between 4000 to 8000 cases are produced each year.

Critic Scores:

93-94 JS, 91-94 WS, 91-93 WA, 90-93 VM

Sample Review:

This takes its time, has a fairly hefty structure and unfurls at its own pace. The last day of harvest was 4 October, but the overall growth cycle was early so they were able to wait for full ripeness, and even though the fruit flavours are savoury, they are intense. It certainly has some bounce and energy, and the balance is there too. An enjoyable wine that should be ready to drink within four to six years, but the low pH and good freshness suggest it should also age well. 55% new oak barrels. 80% of production, with the rest going into the second wine. (90 points) — Jane Anson, Decanter

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $51
JJ Buckley: No offers yet.
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $305.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $49.97
K&L: $49.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $58 Average Critic Score: 91 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $65 Average Critic Score: 92
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $50 Average Critic Score: 92
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $54 Average Critic Score: 90

Buy or Pass?

Photo by Tomas er. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

While thought of as a “second wine”, Clos du Marquis is really its own estate with dedicated vineyards.

Even though Clos du Marquis isn’t an official second wine, you can still taste the “baby brother” resemblances to the hulking, well-structured style of Léoville-Las-Cases. This is a wine that regularly drinks like it could be a 3rd growth itself and is often a pretty stellar value for its pedigree.

But it does usually need adequate time in the cellar to truly show its stuff. While Anson seems optimistic that it will come around in 4-6 years, for around the same average price I’m much more incline to pick up more bottles of the 2014.

This is always a solid wine and would be a good buy for Bordeaux drinkers who want to build up a cellar and get a “baby Léoville-Las-Cases” (2017 WS Ave $197) for nearly a quarter of the price. But for me, and my buying objectives this vintage, I’m going to Pass.

Ch. Gloria (St. Julien)

Some Geekery:

While I’m sure the audience would mostly be made up of just wine geeks, I would love to see a movie about the life of Henri Martin. The mayor of St. Julien during World War II, Martin dreamed of owning a top Bordeaux estate and started piecing together what would become Ch. Gloria in 1939.

Jean Triaud, the grandson of Ch. Gloria’s founder Henri Martin.


With the advice and encouragement of his close friend Jean-Charles Cazes of Ch. Lynch-Bages, Martin would buy, barter and trade parcels of vines over the next couple decades from nearly every classified growth in St. Julien. Today Ch. Gloria is made up of 50 ha (124 acres) of vines that originally belonged to the 2nd Growths of Ducru Beaucaillou, Gruaud Larose, Léoville-Barton, Léoville-Poyferré, 3rd Growth Ch. Lagrange and 4th Growth Ch. Beychevelle at the time of their classification in 1855. He even acquired some vineyards from the Pauillac estate Duhart-Milon that they owned in St. Julien.

The estate is still owned by Martin’s daughter Francoise and by her husband Jean Louis Triaud with their children, Vanessa and Jean, actively involved. The Martin-Triaud family also own the 4th Growth Ch. Saint Pierre and Ch. Bel Air in the Haut-Medoc.

The 2017 is a blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot. Around 20,000 cases a year are produce.

Critic Scores:

91-94 WS, 91-94 VM, 91-93 WE, 90-91 JS, 89-91 WA, 90-92 JL, 90-92 JD

Sample Review:

While this wine has plenty of wood flavors, the fruit weight justifies it. It is rich with good spice and balanced acidity. It will develop relatively quickly, drink from 2023. — Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast

Offers:
Wine Searcher 2017 Average: $40
JJ Buckley: $39.94 + shipping
Vinfolio: No offers yet.
Spectrum Wine Auctions: $227.94 for minimum 6 bottles + shipping
Total Wine: $39.97
K&L: $39.99 + shipping

Previous Vintages:
2016 Wine Searcher Ave: $46 Average Critic Score: 92 points
2015 Wine Searcher Ave: $54 Average Critic Score: 91
2014 Wine Searcher Ave: $45 Average Critic Score: 91
2013 Wine Searcher Ave: $41 Average Critic Score: 88

Buy or Pass?

It’s hard to hide my affection for Ch. Gloria. As I noted in my review of the 2009 Ch. Gloria, these wines are almost always criminally under-priced with how consistently delicious they are.

They can easily be priced like many 3rd and 4th growths but due to the quirks of the Bordeaux market and lasting legacy of the 1855 classification (not to mention the Martin-Triaud family’s apparent lack of ego), they remain one of the best bangs for the buck in the wine world. Always a solid Buy.

More Posts About the 2017 Bordeaux Futures Campaign

Why I Buy Bordeaux Futures

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Langoa Barton, La Lagune, Barde-Haut, Branaire-Ducru

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Pape Clément, Ormes de Pez, Marquis d’Alesme, Malartic-Lagraviere

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Lynch-Bages, d’Armailhac, Clerc-Milon and Duhart-Milon

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos de l’Oratoire, Monbousquet, Quinault l’Enclos, Fonplegade

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Cos d’Estournel, Les Pagodes des Cos, Phélan Ségur, Calon-Segur

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clinet, Clos L’Eglise, L’Evangile, Nenin

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Malescot-St.-Exupéry, Prieuré-Lichine, Lascombes, Cantenac-Brown

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Domaine de Chevalier, Larrivet Haut-Brion, Les Carmes Haut-Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Beau-Séjour Bécot, Canon-la-Gaffelière, Canon, La Dominique

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Carruades de Lafite, Pedesclaux, Pichon Lalande, Reserve de la Comtesse de Lalande

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Vieux Chateau Certan, La Conseillante, La Violette, L’Eglise Clinet

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Montrose, La Dame de Montrose, Cantemerle, d’Aiguilhe

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Clos Fourtet, Larcis Ducasse, Pavie Macquin, Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse

*Bordeaux Futures 2017 — Kirwan, d’Issan, Brane-Cantenac, Giscours

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Who makes your Supermarket Wine? (A Running List)

Sept 2018 update: If I come across new connections that haven’t been widely publish I will update this page. But I’d like to direct folks interested in this info to Elizabeth Schneider’s way more user-friendly and searchable list on her Wine For Normal People blog. It’s also regularly updated and is a fantastic resource that is worth bookmarking.

Beverage Dynamics released their report this month of The Fastest Growing Wine Brands and Top Trends of 2017.

One of the most glaring features of the report is how often you see the names Constellation Brands, E & J Gallo, The Wine Group and more appear in the rankings with their multitude of different brands. As I described in my post The Facade of Choice, when you walk the wine department of your typical grocery store the vast majority of the wines you see are going to be made by the same handful of companies.

It’s important for consumers to be aware of just how artificially limited their choices really are–especially because consumers should have choices when there are over 4000 wineries in California, over 700 each in Washington and Oregon and tens of thousands more across the globe.

Yet the average wine drinker is only ever going to see a fraction of a percent of these wines–especially those of us in the US. This is not just because our archaic three-tier distribution system severely limits consumers’ access to wine but also because of the wave of consolidations among large wine distributors.

Consolidation of Choices
Photo by Tatsuo Yamashita. Uploaded on Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

To the best of my knowledge, General Mills and Unilever are not in the wine business….yet.

For the sake of efficiency (and profits) these large distributors tend to focus on the big clients in their portfolios–the Constellations and the Gallos. They can back up a trailer to a warehouse and load in pallets of “different wines” with different labels from all across the globe and then take that trailer right to the major grocery chains. With about 42% of the “off premise” wine (as opposed to on-premise restaurant purchases) in the US being bought at supermarkets, every consumer should take a hard look at how limited their options really are.

In some cases, you have more true options in the yogurt section than you do in the wine department.

For a couple years now I’ve been keeping an Excel spreadsheet of the various brands I’ve came across and which mega-corporation they’re made by. This is FAR from an exhaustive list and has room for a lot of expansion. Plus with the way that winery brands get bought and sold almost like trading cards it will probably be outdated by the time I hit publish. If you know of any additions or errors, please post in the comments.

Note some of the names are linked to the companies by exclusive distribution agreements.

Constellation Brands

7 Moons
Alice White
Arbor Mist
Black Box
Blackstone
Charles Smith Wines
Clos du Bois
Cooks
Cooper & Thief
Diseno
Dreaming Tree
Drylands
Estancia
Franciscian Estate
Hogue
Inniskillian
J. Roget
Jackson Triggs
Kim Crawford
Manischewitz
Mark West
Meiomi
Robert Mondavi
Monkey Bay
Mount Veeder
Naked Grape
Night Harvest
Nk’Mip
Nobilo
Paso Creek
Paul Masson
Prisoner
Primal Roots
Ravenswood
Red Guitar
Rex Goliath
Rioja Vega
Ruffino
Schrader
Simi
Simply Naked
Taylor Dessert
Thorny Rose
Toasted Head
The Prisoner
Vendange
Wild Horse
Woodbridge

E & J Gallo

Alamos
Allegrini
Andre
Apothic
Ballatore
Barefoot
Bella Sera
Bodega Elena de Mendoza
Boone’s Farm
Bran Caia
Bridlewood
Carlo Rossi
Carnivor
Chocolate Rouge
Clarendon Hills
Columbia Winery
Covey Run
Dancing Bull
DaVinci
Dark Horse
Don Miguel Gascon
Ecco Domani
Edna Valley Vineyard
Fairbanks
Frei Brothers
Gallo of Sonoma
Ghost Pines
J Vineyards
La Marca
Laguna
Las Rocas
Liberty Creek
Livingston Cellars
Locations
Louis Martini
MacMurray Ranch
Madria Sangria
Martin Codax
Maso Canali
McWilliams
Mia Dolcea
Mirassou
Orin Swift
Peter Vella
Pieropan
Polka Dot
Prophecy
Rancho Zabaco
Red Bicyclette
Red Rock
Redwood Creek
Sheffield Cellars
Starborough
Souverain
Talbott
The Naked Grape
Tisdale
Winking Owl
Turning Leaf
Vin Vault
Whitehaven
Wild Vines
William Hill Estate

Brown-Foreman

Sonoma Cutrer
Korbel Sparkling wine

Delicato Family Vineyards

Black Stallion
Bota Box
Brazin
Diora
Domino
Gnarly Head
Irony
Night Owl
Noble Vines
Twisted Wines
Z. Alexander Brown

Terlato Wines

Boutari
Bodega Tamari
Chimney Rock
Domaine Tournon
Ernie Els Wines
Federalist
Hanna
Josmeyer
Il Poggione
Luke Donald
Markham
Mischief & Mayhem
Rochioli
Rutherford Hill
Santa Margherita
Seven Daughters
Sokol Blosser
Tangley Oaks

Precept Brands

Alder Ridge
Browne Family
Canoe Ridge Vineyard
Cavatappi
Chocolate Shop
Gruet
House Wine
Pendulum
Primarius
Red Knot
Ross Andrews
Sagelands
Sawtooth
Shingleback
Ste. Chappelle
Waitsburg Cellars
Washington Hills
Waterbrook
Wild Meadows
Willow Crest

Vintage Wine Estates

B.R. Cohn
Buried Cane
Cameron Hughes
Cartlidge & Browne
Cherry Pie
Clayhouse Wines
Clos Pegase
Cosentino Winery
Cowgirl Sisterhood
Delectus Winery
Firesteed
Game of Thrones
Girard
Girl & Dragon
Gouguenheim
Horseplay
If You See Kay
Layer Cake
Middle Sister
Monogamy
Promisqous
Purple Cowboy
Qupé
Sonoma Coast Vineyards
Swanson
Tamarack Cellars
Viansa Sonoma
Windsor
Wine Sisterhood

Ste Michelle Wine Estates

14 Hands
Chateau Ste Michelle
Col Solare
Columbia Crest
Conn Creek
Erath
Merf
Northstar
O Wines
Patz & Hall
Red Diamond
Seven Falls
Snoqualmie
Spring Valley Vineyard
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Stimson
Tenet/Pundit wines
Vila Mt. Eden
Villa Maria

Crimson Wine Group

Archery Summit
Chamisal
Double Canyon
Forefront
Pine Ridge
Seghesio
Seven Hills Winery

Jackson Family Estates

Arrowood
Arcanum
Byron
Cambria
Cardinale
Carmel Road
Copain
Edmeades
Freemark Abbey
Gran Moraine
Hickinbotham
Kendall Jackson
La Crema
La Jota
Lokoya
Matanzas Creek
Mt. Brave
Murphy-Goode
Penner-Ash
Siduri
Silver Palm
Stonestreet
Tenuta di Arceno
Yangarra Estate
Zena Crown
Wild Ridge

Vina Concha y Toro

Almaviva
Bonterra
Casillero del Diablo
Concha y Toro
Cono Sur
Don Melchior
Fetzer
Five Rivers
Jekel
Little Black Dress
Trivento

The Wine Group

13 Celsius
Almaden
AVA Grace
Benzinger
Big House
Chloe
Concannon
Corbett Canyon
Cupcake
Fish Eye
FlipFlop
Foxhorn
Franzia
Glen Ellen
Herding Cats
Insurrection
Love Noir
Mogen David
Seven Deadly Zins
Slow Press
Pinot Evil
Stave & Steel

Treasury Wine Estates

19 Crimes
Acacia
Beaulieu Vineyards
Beringer
Butterfly Kiss
BV Coastal
Cellar 8
Ch. St Jean
Chalone
Colores del Sol
Crème de Lys
Dynamite Vineyards
Etude
Gabbiano
Greg Norman
Hewitt Vineyard
Lindeman
Matua
Meridian
New Harbor
Once Upon a Vine
Penfolds
Provenance
Rosemount
Rosenblum Cellars
Seaview
Sledgehammer
Snap Dragon
Souverain
St. Clement
Stags’ Leap Winery
Stark Raving
Sterling
The Walking Dead
Uppercut
Wolf Blass
Wynns Coonawarra

Bronco Wine Company

Black Opal
Carmenet
Cellar Four 79
Century Cellars
Charles Shaw
Crane Lake
Colores del Sol
Estrella
Forest Glen
Forestville
Gravel Bar
Great American Wine Co.
Hacienda
Little Penguin
Montpellier
Quail Ridge
Rare Earth
Robert Hall
Sea Ridge
Stone Cellars

(LVMH) Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey

Bodega Numanthia
Cheval Blanc
Cheval de Andes
Cloudy Bay
Dom Perignon
Domaine Chandon
D’yquem
Krug
Mercier
Moet & Chandon
Newton Vineyard
Ruinart
Terrazas de Los Andes
Veuve Clicquot

Trinchero Estates

Bandit
Charles & Charles
Dona Paula
Duck Commander
Fancy Pants
Folie a Deux
Fre
Joel Gott
Los Cardos
Menage a Trois
Montevina
Napa Cellars
Newman’s Own
Pomelo
SeaGlass
Sutter Home
Sycamore Lane
The SHOW

Deutsch Family Brands

Cave de Lugny
Clos de los Siete
Enza
Eppa
Fleurs de Praire
Hob Nob
Joseph Carr
Josh Cellars
Kunde Family
Peter Lehmann
Ramon Bilbao
Ruta 22
Skyfall
The Calling
The Crossing
Villa Pozzi

Guarachi Wine Partners

Black Ink
Castillo de Monseran
Guarachi
Kaiken
Nobilissima
Santa Ema
Surf-Swim
Tensley
Tenshen

Foley Family Wines

Acrobat
Awatere Pass
Butterfield Station
Chalk Hill Winery
Chalone Vineyard
Clifford Bay
Dashwood
EOS
Firestone
Foley Johnson
Four Sisters
Goldwater
Guenoc
Lancaster Estate
Lincourt
Lucien Albrecht
Merus
Nieto Senetiner
Pebble Row
Pepperwood Grove
Piccini
Poizin
Roth
Sebastini
Smoking Loon
Tahbilk
The Four Graces
Three Rivers Winery
Wayne Gretzky

Pernod Ricard

Brancott
Campo Viejo
Graffigna
Jacob’s Creek
Kenwood
Stoneliegh
George Wyndham

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Whiskey and Wine Revisited

In 2016, I dipped my toes into exploring the strange trend of wine aged in whiskey barrels with my original Whiskey and Wine post.

In that post I did a blind tasting featuring 3 barrel aged wines and one regular red wine ringer thrown in. While I thought this fad would quickly fade, it looks like it has only picked up steam with new entries on the market.

I decided to investigate a little more with another blind tasting of as many different barrel aged wines that I could find. (Results below)

I got bottles of the Apothic Inferno, Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon and Barrelhouse Red featured in the last blind tasting as well as new bottlings from Mondavi of a bourbon barrel aged Chardonnay (I’m not kidding) and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Barrelhouse. I found new examples from Cooper & Thief, 1000 Stories, Big Six Wines, Stave & Steel and Paso Ranches. For a twist, I also added the 19 Crimes The Uprising that was actually aged in rum barrels.

I tried to find bottles of The Federalist’s Bourbon barrel aged Zinfandel, Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz and 1000 Stories “half batch” Petite Sirah but to no avail.

So What’s The Deal?

Why are so many producers jumping on this bandwagon?

On Twitter, wine and lifestyle blogger Duane Pemberton (@Winefoot) had an interesting take.

A similar sentiment was shared on Facebook from one of my winemaking friends, Alan, who noted that the charcoal from the heavy toast of the bourbon barrels could function as a fining agent for wines with quality issues like bad odors.

Now considering that many of the mega-corporations behind these wines like Gallo (Apothic), Constellation Brands (Mondavi & Cooper & Thief), The Wine Group (Stave & Steel) and Concha y Toro/Fetzer (1000 Stories) process millions of tons of grapes for huge portfolios of brands, this actually makes brilliant business sense.

Even in the very best of vintages, you are always going to have some fruit that is less than stellar–often from massively over-cropped vineyards that aren’t planted in the most ideal terroir. Rather than funnel that fruit to some of your discount brands like Gallo’s Barefoot, Constellation’s Vendange and The Wine Group’s Almaden, you can put these wines in a whiskey barrel for a couple months and charge a $5-10 premium–or in the case of Cooper & Thief, $30 a bottle!

Trying to Keep An Open Mind

Bourbon Standards

In this tasting, I wanted to explore how much of the whiskey barrel influence is noticeable in the wine. In the last blind tasting, one of things that jumped out for me is that the Mondavi Cab and Barrelhouse red didn’t really come across as “Whiskey-like” and were drinkable just fine as bold red wines. Meanwhile the Apothic Inferno did scream WHISKEY but it came across more like a painful screech.

To facilitate that exploration, I poured some examples of “Bourbon Standards” that the tasting panel could smell for reference (and drink after the tasting if needed!). My Bourbon Standards were:

Larceny — From Heaven Hill Distillery. A “fruity sweet” Bourbon with noticeable oak spice.

Jim Beam — Old standard from Beam-Suntory. A light Bourbon with floral and spice notes.

Two Stars — A wheated Bourbon from Sazerac. It’s kind of like if Buffalo Trace and Maker’s Mark had a baby, this would be it. Caramel and spice with honey and fruit.

Bulleit — Made now at Four Roses Distillery. Sweet vanilla and citrus.

The Wines

Apothic Inferno & Cooper & Thief

Apothic Inferno — ($13) Made by Gallo. Unknown red blend. This wine is unique in that it only spent 60 days in whiskey barrels (as opposed to bourbon barrels) while most of the other reds spent 90 days. 15.9% ABV

Cooper & Thief — ($30) Made by Constellation under the helm of Jeff Kasavan, the former director of winemaking for Vendange. I did appreciate that this was the only red blend that gave its blend composition with 38% Merlot, 37% Syrah, 11% Zinfandel, 7% Petite Sirah, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% “other red grapes”. The wine was aged for 90 days and had the highest ABV of all the wines tasted with 17%. This wine was also unique in that it was from the 2014 vintage while all the other reds (with the exception of the 19 Crimes) were from the 2015 vintage.

Barrelhouse — ($13-14) Made by Bruce and Kim Cunningham of AW Direct. A Cabernet Sauvignon and unknown Red Blend aged 90 days in bourbon barrels. Both of these wines were unique in that they had the lowest alcohol levels in the tasting with only 13.2% while most of the other wines were over 15%.

Big Six — ($15 each) Made by god knows who. The back label says it is from King City, California which means that it could be a Constellation brand or it could be made at a custom crush facility like The Monterey Wine Company. They offer a Cabernet Sauvignon, unknown Red Blend and Zinfandel aged 90 days in bourbon barrels with ABVs ranging from 15.1% (Red blend) to 15.5% (Zinfandel).

Paso Ranches Zinfandel — ($20) Made by Ginnie Lambrix at Truett Hurst. While most wines were labeled as multi-regional “California”, this wine is sourced from the more limited Paso Robles AVA. Aged 90 days with a 16.8% ABV.

Robert Mondavi — ($12 each) Made by Constellation Brands. A Cabernet Sauvignon aged 90 days and a Chardonnay aged for 60 days with both wines having an ABV of 14.5%. Like the Paso Ranches, these wines were sourced from the more limited Monterrey County region.

Stave & Steel Cabernet Sauvignon — ($17) Made by The Wine Group. This wine was unique in that it was aged the longest of all the wines with 4 months. Like the Barrelhouse, this wine had a more moderate alcohol of 13.5%

Got only crickets from them on Twitter as well.


1000 Stories Zinfandel — ($17) Made by Fetzer which is owned by Concha y Toro. This was one of the first wineries in the US to release a bourbon barrel aged wine back in 2014 with winemaker Bob Blue claiming that he’s been aging wine in old whiskey barrels since the 1980s. This was the only wine that I could not figure out how long it was aged with the bottle or website giving no indication. The ABV was 15.6%

19 Crimes — ($8) Made by Treasury Estates with wine sourced from SE Australia. Unknown red blend that was aged 30 days in rum barrels with 15% ABV. This was the youngest wine featured in the tasting coming from the 2016 vintage.

The Blind Tasting

To be as objective as possible, especially with some of the wines like the Cooper & Thief having very distinctive bottles, I brown bagged the wines and had my wife pour the wines in another room. We also “splash decanted” all the wines (with the exception of the Chardonnay) to clear off any reductive notes.

After trying the Chardonnay non-blind, my wife would randomly select an unmarked bag, label it A through L and poured the wines in 6 flights of 2 wines each. We then evaluated the wines and gave each a score on a scale of 1-10. Below is a summary of some of our notes, scores and rankings with the reveal to follow. My friend Pete contributed the colorful “personification” of the wines in his tasting notes. The wine price ranges are from my own notes.

To keep our palates as fresh as possible we had plenty of water and crackers throughout the tasting. And boy did our poor little spit bucket get a work out, needing to be emptied after every other flight. But even with spitting, it was clear that we were absorbing some of the high alcohol levels. After 6 reds, we also paused for a break to refresh our palates with some sparkling wine.

Mondavi Chardonnay (Scores 4, 7, 6, 5.5, 4 = 26.5 for 7th place) Vanilla, butterscotch, canned cream corn & tropical fruit like warm pinneapple. More rum barrel influence than bourbon. Drinks like something in the $7-8 range

Wine A (Scores 6, 7.5, 6, 7, 6 = 32.5 for 3rd place) Baby powder and baking spice. Noticeable Mega-Purple influence. Maybe a Zin or Petite Sirah. Minimal oak influence. Some burnt char. Kind of like the girl you met at the carnival, take for a ride but don’t buy her cotton candy. Drinks like something in the $10-12 range.

Many wines were very dark and opaque.


Wine B (Scores 2, 3, 4, 2, 2 = 13 for 11th place) Very sweet. Lots of vanilla. Noticeable oak spice and barrel influence. Little rubber. More rye whiskey than bourbon. Taste like oxidize plum wine. Very bitter and diesel fuelish. Reminds me of a Neil Diamond groupie. Drinks like something in the $7-8 range.

Wine C (Scores 7, 7, 7, 7, 3 = 31 for 5th place) Smells like a ruby port or Valpolicella ripasso. Some wintergreen mint and spice. Cherry and toasted marshmellow. Noticeable barrel influence. Reminds me of Karen from Mean Girls. Drinks like something in the $10-12 range.

Wine D (Scores 3, 4.5, 5, 2, 2 = 16.5 for 10th place) Very sweet, almost syrup. Burnt creme brulee. Burnt rubber. Toasted coconut. Rum soaked cherries. The color is like Hot Topic purple hair dye. Super short finish which is actually a godsend. If this wine was a person, her name would be Chauncey. Drinks like something in the $5-6 range.

Wine E (Scores 6, 7, 6, 8, 7 = 34 for 2nd place) Raspberry and vanilla. Graham cracker crust. Not as sweet as others. Very potpourri and floral. Really nice nose! Smells like the Jim Beam. Little Shetland pony earthiness. High heat and noticeable alcohol. Reminds me of the guy who is really ugly but you like him anyways. Drinks like something in the $14-16 range.

Wine F (Scores 3.5, 5.5, 4, 5, 5 = 22 for 8th place) Toasted marshmellows. Noticeably tannic like a Cab. Raspberry and black currants. Not much barrel influence. This wine seems very robotic. Drinks like something in the $12-14 range.

That spit bucket rarely left my side during this tasting.

Wine G (Scores 6.5, 7, 3, 6.5, 6 = 27 for 6th place) Tons of baking spice. Very noticeable oak. Reminds me of a Paso Zin. Lots of black pepper–makes my nose itch. Slightly sweet vanilla. Most complex nose so far. Would be a really good wine if it wasn’t so sweet. Reminds me of a Great Depression era dad. Drinks like a $14-16 wine.

Wine H (Scores 2, 3, 3, 1, 2 = 11 for 13th last place) Burnt rubber tires. Smells very boozy. Fuel. Taste like really bad Seagram’s 7. Cheap plastic and char like someone set knockoff Crocs shoes on fire. Reminds me of Peter Griffin. Drinks like something in the $7-8 range.

Wine I (Scores 7.5, 6.5, 7, 8, 7 = 36 for 1st place) Dark fruit and pepper spice. Turkish fig. Juicy acidity. Not as sweet. Round mouthfeel and very smooth. Creamy like butterscotch. Not much barrel influence. Reminds me of a sociopath that you don’t know if they want to cuddle with you or cut your throat. Drinks like something in the $14-16 range.

Wine J (Scores 4, 4, 3, 4, 3 = 19 for 9th place) Marshmellow fluff. Caramel. Very sweet. Smells like a crappy Manhattan with cherry. Seems like a boozy Zin. Not horrible but still bad. Not much barrel influence at all. Reminds me of children. Drinks like a $10-12 wine.

The tasting sheets.

Wine K (Scores 7, 6.5, 8, 4, 6 = 31.5 for 4th place) Big & rich. Juicy cherries. Sweet but not overly so. Little pepper spice. Very easy drinking. Something I would actually drink. Not much barrel influence. Makes me think of the “I’ve got a Moon Ma” guy. (author’s note: I have no idea what Pete is referring to here. This is my best guess.) Drinks like a $10-12 wine.

Wine L (Scores 1, 4, 2, 4, 1 = 12 for 12th place) Stewed plums and burnt rubber. Lots of tannins and acid. The worst thing I’ve had in my mouth all week. Pretty horrible. Long unpleasant finish. Reminds me of Sloth from The Goonies. Drinks like a $10-12 wine.

The Reveal

After tallying up the scores, we revealed the wines. In order from best tasting to worst tasting of the barrel aged wines:

The closeness in style and rankings of the 3 Big Six wines were surprising.

1st Place: Barrelhouse Red (Bag I)
2nd Place: Stave & Steel Cabernet Sauvignon (Bag E)
3rd Place: Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon (Bag A)
Big Six Zinfandel (Bag K)
Big Six Cabernet Sauvignon (Bag C)
Big Six Red Blend (Bag G)
Mondavi Chardonnay (non-blind)
Barrelhouse Cabernet Sauvignon (Bag F)
19 Crimes The Uprising (Bag J)
Cooper & Thief (Bag D)
Paso Ranches Zinfandel (Bag B)
1000 Stories Zinfandel (Bag L)
Last Place: Apothic Inferno (Bag H)

Final Thoughts

One clear trend that jumped out was that the top three wines had moderate alcohol (13.2% with the Barrelhouse to 14.5% with the Mondavi). Overall these wines tasted better balance and had the least amount of the off-putting burnt rubber and diesel fuel note which tended to come out in the worst performing wines like the Apothic Inferno (15.9%), Cooper & Thief (17%), 1000 Stories Zin (15.6%) and Paso Ranches Zin (16.8%).

Another trend that emerged that was similar to the previous tasting (which had the Barrelhouse Red and Mondavi Cab also doing very well) is that the most enjoyable wines were the ones with the least overt whiskey barrel influence. This was true even with the 2nd place finish of the Stave & Steel that was the wine that spent the most time in barrel at 4 months. That is a testament to the skill of the winemaker where the whiskey barrel is used as a supporting character to add some nuance of spice and vanilla instead of taking over the show.

Comparing the 4 month aged Stave & Steel to the 2 month aged Apothic Inferno is rather startling because even with a shorter amount of barrel time the Apothic seemed to absorb the worst characteristics from the whiskey barrel with the burnt rubber and plastic. The 19 Crimes that only spent 30 days in rum barrels didn’t show much barrel influence at all.

It also appears that, in general, Cabernet Sauvignon takes better to the barrel aging compared to Zinfandel though the Big Six Zinfandel did fairly well to earn a 4th place finish. The most difficult task for winemakers is to try and reign in the sweetness. Several of these wines had notes like Wine G (the Big Six red blend that is probably Zin dominant) that they would actually be decent wines if they were just a bit less sweet.

One last take away (which is true of most wines) is that price is not an indicator of quality. Three of the worst performing wines were among the 4 most expensive with the $17 1000 Stories Zin, $20 Paso Ranches Zin and the $30 Cooper & Thief. In fact, the Cooper & Thief tasted so cheap that I pegged it as a $5-6 wine. It is very clear that you are paying for the unique bottle and fancy website with this wine.

Only the $17 Stave & Steel that came in 2nd held its own in the tasting to merit its price though the Barrelhouse Red at $13 and Mondavi Cab at $12 offer better value.

It’s clear that this trend is not going away anytime soon. If you’re curious, these wines are worth exploring but be aware that they vary considerably in style, alcohol and sweetness. Grab a few bottles and form your own opinion.

But take my advice and have some good ole fashion real whiskey on standby. Those “bourbon standards” certainly came in handy after the tasting.

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The Facade of Choice

To see more of how much your choices are limited at the supermarkets, check out our post Who makes your Supermarket Wine? (A Running List)

The Wine Industry Advisor posted their list of most read articles of 2017 with the number one article,from March, being on the launch of Liberation Distribution‘s web-based platform designed to connect small wineries with retail and restaurant clients.

LibDib aims to fill a huge gap in the traditional three-tier distribution network where the wholesale tier is dominated by a few large players who virtually ignore all but the largest portfolios. This is an exciting development for wine lovers to watch.  When small family-owned wineries gain avenues to retail shelves and restaurant wine lists, it results in consumers getting real choices.

That’s not the case right now at all.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a stroll to a local grocery store and look at the shelves.

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Here’s a snapshot of 20 Cabernet Sauvignons. That’s a lot of Cabs right? Well out of the 20, we have 5 of the wines being brands that belong (either whole or partially) to E. & J. Gallo. That’s 25% of the shelf right there. Of course that percentage could be higher if we include Gallo’s recent purchase of Orin Swift wines or add other popular and well known Cabernet Sauvignons from the Gallo brands of Bridlewood, Carnivor, Souverain, The Naked Grape and Vin Vault.

Let’s move over to Chardonnay where Jackson Family Estate holds considerable weight in the market place. Both the Kendall Jackson Vintner’s Reserve and La Crema Sonoma Coast regularly vie for top-selling Chardonnay in the United States but Jackson Family Estates can also control the shelf with Chardonnays from their Carmel Road, Freemark Abbey, Brewer-Clifton, Byron and Matanzas Creek brands.

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In recent years, the Jackson Family has been aggressively acquiring brands in Oregon and now includes such notable names as Penner-Ash, Zena Crown and Willakenzie in their portfolio.

If we head over to red blends, we see a lot of familiar names and many of them are under the umbrella of Constellation Brands. The past couple of years, Constellation has been spending mad money buying virtually everything from high-end Napa estates like Schrader Cellars, several of Charles Smith’s Washington labels to distilleries like High West and breweries like Ballast Point.
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Constellation Brands has certainly been on a buying spree of late. It is becoming something of a parlor game to guess who they are going to swallow up next. For many observers, the betting money is on Constellation making a move to acquire Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

Speaking of Ste Michelle Wine Estates…

A quick peak at the Syrah and Merlot sectionshows what a commanding presence they have in Washington State. Of the 17 skus featured on the shelf here, nearly 50% are made by this one company.

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That doesn’t even include their other well known brands. Things like Seven Falls, Drumheller, Northstar, Spring Valley, Stimson, Tenet/Pundit, Col Solare as well as their original CSM label. It also doesn’t include some of their partnership projects and recent purchases of California wineries like Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Patz & Hall to go with their previous holdings of Conn Creek, Villa Mt. Eden, and Erath in Oregon.

Restaurants can have wine lists of 100+ wines made up of nothing but brands owned by Ste Michelle Wine Estates.

And this is not unusual in the world of wine. The consolidation of distributors and flurry of mergers and acquisitions of wineries by big corporations puts immense pressure on dwindling shelf space.

This results in making it virtually impossible for many small wineries to break through. So it’s not surprising that a start up like Liberation Distribution is capturing attention. It potentially could be a game changer for many family wineries.

It’s something worth watching and certainly worth raising a glass to toast the success of.

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