Wine of the Week: Old and new barrel aging techniques combined to create California Zin blend

1000 Story California Blend 2015/2016 Zinfandel Bourbon Barrel Aged-$19

Dwight Casimere | 9/13/2018, noon
In the early days of California wine, vintners employed used Bourbon barrels in their winemaking. French oak was nearly unheard ...

In the early days of California wine, vintners employed used Bourbon barrels in their winemaking. French oak was nearly unheard of and American oak, well, that was used strictly for making whiskey. Enter the modern day of California winemaking and men such as Mike Grgich and Robert Mondavi, who happily employed French winemaking techniques and expensive French oak barrels in their winemaking, to achieve stunning results. They created wines so magnificent that California wine was put on the map at the Paris winemaking competition in 1974. And the rest, as thy say, is history.

The 1000 Stories California Zinfandel ($19) is a throwback to the storied past of California winemaking, with a modern twist. Legendary winemaker Bob Blue used both old and new Bourbon barrels and a combination of French and American oak barrels to create a blended wine of stunning character and complexity. A comparative tasting of 1000 Stories California Zinfandel; Batch 30 from the 2015 vintage and Batch 47 from the newly released 2016 vintage reveals the full range of and depth of flavor that can be achieved with this careful balance of old and new. A thick juicy prime aged Strip Steak, marinated in Cajun spices and blackened over smoldering hardwood coals and hand cut Steak Fries cooked in a deep cast-iron skillet was the accompanying dish to a flavor comparison of the 2015 and 2016 vintages of 1000 Stories Small Batch Zinfandel, 2015 and 2016. The smoky and spicy aspects of the meal served to bring out the like characteristics of the wine. In a word, the wines were dazzling.

Both 1000 Stories Zinfandels employ a blend of classic California Zinfandel grapes from storied California vineyards. Mendocino Zinfandel plays a big role in the blend, with grapes from, classic old vineyards such as Sargentini and Rucker. Head trained and dry farmed, these grapes are known for creating great Zins and are the backbone of 1000 Stories.

New to the batch is Lodi Zinfandel, with its iconic big character and bold flavors. The blend is then rounded out with some Zinfandels from Colusa County, Syrah from Paso Robles and Petite Syrah from Mendocino. Here's where the magical art of wine barrel aging comes into play, with winemaker Bob Blue's distinctive formula of traditional and modern barrel aging techniques using a combination of Bourbon Barrel Aging and both French and American Oak.

The wine is aged in separate small batches and then blended using a proprietary formula. Individual lots of these intriguing wines begin the aging process in American and French oak barrels before being introduced to new Bourbon barrels that are hand staved and fired to a light toast by craftsmen at the Independent Stave Company.

Based in Lebanon, Missouri, the company has handcrafted quality cooperage for the wine and spirits industry since 1912. What began as a small-family-owned business in a small town in the Midwest has grown into a global empire employing thousands in such far-flung locales as Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and Africa. Independent Stave Company barrels reach customers in over 40 countries. Chances are if you've had a drink in any country in the world, you've tasted a wine or whiskey aged in an Independent Stave Company barrel.