Bourbon Barrel Aged Wines Are Exploding! A Great One is Wood Family Vineyards 2020 Bourbon Barrel Aged Red Wine

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The History of Using Bourbon Barrels For Wine And Today’s Market

In the early 1980’s, American oak barrels were expensive for many start up wineries. By law bourbon barrels have to be 100% American oak and can only be used one time to distill bourbon in the United States. So after their use, many barrels became available for “other distilled spirits” and wineries to purchase at a fraction of the price of new French or new American oak barrels.  So why doesn’t everyone purchase used bourbon barrels? Key is that whiskey barrels are produced differently than wine barrels. Whiskey barrels are charred on the inside verses wine barrels which are toasted. By only toasting wine barrels, the wine while aging develops many nuances of flavor. Bourbon barrel aged wines tend to be bold with ripe reds, vanilla, smoky and with muted tannins.

Photo credit to Daniel Norris

The use of bourbon barrel aging has taken off more recently with wineries using these barrels. Some view it as a trend to attract Millennials who buy whiskies. Others view it as a crossover from spirits to wine and yet the resulting wine is unique, smooth and provides an enjoyable sipping experience.  Here is how fast the Bourbon Barrel aging market is taking off: The spirits barrel aged category of wine earned $120 million in 2019 compared to $800,000 in 2015! This market is exploding due to the flavor profile not just with Millennials but with wine aficionados looking to enhance their experience.

Wine write Sarah Phillips McCartan provided some interesting facts of the fast emerging Bourbon Barrel aged market:

  • Wine aged in bourbon and other sprits barrels is a success in the US – with sales of 20m bottles – and a growing presence elsewhere.
  • If these wines were a category, it would be bigger than Zinfandel.
  • 60 brands, including Mondavi, Fetzer, Beringer and Apothic offer examples of the style.
  • Spirits-aged wine can command premium prices while being inexpensive and quick to produce.
  • Wine purists may not like them, but these products are popular with bourbon fans, and US whiskey is a fast-growing premium sector.
  • Bourbon used to be associated with male consumers, but it increasingly appeals to women.
  • Wine is also being matured in barrels used for other spirits such as tequila and rum.
  • Initially focused on the US market, spirits barrel wines are now doing well in export markets like the UK.

In the past year, US wine consumers have purchased 1.6 million cases – close to 20 million bottles – of spirits-aged wines according to Nielsen data. To put this into context, if the spirits-aged category were a variety, it would beat Zinfandel and Syrah, among others to rank 14th among still wines. Around 60 brands now participate in the most important sub-category, bourbon barrel-aged wines.

The Wine – Wood Family Vineyards 2020 Bourbon Barrel Red Wine, Against The Grain

I was given an advance bottle of the 2020 “Against The Grain” that uses the following blends: 54% Syrah, 36% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Petite Sirah. This year’s release, 2020, Rhonda Wood produced only 45 cases due to availability of bourbon barrels to infuse her wine! Wood Family Vineyards taste the different varietals after their normal barrel aging and decide which wines to blend together. The final blend is then aged in Bourbon barrels for additional two months.

After the actual wines are produced and the final blend determined, it is then aged an additional eight weeks in bourbon barrels. The wine will be released October 20th and will most likely be sold for around $45.

The wine on the eyes was a cavernous purple coloration with medium heavy viscosity.  On the nose, the flavors of Syrah like blueberry, mocha and roasted coffee came to mind. The first sip on the palate detonating the senses with a smooth bourbon along with some jammy, cinnamon, smoke and dark berry characteristics of the actual wine blend. The finish was equally pronounced with smoothness, smoke and a hint of bourbon on the back of the throat. The tannins were almost unnoticeable but layers of flavor and structure were present due to the wines used and the bourbon barrels.

The Food and Wine Pairing

The Friday Night Wine & Dine group met Friday night at Verona18 at the Golf Club at Copper Valley. The wine was paired with a filet mignon cooked medium rare and served with a Gorgonzola compound butter with French fries and fresh vegetables. The steak melting in the mouth and the wine was so scrumptious with the mix of Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah and the vanilla finish due to the Bourbon Barrels. A winning combination! Several at tonight’s dinner were extremely impressed with the wine and will be purchasing some soon!


I had purchased the previous releases and am always pleased to have a few bottles in the cellar. It has for the last three years made my list of Best Wines Tasted of the Year under $50. This is unique, delicious and worthy of trying. The 2020 wine is more rounded which should appeal to a broader audience.  It is really a wine to be consumed and not aged. Rhonda states on the back of the bottle “let this bold wine, with unique bourbon influences of vanilla, caramel and smoke, remind us to step outside of the box, go against the grain and have a little fun in this life of ours”. Truer words could not be spoken about this wine experience!




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