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Randall Murray: Reds aged in bourbon barrels are a new sensation
Randall Murray
Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at His column publishes monthly.

Expecting a paean to the poobah of poultry — the Thanksgiving turkey — this month? Look elsewhere.

Oh, all right. Here’s your Reader’s Digest guide to wine to serve with the big bird (the brown one in the oven, not the yellow one on Sesame Street). Like white? Go with gewurztraminer (but not Fetzer). Like red? Pass around a pinot noir. Want the perfect wine? Pop the cork on a Champagne or sparkling wine.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes, trends.

Wine of the month

Qupe Central Coast Syrah 2014

The wine: Lush, dry red table wine.

The grapes: 88 percent Syrah with touches of Grenache, Mourvedre and Tempranillo.

The source: California’s Central Coast.

b “Silky” is the word that sprang into my mind when I took the second sip of this perfectly balanced red. Winemaker Bob Lundquist has a deft touch with Syrah and this wine should go on his resume. Balance is the key to a great wine, and everything in this wine is just right: alcohol, acid, fruit flavors and aromas, texture. There’s not a rough spot to be found. Syrah does not approach other reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, in popularity. It should. Give this one a try. I think you will agree this Qupe is an absolutely lovely red wine.

The price: About $20.

This next one is a minor trend and I don’t think it’s going to last long or explode in the mainstream of the wine marketplace. Then again, I did remark thusly to a friend in England in 1964 who was awestruck by a new English rock quartet: “The Beatles! What a stupid name. By 1966 nobody’s going to know who they were.”

Yeah, well, I also owned a Corvair.

But look around for one of these wines and you may be pleasantly surprised, awed even. These are red wines aged in — wait for it — bourbon barrels. And the flavor and aroma sensations are fulsome.

I received a sample of a red called Apothic Inferno several weeks ago. I like the Apothic line; these are good value wines at reasonable prices and they are easy to find. But the Inferno is way different. It’s a red blend, which in itself represents a major trend over the past three years. And the Inferno is limited production.

But this one is aged for 60 days in bourbon barrels. And you can smell that as soon as the cork leaves the bottle. And the taste is unique: big and bold, woodsy and full-bodied. It is not for the faint of heart.

Fifth-generation Georgians like to tweak me with this question, always offered with a smile: “So, what wine would you serve with good barbecue?” I think I’ve found it.

Another of these niche wines is the 2015 Robert Mondavi Monterey County Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a Cabernet blend on steroids. In addition to the Cab you’ll find Petite Sirah, Malbec and Petit Verdot. It gets aged at least three months in bourbon barrels from “a well-known Kentucky distillery,” which the winery does not name.

The traditional aroma of vanilla from the oak jumps out. And the taste is best described as abundant. Mate this full-bodied wine with something like a strip steak dotted with crushed black peppercorns, or a steaming platter of carne asada with lots of garlic and cayenne.

The folks who make the last example of bourbon barrel aging put the whole issue into perspective. Back in the day, the label notes recount, French and American oak barrels were expensive, especially to a young winemaker. 

“... so we purchased new and used bourbon barrels.” Today’s trend is back to the future.

The wine is 2015 1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel. Look for the label with a buffalo. I love Zin, and this special treatment just kicks up the Zin experience several notches. The usual dark fruit and spicy flavors are happily there. But the upgraded oakiness and peppery tones make this a wonderful wine. Fruit is largely from Mendocino County, home to good Zins.

Another happy note: All these wines can be found locally and all are under $20.

Rose-colored boxes

If you have been browsing the wine shelves during the past several years, one thing should have jumped out at you: The flood of dry rose wines being offered. 

About four years ago I began to notice more of these pink beauties from California, Oregon, France, Italy, etc. The flood was exacerbated by the release of Miraval, the celebrity rose attributed to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, which was ecstatically acclaimed “the best rose in the world” by The Wine Spectator in 2013. No doubt the cachet of Brangelina (before the breakup) had something to do with that high praise.

I’ve had Miraval and it is quite nice; good dry fruit flavors, light but inviting aromas. But is it worth nearly $30? Not to my Scottish sensibilities.

Readers probably know by now that I search out value wines; wines that give a lot of bang for not so much buck. And when it comes to dry roses, I’ve discovered a great value: Bota Box Dry Rose.

Priced anywhere from $17 to $23, this wine in a 3-liter box offers the equivalent of four regular-size bottles of wine. That works out to roughly $5 per bottle. 

But it’s not just me singing its praises. I receive an online wine biz newsletter. In a recent edition a well-known wine blogger asked this question: “Why can’t everybody make a dry rose as good as the Bota Box for $5 a bottle?”

Good question.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at

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