Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wine And Whiskey, Not So Risky

From Modesto, California - the home of big-batch wines - comes a small-batch, limited release red blend that is aged in charred, white oak whiskey barrels for 60 days. The barrels were home to whiskey for years before having their way with Inferno, and the effect is dramatic. The press blurb says that "Apothic Inferno blends the red and dark fruit flavors of its wine with layers of maple and spice, giving way to a long, clean finish." Winemaker Debbie Juergenson says Inferno has attitude. "It may not have whiskey in it," she says, "but it's wine with a whiskey soul."

The marketing department talks about "defying convention" and a "rebellious attitude." They even remark that the label art has a "fiery style," which is like pointing to an open flame and mouthing the word "hot." The alcohol hits high, at 15.9% abv, but the price isn't bad at all - just $17 retail.

Speaking of marketing, I sent an email to Apothic, asking what grape varieties were used in the wine. It's a question I have asked hundreds of winemakers without being rebuffed. There is, however, a first time for everything. Their reply was cheery, if uninformative. "Due to strict company policy we are unable to provide you with the processes or ingredients used in our products as this is considered proprietary information -- our secret recipe. We hope you understand." Not really, but if you're that afraid that some other company will steal your idea of using red wine grapes to make a red wine, I suppose it's alright.

Apothic Inferno 2014 appears as a dark ruby vision in the glass and waves at the beholder with a nose born in whiskey and campfire smoke. The palate is also soaked in that boozy barrel, with the flavor of liquor coming through without the heat. The plum and raspberry notes have to fight for notice, and they barely get a signal through, although it does come, with an added hint of rosemary. Tannins are quite firm and will serve a ribeye steak quite well, especially one that's fresh off the grill.

As a wine, I'd have to say the wood has far too much influence, but that is by design. As a beverage, it's a wild delight, bringing together the best aspects of table wine, port and liquor.

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