1000 Stories Zinfandel 2016, California
Cost: $18-20
I really enjoy revisiting a wine I have had in the past to see if it is still as good as I remember it. The 1000 Stories zinfandel is as least as good as the wine I tasted two years ago, and probably better.
Of course, when I first tasted this wine it was in a cabin at Mammoth Cave National Park, where we munched on potato chips and watched “The X-Files.” This time we had it with a proper dinner, and it was outstanding.
I picked this wine up when we were driving through Kentucky on our way to driving around the Great Lakes. The idea of drinking wine made in bourbon barrels while we were in Kentucky sounded like a fun thing to do.
I’m glad I did because the wine is really special. And now I see the wine in many stores.
The wine tastes like a typical zinfandel, with some extra herbs and spices tossed in. It is a deep ruby red in the glass with aromas of vanilla and herbs. On the palate you pick up juicy red fruit, red licorice and spices. The finish is smooth and lingering.
You might say sipping this wine is like taking a big bite out of a juicy plum or a handful of ripe blackberries.

The label is meant to attract attention. A buffalo on the label and the name 1000 Stories is meant to draw attention to the wine’s American heritage. Zinfandel is a uniquely American grape and nothing is more American than the buffalo. The winery says a pioneering spirit and our unique traditions give us a heritage woven from 1,000 stories.
The wine is made like craft spirits and beer in small lots, each unique. Winemaker Bob Blue interprets the singular fruit, vineyards and barrels that go into each batch and creates something new.
New and used bourbon barrels bring intense flavors to the wine, so Blue uses a restrained approach to the process.
In this batch he included dry-farmed, head-trained zinfandel vines from Mendocino County to add depth, structure and red fruit notes to the wine. Paso Robles vineyards add red licorice and brown spice flavors. Lodi fruit adds round tannins and dark fruit notes. A small amount of Lake County petite sirah adds intense dark color and hints of black pepper.
After fermentation each individual lot is put in traditional French and American oak barrels to begin aging. Then the wine goes into new bourbon barrels, where the char adds smokey notes to the nose and palate and a touch of vanilla and caramel flavor.
The process ends in used bourbon barrels, some as old as 13 years old, from some of America’s most celebrated distilleries. This adds further depth and nuance to the bold character of the wine.
You don’t really taste bourbon in the wine, but I did notice the mellowness and depth that comes from the barrels. You wouldn’t want to use bourbon barrels on lighter red such as pinot noir or sangiovese, but zinfandel can stand up to the intensity of the bourbon barrels.
“Years ago, when I was just starting out as a winemaker, wine barrels were not widely available and American oak barrels were for whiskey, not wine,” said Blue. “But we still needed barrels to age our wine, so we purchased (and neutralized) used bourbon barrels.
“Today, American and French oak wine barrels are commonplace, so aging 1000 Stories in bourbon barrels is a nod to the way things were. Now, instead of neutralizing the unique nuances of the bourbon barrels, we use them to enhance the complexity of the wine.”
The first batch made was from the 2013 vintage. I had some from batch #7 from the 2014 vintage. The wine I just tasted was from batch #41 during the 2016 vintage. So it looks like they are making more batches each succeeding year.
Each batch is supposed to be slightly different, but from what I have tasted, it’s a good bet each batch will be awfully good.
Winery: The 1000 Stories brand is an offshoot of Fetzer, a winery started in 1968. Winemakers tried giving other grapes the bourbon barrel treatment, but when zinfandel worked so well, Fetzer spun off 1000 Stories.
The winery practices responsible farming. It also supports the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has built a network of experts and strong relationships with ranchers and Native American tribes in an effort to restore natural habitats for the buffalo population.
They work to develop programs to reintroduce buffalo into healthy environments where they may thrive and contribute to the ecosystems once again.
Thanks to strong conservation efforts started in the early 1900s by the American Bison Society (led by pioneering conservationist Theodore Roosevelt), the bison population has grown to about 450,000, yet fewer than 20,000 range freely. Realizing the bison population was still at risk, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) re-launched the American Bison Society in 2005.
1000 Stories makes only one wine, but it produces several different batches each year. The batch number is on the label
Michael loves Italian beef sandwiches, and the Binomio was a perfect match for them.
Goes with: We had this with an old favorite from Chicago, where I grew up. The dish is Italian beef, thin-sliced roast beef cooked in a thin gravy of herbs and spices served on a hard roll or baguette. You can add cooked bell peppers, hot peppers or onions. I always stick to the bell peppers.
The flavors are incredible, rich, intense and satisfying. You can make what they call a “wet” sandwich by dribbling a little juice on the inner part of the bread, giving you a sandwich that is crunchy on the outside and nice and gooey inside.
The beef is a real treat, especially because you can’t find it outside of Chicago. We used to be able to find Italian beef and Chicago hot dogs at a local place called Dino’s, but they closed their door several years ago. So now I import the beef and gravy from Portillo’s one of the best chains for Chicago fast food.
My son Michael and I loved the way the juicy fruit flavors of the wine played off the herbs and spices in the beef sandwich. I made some hash-brown potatoes to round out the meal and Teri added some fresh, cut vegetables.
This wine also would pair well with meat on the grill, burgers, chili, ribs, pizza, or hearty cheeses.

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