mondavi bourbon barrelsThis sounds like a gimmick, right? But it got me to buy the bottle so maybe it’s a successful marketing strategy. Bourbon flavored wine is not something I want to drink. I like bourbon and I like wine, but separately please. Thankfully, this doesn’t really taste like bourbon although there is a bit of caramel on the midpalate and a wood laced finish that comes from the barrels. I’ve tasted several wines aged in bourbon barrels and they have never been particularly impressive. But for a budget wine, this one is actually not bad. Despite pushing the sweetness boundary for a Cab, the barrel aging gives the wine some depth and layers that under $15 Cabs often don’t have.

Warm and comforting with a half-hearted mule kick at the end. The nose shows ripe black cherry, toasty oak, and chocolate. The medium weight palate is soft and smooth up front, with a touch of caramel sweetness midpalate and a medium length finish of sweet oak and grainy tannins that gives the wine some rusticity and heft. Recommended because it is a bit different from other comparably priced brands and I like the finish. Any time you can say that about a budget wine, it’s a good day.

Bourbon influence of course calls for the blues. Taj Mahal and Jimmie Smith together make a good rendition of smooth but rustic.

Technical Notes: Only a portion of the blend is aged in new oak and used bourbon barrels for at least 3 months.

Score: 87

Price: $14

Alc: 14.5%