First, let’s make something perfectly clear. I am a wine snob. Unapologetically so.

What I mean by that is I’m a wine purist. A spirits purist, too, to tell the truth. Spirits are spirits, beer is beer, and wine is wine, and n’er the twain shall meet.

Or something like that.

I bring this up because during the course of the last few years, wine fermented/aged in bourbon or other spirits casks have been quite the buzz. While I had come to accept that certain brands of scotch were aged in, say, sherry barrels, I hadn’t quite come to fully embrace the concept of wines being aged in spirits barrels. Purist.

How primitive. How gauche. How icky.

And then this weekend happened.

I stopped at Costco to purchase a couple of oversized items I apparently had a need for, and while there, I moseyed over to the wine section. The Costco on North Decatur has a nice wine section, even if it’s not as extensive as the Summerlin location’s selection. There I found a bottle of 2014 Cooper & Thief, a red wine blend that had been aged in bourbon barrels. It was the bargain price of $22 (it’s Costco. Duh.) I grabbed a bottle.

I told my friends Dick & Jarlene, and they looked at it as a challenge. They found a similar bottle at Total Wine, and we sat down on Saturday to have a comparison tasting.


They picked up the 2015 Barrelhouse Bourbon Red Wine at Total Wine for about $13 (I think) which is part of Total’s Winery Direct line. My first reaction was that it looked almost like blood. A deep garnet/purple, it was lovely in the glass. Not overly complex, it had hints of red fruit (as in red plums & raspberry), and lots of vanilla. There was just a soupçon of a hint of bourbon character which melded nicely with the slightly smoky flavor. I could not find the grapes that make up the blend.

The Cooper & Thief, on the other hand, was bourbon on steroids. I’ve seen a couple of reviews about this wine that compared it to Port, and I strongly disagree. Yes, at 17% ABV, it certainly will get your attention. However, it does not have the sweetness of Port, but it is rich, dense, opaque, and has a more assertive bourbon character than the Barrelhouse.

Barrelhouse is on the left, Cooper & Thief on the right

Barrelhouse is on the left, Cooper & Thief on the right

This wine is complex with a blend of 38% Merlot, 37% Syrah, 11% Zinfandel, 7% Petite Sirah, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% ?? varieties. It has picked up more complexity after having spent three months in the barrel. Along with rich red and dark fruits, interesting floral character, and touches of coffee and cocoa (thanks Merlot!), it has just a hint of the toffee, butterscotch, and sweet spice notes that you’ll find in Bourbon. It is a dense, dark, and brooding wine, and pairs well with food. Think Kentucky, Maduro cigar, and carnivore.

It is delicious and despite its heat, it’s very easy to drink before it becomes necessary to take an unscheduled nap.

Don’t ask.

I can easily recommend both wines, but the Cooper & Thief is, in my opinion, a wine worth seeking out. If you can’t find it at Costco, it is available at Total Wine and online retailers for a few dollars more.

These bourbon-enhanced wines will take your inner wine snob and spin it on its heels!