Thursday, December 6, 2018

Exitus 2016 Red Wine, California

There’s a new entry in the Bourbon-barrel aged beverage market. We uncork Exitus to test the merits of the new offering.

Something Old, Something New

There is a buzz – in more ways than one – about Bourbon-barrel aged beverages these days. There are a multitude of Bourbon-barrel aged craft beers. Aging reds in Bourbon barrels has also launched several successful wines.

We’ve also seen white wines aged in Bourbon barrels. Some whiskey makers have also flipped the tables by aging their spirits in old wine barrels. It seems like the latest trend – but it isn’t exactly.

The cost of oak wine barrels can run anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 or more depending on the producer and whether it is American or French oak. It’s easy to see that oak barrel aging can be quite expensive. Decades ago, some small wine producers would buy much cheaper used Bourbon barrels to age their wine. Score one for Mrs. Alba, my 6th grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary, whose favorite saying was, “There is nothing new under the sun!”

What is new, though, is that winemakers are now using Bourbon barrels to introduce new flavors into wine specifically blended to marry with the dark smoky notes that BBA (Bourbon barrel aging) brings. Exitus is a case in point.

To Exitus With Tradition

Exitus is a Zinfandel-based red blend that includes Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is produced by O’Neill Vintners & Distillers, one of the largest wine and brandy producers in California. It’s portfolio includes Robert Hall and Austerity  wines, among others.

The marketing theme of Exitus is, “To Hell With Tradition.” Its bottle certainly breaks with wine packaging norms. It is clear glass, unlike the dark greens and ambers typically used for red wine to limit exposure to light. There is no foil capsule on the top of the bottle. Instead, there is a seal-like sticker like you might find on a bourbon bottle.

Below the main label is a rectangular one listing the “batch” number, year and noting that the wine is aged for three months. Again, this label is a nod to what your might find on a small batch bourbon. The main Exitus label is gold lettered on a dark brown background and brings to mind a craft beverage.

It’s a very cool package and we were anxious to uncork.

Imbibing The Bourbon Barrel Blend

Raise your hand if this has happened to you. You uncork a wine that from all outside appearances should be world-changing, only to disappointed by what was inside.Would that be the case with Exitus?

Exitus considers itself a “badass” wine. We agree. Unlike other BBA wines we’ve had that proffer a smidgeon of Bourbon taste, Exitus is a wine for Bourbon lovers. From the first sip, the Bourbon flavor is out front.

Even without the Bourbon barrel aging, this is a big wine. It weighs in with 15.9% alcohol. I don’t recall drinking an unfortified wine with more alcohol content. That being said, it sill has some great dark berry flavor with touches of earth and spice. The BBA adds caramel, smoke and toasted oak to the party. It’s a tasty value at about $20.

This isn’t a wine for wimps. It is perfect for those seeking adventure in their wine drinking. Chances are if you serve this at your next party, guests will be headed to the Exitus, not the exits. 

Full Disclosure: We received this wine as a marketing sample.

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