I do believe the label says it all, Spiced Wine, with the word Spiced in gigantic letters running vertically up and down the length of the entire bottle.  That’s a fairly straight forward and in your face approach.  Then I turned the bottle over and discovered that this stuff is made in Hopland, California.  That got me excited.  Hopland just happens to be one of my favorite little places in California.

And by little, I do mean tiny; it’s just under 4 square miles and has a population of around a thousand wine country folks.  Yes, Mendocino County is wine country just like its neighbors Sonoma and Napa, and I can personally vouch for that.  You see, I used to be on the management team of a casino in Hopland for several years and made that 45 minute drive, north from Santa Rosa, where I lived, to Hopland every day and it was the most beautiful commute I ever had or anyone could ever wish for.  Immediately north of Santa Rosa the vineyards start and they continue endlessly all the way through Hopland and carry on for many miles more.  In the summer, they were shimmering seas of green and in the fall they were a blanket of blazing and breathtaking autumn colors. Interspersed every few miles there would be a vineyard tasting room, and I do believe, over those years, I visited each and every one of them at least once.  So if these folks are resourcing their grapes from this area, this spiced wine has the potential to be pretty tasty. Let’s see.

Well, they certainly don’t mess around with their wine mix using Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Syrah and Grenache and even a touch of Sauvignon Blanc brandy.  All of those taken individually from this region are very good in their own right with the Zinfandel and Petite Syrah my personal favorites.  I am going to try this wine two ways, first at room temperature and then chilled. 

spiced wine

At room temperature, the nose presents a pleasant wine aroma up front and then is imbued with a slight backing of cinnamon, pomegranate and raspberries.  The palate is actually quite nice and smooth with the blended wines harmonizing well.  Thankfully there are minimal tannins.  I am actually surprised by the overall restraint and subtlety of these combinations.  From the bottle lettering, I was expecting some kind of overwhelming, tongue exploding experience, but this is very even handed.  The finish is smooth and short and understated.

Chilled, this spice wine seems to do a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde turnabout, at least in the nose.  The nose now is fruit and cinnamon forward although very muted with the wine aromas lurking in the background. And yet on the palate, it seems to remain the same with the wine flavor forward and the spice notes getting pushed even further back. Really, for a spice wine this product is very subtle. The finish is now very short and understated and remains smooth.  Overall, it really wasn’t what I was expecting but it did turn out to be a pleasant surprise.

Even with the addition of the brandy, this Spiced Wine is a modest 13.2% alcohol by volume which puts it squarely in the realm of most wines. Speaking of most wines, a relatively good bottle of wine can be had today for $10.00 to $15.00, while this Spiced Wine comes in at around $23.00 per 750 ml.  I can only blindly assume that the quality components of this wine raise it to that price point, and if money were no object, $23.00 might not be too bad to pay for this experience, but I have to wonder how much their sales would increase if the price point were moved down, possibly even into the high teens?  Obviously they are attempting to break into an upper demographic niche market with a product that is normally thought of as a lower demographic less expensive, take it home and mix it up yourself kind of product.  They certainly have the quality to pull it off; now let’s see if they have the luck.

By George Brozowski