Brian Demay’s Wine Wednesday: Stolen Identity

When I picked up this bottle at the wine store, the manager on duty said, “Good choice: that’s the best bottle of red wine under $20 you can buy.” That is obviously a very subjective statement, particularly if I don’t know the person saying it, but I decided to take it home and see for myself. When I opened it up, it tasted really familiar. I thought, “where have I tasted this wine before?”

More about that in a minute.

There was a time, not that long ago, when you could buy a delicious wine called The Prisoner for about $15 a bottle. This is a famous red wine from California’s Napa Valley that is both smooth and flavorful with a defined tannic structure that everyone absolutely loved. Those were heady days before the world had discovered just how good a winemaker David Phinney was. When corporate America discovered how well The Prisoner was selling, they saw dollar signs, and in 2016 Constellation Brands bought the brand for $285 million. Immediately the price-per-bottle rose to around $50, putting it out of reach for most of us to drink on a regular basis. Major bummer.

So what do people like you and me do when our favorite wine is suddenly priced out of our reach?

Enter Replica Wines.

Using chemical analysis, Replica makes wines that taste very similar to more expensive brands. They believe that if Americans have no problem buying store versions of famous brands, they won’t have a problem buying a generic version of a wine they love, too. Replica used to brag about their wines being “at least 90 percent chemically similar to the wine by which each was inspired, in notes such as acid, butter, caramel, citrus, earthy, floral, fruity, herbal, nutty, oaky, smoky, spicy, sweet and tannic.” They were quite blatant about this in early bottlings, putting the info right on the label. It appears they are toning down that message of late, calling this red blend simply Stolen Identity, with an artsy label, and no mention of it being a copy of any other type or style of wine.

So how does it taste? Is it, indeed, the best bottle of wine under $20 money can buy?

Stolen Identity is a very nice red wine, and a very good buy. At 15.2% alcohol, it is also a wine I would put in the “cold weather, sip by the fire” category. We don’t know the exact blend of California grapes used, but it’s most likely Zinfandel-based with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Merlot. If you like a softer red wine with plenty of fruit and a bit of a kick, this fits the bill with nice flavors of black cherry, plum, and vanilla, with a dry, dark cocoa finish. Stolen Identity is slightly sweeter than The Prisoner, but close enough that you won’t miss not paying that extra $30 per bottle to enjoy a nice red wine with dinner, or by itself while you watch “The Bachelor.”

On my four-cork scale based on taste and value the 2017 Stolen Identity from Replica Cellars gets 3.9 corks! This wine is a very good value, and available locally for $19.99 (normally $24.99).

If you’d like to try interesting wines like this, please join me at our next private wine party! I host a wine dinner every month, and we feature several interesting wines, each paired with a delicious course. There are always cool prizes to win, too, so listen Wednesday at 4:15 to win your spot on the guest list, or click here for a chance to win!

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