You might not recognize the wines (or the name) behind Z. Alexander Brown Wines. But maybe you’re more familiar with the name he goes by professionally when he’s performing in arenas and stadiums all over the world, Zac Brown. Zac is definitely a renaissance man, an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and singer in genres ranging from down home country to more experimental jam band and Southern rock. He’s also a real foodie with a history of actually cooking meals for his fans back in the days when he was just a little known touring act grilling out at fan club meet-ups. Brown has his own culinary catering bus now which can feed hundreds at a time thanks to a talented chef on his staff. At his Southern Ground festivals in Charleston, SC and Nashville, the food was featured almost as prominently as the music during the multi-day festivals.
So it’s not that big of a stretch to discover that Zachary Alexander Brown has jumped into the wine biz with a selection of California wines under the “Uncaged” label. Brown partnered with winemaker John Killebrew, a native Californian who is passionate about expressing the terroir of various regions of his home state in the Z. Alexander Brown wine portfolio. Brown also appreciates the connection of the land with food and wine, so he wholeheartedly supports and participates in the winemaking decisions.
Most of the wines in the Uncaged collection are quite affordable, priced in the +/- $20 per bottle range, and the wines have been reviewed quite positively by both the wine press and consumers across the country. The one outlier pricewise is a limited release, so it tends to stay closer to the brand’s California home. However, if you do encounter a bottle of the $120 2015 Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s definitely worth at least considering the splurge.
Many California wineries pride themselves above all else on their Cabernets, and Z. Alexander Brown Wines should definitely be proud of their top shelf offering. The grapes for this vintage are sourced from both the higher mountain regions of Napa County as well as from the valley floor, so they combine the concentrated fruit character of grapes grown at altitude along with the rounder notes of lower elevation vineyards. Full of dark fruit aromas and tight tannins, this is a wine that could age for years in a proper wine cellar, but is also quite drinkable now. With those tannic notes though, it would certainly benefit from opening up in a decanter for at least an hour before drinking.
While you’re waiting for the big boy Cab to open up, try some of Z. Alexander’s lighter whites. Their 2017 North Coast Sauvignon is the most approachable wine in the portfolio and has quickly become the winery’s most popular offering. Light-bodied and full of tropical fruit and refreshing acidity, this is a great example of what a California Sauv Blanc should be. Chardonnay is Golden State’s most famous white grape varietal, and Brown’s 2017 Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay is a fine addition to the canon of great California Chards. It exhibits a nice balance between the fruit and floral characteristics of the grapes with the vanilla of the oak. Aged in a mix of French and American oak casks plus stainless steel tanks, this particular wine is not the “oak bomb” that characterizes many Chardonnays of the region. And that’s a good thing.
Z. Alexander also offers a few fine red wines in addition to that big Limited Release Cabernet. Their 2017 Pinot Noir is a blend of fruit from vineyards in Napa, Monterey and Sonoma, full of bright red fruits and jammy berry flavors. The wine finishes with long mocha and subtle fruit notes. Their regular 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is a steal at $17.99 a bottle, and it is far from ordinary. Almost inky black in the glass, this Cab is full of flavors of cherry and chocolate without being too fancified to drink with a regular dinner at home. It really tastes like a wine twice its price.
The winery’s final offering is a great choice for wine drinkers who aren’t necessarily looking to be challenged by every single glass. The 2017 Proprietary Red Blend is made from grapes selected from vineyards around the state which are combined to create a really approachable wine that isn’t as cloyingly sweet as some of those other blends you might encounter on supermarket shelves. Brown and Zac took on the tough job of tasting from many different lots of wines to combine them to create this great bargain. Zac is used to collaborating with other songwriters, so this is a natural creative process for him.
All of these wines should be exceptionally food-friendly, and Zac graciously shares some Southern-inspired recipes to pair with the wines on the Z. Alexander Brown website. In another nice touch as part of Zac’s commitment to giving back to the community, Zac’s Southern Ground family of brands help to support his non-profit passion project: Camp Southern Ground.
Zac and his band will be coming to Nashville for a show at Bridgestone Arena on April 25 as part of ‘The Owl’ tour. He’ll be playing with special guests Amos Lee and Poo Bear. While you wait for the show, seek out some of his Z. Alexander Wines and enjoy some of Brown’s soulful tunes.