Josh Wine Brand Review: Does it Live Up to the Hype?

Josh Wine brand, better known as Josh Cellars, is no doubt a big player in the wine industry. Set to sell millions of wine bottles and cases this year, it would seem like the brand has always dominated the wine market.

But a quick review of the brand’s history will show that is simply not the case.

This July, Josh Cellars was featured in the North Bay Business Journal, a news outlet based in Santa Rosa California. While the article in part explained how successful the Josh wine brand had become, it was also in some ways a review of more humble, even troubling, beginnings.

From the start, Josh wine brand seemed to hold promise–started by Joe Carr now two decades ago,  Carr was at the time a budding, though young sommelier, who first became enamored with wine during his employment at a French restaurant.

From there, Carr hesitated to venture to make his own company, though he’d developed wine lists that were held in public acclaim. It was the terrorist attacks of September 11th, he said, that convinced him to pursue his dreams.

By 2005, Josh wine brands released its first Cabernet Sauvignon. A year later, Freemark Abbey, who was helping fund the upstart, filed for bankruptcy. (As it so happens, that winery is now, years later, back up and operating again.)

After a period of four years, though, the Josh wine brand would become Josh Cellars, which was the beginning of a several-year journey to rise in popularity.

In this review, we’ll be tracking how Josh Wine became the brand it is today, but more importantly, taking a look at the variety, and quality of the wine being offered.

So if you’ve ever seen the Josh wine brand and been curious whether it’s worthwhile or not, read on.

Does a wine label or brand matter?

Maybe you’re relatively new to drinking wine, or you prefer a casual approach–for whatever reason, who may be wondering if the fuss over a wine label or brand really matters that much.

While it’s true that quality wine can come from less quickly recognized labels, it’s also true that a wine label can say a lot about the wine you’re purchasing.

Technically, a wine brand is a way to indicate that a wine is not from a certain region or grape. True champagne from France can’t be considered brand wine truly, for instance, because it must originate from a specific region and be produced in a particular way.

As Dr. Jamie Goodie, who regularly writes for and about wine and also holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology, explains, branded wines indicate that a company buys in or owns grapes and land from disparate regions.

Why does it matter if a wine is considered a brand or label wine?

Admittedly, there are rather contrasting opinions when it comes to brand wine. Brand wine most often is categorized as a commodity wine.

Commodity wines typical are sold mass commercial and tend to run less expensive than single-origin wines. Vineyard based wines tend to limit themselves to a few grape varieties, a specific processing method and are often produced at a smaller scale.

To summarize, commodity wines:

  • Tend to be sold more mass-market
  • Tend to be especially affordable
  • Are not tied to a specific vineyard, grape, or method of processing
  • Are also called brand wines
  • May be more easily recognized by those who don’t regularly drink wine

What is terroir wine? 

The opposite, so to speak, of a commodity wine, is a terroir wine. As the name implies, terroir wines are wines that are specifically linked to a certain ‘terroir,’ or land.

A definition for the term ‘terroir’ alone is “set of all environmental factors that affect a crop’s phenotype, including unique environment contexts, farming practices, and a crop’s specific growth habitat”, according to Stephen Tanzer, wine critic and editor for Vinous.

In French, the word terroir simply means ‘a sense of place’. A terroir wine is said to exhibit characteristics unique to a certain location and climate.

Much of wine selection involves different principles of terroir to a certain extent. Climate and soil do in fact play a role in how the wine tastes:

  • Warm climate wines, including those from Argentina, Australia, Greek Isles, South Africa, and Southern parts of Italy, France, Portugal, and Spain tend to:
    • Have less acidity
    • Present as more fruit-forward
  • Cool Climate wines, including those from Oregon, Chile, New Zealand, Germany, and Northern regions of Italy, France, Spain, and Greece tend to:
    • Have higher acidity
    • Present notable tartness

Soil also is a part of terroir wines, and impacts both how grapes are grown, and ultimately, how the wines taste:

  • Sandy soils tend to produce wines with low levels of tannin, softer hues, and pleasant profile
  • Silt soils tend to result in wines with light acidity and a balanced, smooth finish
  • Loam, which is comprised of sand, clay, and silt, tends to produce wine that is less flavorful
  • Clay soils mostly result in heavier, robust wines; an example includes Tempranillo from Spain.

So what are the advantages or disadvantages of terroir vs brand wine?

Taken together, along with other factors, the theory of terroir wine is that you’ll be presented with more distinct wine. Terroir wine tends to be arguably more consistent in terms of knowing what to expect. For instance, Merlot from brand wine can vary quite a bit in terms of flavors and other characteristics, but with terroir Merlot, you’ll arguably know more what to expect when selecting from a certain region.

That said, brand wines such as Josh Cellars certainly have a place in the wine industry. They tend to be more affordable, easier to find, and also tend to be very drinkable. If you’re entertaining for a larger crowd, sometimes it’s simply more practical to opt for a wine brand. It might also be more practical for everyday occasions.

How do I know if a wine brand is any good?

 Perhaps the greatest concern, as we’ve already hinted, is that wine brands do vary in quality quite a bit, so it takes some careful selection to find one that’s a good purchase.

The criteria we’ll be using for our review of the Josh wine brand include:

  • Company History and Reputation
  • Prices
  • Wine Selection
    • What varieties are offered
    • Where are the grapes grown
    • Where is the wine produced
    • How is the wine sourced
    • Do the labels include tasting notes, flavor profiles, levels of acidity and other characteristics
    • Are there any vintage options, and, if so, how was the wine aged
    • Is there any information about the wine production process
  • Ordering
    • How can wine be purchased, and where
    • Is there an option to visit in person

Is the Josh wine brand worth my time? 

Now onto our review of Josh Cellars. We’ll be using the criteria we indicated above and taking a look at how the wine brand fares on every factor. In the end, we’ll tell you whether or not it’s a wine brand you’ll want to consider.

Company History

While we’ve already discussed the company history, let’s review and dive in a bit further. Josh Cellars was founded by Josh Carr, who started off as a sommelier at a French Restaurant. Though he released his first wine in 2005, it was not until 2009, after some mishaps, that Josh Cellars really launched. At that time, Mr. Carr was selling cases from his van.

The brand gained prominence when it received an endorsement by celebrity chef Bobby Flay. Josh wines started to appear in Bobby Flay restaurants

In 2011, Mr. Carr partnered with what is now Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, a large conglomerate that also partners with other big-name wine brands you might recognize, including Yellow Tail.

By 2016, Josh wine brand had produced a million bottles and become a mainstream name in wine brands across the United States

What is the company’s reputation?

Rise to prominence aside, what does the public think of Josh Cellars, and more importantly, the wine it sells? In order to determine this, we need to look at both professional and external customer reviews.

Since Josh Cellars is under Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, it’s good to also look at that company. Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits are not accredited through the Better Business Bureau, has no rating, and no filed complaints or reviews.

While Josh Cellars does not have overall reviews, you can find reviews for specific wines offered.

  1. Chardonnay 2019 received over four out of five stars based upon one hundred and forty customer reviews.
  2. Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 and the 2012 Legacy (a Merlot red blend) previously were featured as wines of the week on Wine Curmudgeon.
  3. A variety of Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc received mixed, but above average reviews.
  4. The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon was among the lowest reviews, with a three out of five-star rating on Cellar Tracker based upon forty reviews.
  5. Overall, most wines from Josh Cellars hover a bit above average, around three to four out of five stars, pointing to decent to middle range wine based upon customers, but nothing exceptional nor terrible.

What is the price point of wines for Josh Cellars?

Josh Cellars does not offer prices per its website, which makes sense when you consider that you buy the Josh wine brand not directly through them, but through the stores, they sell at. On each bottle of wine, you’ll be given the possibility to select a store locator. Just type in your zip code.

Because of this, prices do vary. Online though, most wines range from ten to twenty dollars, with a median at around thirteen to fifteen dollars per bottle.

Josh wine brand is sold in numerous stores, including groceries, convenience stores, and chains like Target.

More expensive options can range from thirty to fifty dollars.

What wines does Josh Cellars offer? 

Unlike some brands, Josh Cellars offers just under a dozen different bottles of wine (some brands actually offer quite a few more, but this is not a negative thing). Of those, four are reserve wines.

    • Cabernet Sauvignon: Noted as the first wine ever released by the brand, this is noted as an approachable wine, with toasted hazelnut, blackberry, and cinnamon notes and an overall smooth profile, with pairs well with red meat such as lamb and beef, but even chocolate. This is sourced in parts of California, including Napa, Samoa, Mendocino, and Lake counties.
    • Chardonnay: Chardonnay from the Josh brand is described as bright and balanced, with classic citrus, peach, and honey notes for a crisp finish, and pairs with shrimp, pasta and light chicken dishes. This is sourced from Monterey and Mendocino counties.
    • Rosé: Rosé has more specious origins, from “diverse Northern interior and Central interior California sites” and is described as crisp, light, and very drinkable. The most prominent flavors include strawberries, soft peach, and nectarine.
    • North Coast Sauvignon Blanc: As the name implies, this Sauvignon Blanc originates from the North Coast, primarily Sonoma and Lake counties. This is also crisp and light wine, with lemon, kiwi and green apple as the most prominent flavors.
    • Central Coast Pinot Noir: This Pinot Noir originates from Santa Barbera, Monterey, and other places along the Central Coast of California with strawberry and cherry notes that are a little richer and accompanied by some light toasted notes.
    • Legacy Blend: This red wine blend, which pairs well with BBQ, lamb, and steak, is a bit peppery, and accompanied by deeper cherry, plum and cedar notes. The grape varieties are not specified, and sources include various locations across California.
    • Merlot: Balanced and approachable, classic berry flavors are accompanied by softer milk chocolate and vanilla notes, for a wine suitable for pairing especially with cheese and pasta. Sonoma and Mendocino are the primary counties.
    • Reserve wines are a bit bolder and include North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, Limited-Edition Military Salute Lodi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and North Coast Chardonnay. With the exception of the Chardonnay, dark fruit and hazelnut or toasted notes are the most common. There is no immediate additional information to explain why they are considered reserve wines.
    • There is not much information as to the selection or production process behind these wines.

Is there anything else to look at when it comes to Josh wine brand? The Josh wine brand, as we’ve already said, is sold across the United States but the easiest and likely most cost-friendly was to purchase is through a local store. All wines are sourced from California, but from various parts of California. Let’s go over the main pros and cons:

  • Pros
    • Fruit forward, drinkable wines
    • Labels include tasting notes, food pairing suggestions
    • Flavor notes, for the most part, are fairly classic
    • Widely available and affordable
    • Decent ratings and reviews
    • Stable history of sales
  • Cons
    • Mostly light wines, with less complexity
    • Non-specific origins
    • Non-specific vintage wines
    • Not much information on production or selection
    • Not much in terms of expert reviews, awards, or accreditation
    • Partnered with a large company.

So is Josh Cellars a good wine brand?

When it comes to wine brands, and commodity wine in general, it’s a reasonable option. Josh Cellars offers pleasant and fruit forward wines that are accessible and a nice option for casual entertaining.

There are no specific red flags, though the lack of information regarding selection is a downside. Since these are not terroir wines, you cannot expect signature flavors unique to a region, and most wines are not especially complex.

However, Josh Cellars does offer flavor notes, some information on sourcing, and a reasonable record of customer reviews.

At the end of the day, for what it is, it’s a reasonable selection for a brand wine.

Do you have any recommendations for specific wines from Josh Cellars?

 When it comes to purchasing wine from this brand, our advice is surprisingly simple. Stick to regular wines; the vintage wines, without more specifications, may not be worth it. If you want vintage wines, go with wine from a respected vineyard.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a light, refreshing and drinkable wine, look to the best-received wines based upon customer reviews.

We recommend the current Chardonnay, both for past positive reviews and classic flavors. If you don’t need a specific type of wine, the Legacy wine blend has been rated well also.

Erin Jamieson

Erin Jamieson brings the latest information to you on wine flavors and types so you can enjoy your next glass to the fullest. In the past, she covered wine selections for weddings and engagement parties. She also previously worked with a private chef company to suggest the perfect wine pairings and believes there is a flavor for every occasion. Erin Jamieson holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Miami University of Ohio.

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