14 Hands Review: Is this Brand Worth Your Time?
14 Hands Review: Is this Brand Worth Your Time?

When it comes to accessible, affordable wines, 14 Hands is one of many wine brands located in the United States that has garnered some attention.

But affordable wines, especially those that come in cans, are often eyed warily and with some skepticism. Most of the wines that top finest wine list and are acclaimed by experts are those that are not only in bottles, but have been refined with age; many come from nations renowned for wine, such as France, Italy, and Spain.

The problem? Much of that wine is not only not affordable for many, but it can also deter those new to wine to truly trying it.

In the United States, beer is consistently more popular than wine, with Gallup polls finding that as much as forty-two percent of Americans prefer beer over both wine and hard liquor. While beer’s popularity tapered in 2013 some, it has since risen.

Beer is considered a more casual, accessible drink, at least how it has been defined in American and popular culture in general. Much associate beers with sporting events and more modest budgets. When it comes to wine, affordable brands like 14 Hands may not be the first thing that comes to mind.

But affordable wines are on the rise, with features now recognizing that cheaper wine, even canned wine, can be worth your time—and open more people up to enjoying it the way they might a beer.

In this article, we’ll look at how well 14 Hands wines brand fits into that niche, and whether it’s worth trying any varieties they offer.

How has the wine market changed in terms of trends? Is wine becoming more accessible or less so?

Every year, new wine trends either emerge or further develop. For 2019, the hottest wine trends include a number of new developments that further shape the way people enjoy wine, and perhaps, even who can enjoy wine.

Interestingly enough, these trends are a mixture in that some are making wine more available, and others, more specialized.

Vegan wines

You may wonder what vegan wines mean, as does the term vegan, that there are no animal products involved. While it may seem like all wines are vegan, in fact, they are not. Yeast, both natural and cultured, is normally used to help the start the fermentation process. How wines are refined has a good deal to do with whether or not a wine is vegan. During the refining process, many animal products are used, including casein, gelatin, and even fish bladder protein. Those seeking vegan wines are seeking those that do not use any animal products. Vegan wines tend to be hard to find but not as much now that it’s clear demand is on the rise.

More diverse tastes

More and more consumers of wine are branching out to different varieties of wine, which makes the market more accessible as a whole. While classics like Prosecco, Chardonnay, and Rosé still remain highly popular, in addition to red wines like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, signs point to more consumers wanting to branch out a bit. Lesser-known wines are gaining in prominence, and more Americans are willing to try wines they never have before.

More affordable wines

One side, some are getting more into wines from small scale, exquisite quality vineyards as well as other niches such as vegan. On the other hand, inexpensive wine is also seeing a boom. While prices of wine in general increased in 2018 due to a poor season, it’s equally true that affordable wine is growing in popularity. One reason is that the stigma around canned wines seems to be on the decline. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Rosé are now commonly sold in cans, both in stores at festivals. Perhaps canned wines seem to be a way to reach younger consumers, and it seems to be working, at least a little bit.

In the past year alone, sales of canned wine climbed by sixty-nine percent, reaching a total of sixty-nine million dollars. In 2012, that number was a mere two million dollars.

While there are many trends, and always new trends emerging in the wine market, it’s clear that there’s a demand to make wine more affordable, less fussy, and to introduce wine to new generations.

Do companies that sell canned wine sell poor quality wine?

This is a common misconception. Just because wine is more affordable and just because wine is sold in a can does not mean it is bulk wine.

By the same token, there are also many companies that sell a mix of wines, both more affordable, especially wine blends, and also signature vintage wines. That is the case, for instance, with 14 Hands.

While the very finest wines often come from vineyards selling signature (think Champagne from France; vintage Merlot from Bordeaux), it’s also true you can find some quality wines from less expected places, and at very least wines that offer nice flavor notes, if you give them a chance.

What is a wine brand?

If you peruse our articles, and pretty much most articles about wine, you’ll likely notice that wines are normal classified by a number of factors, including grape variety, region, level of sweetness, method of aging, and color.

So what exactly is a wine brand?

A wine brand, like 14 Hands, is actually more than just a simple label. That label serves as a way to market, categorize and distinguish wines.  A good wine brand accomplishes the following:

  • Indicates the wine variety
  • Indicates the regions
  • Establishes signature characteristics
  • Sets it apart from competitors

What do wine brands offer consumers?

By going with a specific wine brand, consumers are seeking consistency. If a brand is successful in relaying certain aesthetics, then it’s likely consumers might consider trying the same brand for a variety of wine types.

Many experts divide wine brands into one of two categories: commodity and terroir.

  • Terroir wines refer to wines that are specifically connected to a certain region. The idea of terroir is quite popular in the finest wines. We do know that soil, climate, and method of cultivation impacts the taste and general characteristics of the wine. Some brands are almost exclusively connected to terroir wines and the idea that what makes their wines signature is the land and cultivation of a certain region. One of the main goals of a fine winemaker, according to Michele Dal Forno, of Dal Forno Romano in the Veneto region of Italy, is to have one’s wines well distinguished by Terroir.
  • Commodity wines are far more common. Commodity in of itself implies that the products are being sold or exchanged on a market for a profit. In short, while you can define commodity wines in a variety of ways, they simply refer to wines and brands that are not necessarily linked to a specific region. While commodity is used by some in a negative way, in reality, many popular wines are commodity wines, such as wine blends.

However, there are many brands that also have both ‘terroir’ and commodity wines. Some even argue that terroir wines are not as distinct as some would like to think–and it’s also true you can find decent wines of both varieties.

What is the 14 Hands wine brand, and is it worth your time? 

Now that we’ve discussed a bit about different wine brands, let’s take a look at 14 Hands. For a complete but concise review, we’ll be taking a look at the company itself, its history, what kinds of wine varieties they sell and everything else you need to know about the brand.

What is 14 Hands wine brand, and how long has it existed?

14 Hands wine brand began selling bottles of wine in 2005; by 2016, the brand had sold two million bottles, showing how much they’d achieved in a span of twelve years. 14 Hands started off as a restaurant the only brand, selling just three varieties: Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has since branched out into selling over twenty-five varieties of wine and is considered the second largest winery in Washington.

Where is their winery located? Can you visit?

One of the signs of quality wine is a physical winery where you could at least feasibly visit. You can in fact visit 14 Hands; they hold events throughout the year, mostly wine tastings. As of 2016, they had received over sixteen thousand visitors to their tasting room. Their main vineyards are located in Eastern Washington, but they do now produce wine on over thirty-seven acres in total, stretching across not only Washington but also California and Oregon.

What is Saint Michelle Estates?

Behind that multiple locations is the company that owns the 14 Hands wine brand, which is Saint Michelle Estates. Located in Woodinville, Washington, the company is based only in the United States, but imports wines from around the world, including Italy, New Zealand, and France. In addition to being in partnership with 14 Hands, they also are in a partnership or own over thirty-five wine brands stretching the Pacific Northwest and California.

Does this make 14 Hands a communal or terroir wine brand?

By definition, 14 Hands is very much so a communal, rather than terroir wine brand. Though much of their wine is produced in Eastern Washington, the band stretches a few states and is not tied to a specific regional variety.

How much do 14 Hands wines cost?

Wines from 14 Hands are considered affordable, but for the most part without being excessively cheap, with prices ranging from ten to sixty dollars per bottle.

What categories of wine do they sell? 

14 Hands wine is available in five categories: cans, essentials, blends, reserve, and vintage.

1. Cans

Cans are a fairly new, affordable and on the go option, that appears to be directly marketing a younger demographic. Cans come in a few types of wine, including

      1. White wine sparklers from Columbia Valley, which include a blend of Pinot Grigio. Riesling, Muscat Canelli, and “other aromatic white varietals.” Bright acidity, apple, and citrus notes make this lighter blend, which is suggested to be paired with appetizers.
      2. Rosé from Washington State, which includes a blend of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Grenache. Strawberries, watermelon, raspberries, and peach are part of the fruity flavor notes.
      3. Red Blends, mostly of Syrah and Merlot from Columbia Valley, featuring signature cherry and bright berry notes accented by plum and some more tannic black tea.
      4. Pinot Grigio, which is as close to a pure wine variety as you get, with just two percent Sauvignon Blanc. Described and crisp and light, prominent flavor notes from the Washington State wine include green apple, pear, honeysuckle, and melon.

2. Essentials

Essentials are wines that come from the Columbia River Basin. Red wines with a full body and white wines with bright acidity are the main highlights.

      1. Rosé and Pinot Grigio are the same varieties offered in cans.
      2. Cabernet Sauvignon, from Columbia Valley, is a blend that also contains nineteen percent Merlot and two percent of other reds. Structured tannins, and a bit of spice to oak complement dark cherries, black currant and a touch of coffee.
      3. Merlot from Columbia Valley includes ten percent Syrah, four percent Cabernet Sauvignon and one percent other reds. Soft and balanced, this a rather fruity wine, but with darker notes of blackberry, plum, cherry and a touch of mocha.
      4. Riesling from Washington State is one hundred percent Riesling, featuring crisp acidity, apple, pear and apricot notes with a touch of minerality, with a finish that’s tart with a bit of sweetness.
      5. Moscato from Columbia Valley includes ten percent ‘aromatic white varieties’ and is overall light with a smooth finish. Ripe peaches, honeydew, and tangerines provide lightly sweet flavors with pleasant acidity.
      6. Sauvignon Blanc from Washington State is made with seven percent Semillon and four percent Chenin Blanc, with bright guava, grapefruit, and gooseberry for fresh acidity, along with a crisp finish.
      7. Chardonnay from Washington State is lighter than traditional Chardonnay, with one percent or under of other varieties. While you do get a hint of richer notes, such as vanilla, caramel, and butter, much of the flavor profile is dominated by limes and pears for a brighter touch and a bit of baking spice for a sweeter approach.
      8. Brut, available in brut sparkling wine and brut Rosé. The regular brut is a blend that includes a variety of different wines, though it’s unclear in what amounts. Bright acidity is complemented with apple, pear and citrus notes. The Rosé also features a blend of undisclosed percentages and light tannins, a creamy finish paired with tart cherries and sweetly baked rhubarb.

3. Blends

Blends are meant is to be friendly even to those who drink wine much, with fruity flavors and smooth, pleasant finishes.

      1. White Wine Blend consists of mostly Chardonnay and Riesling, with a bit of Muscat, Chenin Blanc, and other whites. Ripe, sweet, and crisply acidic, sweet lemon, apples, pear, and some floral notes are the main features.
      2. Kentucky Derby Red Blend is a ‘limited release’ blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. A long finish includes dark fruit notes, a bit of pepper, and chocolate undertones.
      3. Juicy Red Blend, not to be confused with the other red available in cans (as well as bottles) features bright acidity, a long finish, soft tannins, and ripe darker fruits such as blueberries, black currants, and black raspberries.
      4. Bold Red Blend, which is mostly Syrah and Merlot but also a bit of Petite Syrah and other reds, is described as robust with hints of spice and cedar. Cherry and cola are also present.

4. Reserve

Reserve wines come from a single source, Horse Heaven Hills, which is known for rich red wines and recognizable white wines. Prices range from

      1. Sauvignon Blanc features grapefruit, passion fruit and bright mango with what is described as a juicy finish.
      2. Rosé features a blend of mostly Syrah with fourteen percent Pinot Gris, twelve percent Cabernet Franc, featuring a blend of delicate and brighter flavors, such as fresh strawberries and raspberries, white peaches, and a touch of minerality.
      3. Chardonnay features a medium body balanced by warmer notes of vanilla, caramel, baking spice, and coconut, with brighter mango, guava, and golden peach notes.
      4. Dry Gewürztraminer is acidic but with a pleasant body, showcasing grapefruit, floral notes, and delicate citrus.
      5. Merlot is made with ten percent Cabernet Sauvignon and dark fruit flavors of blueberries, blackberries, black cherry, and toasted notes. Structured tannins pair with a velvety smooth finish.
      6. Cabernet Sauvignon is made with three percent Merlot and features a full and rich body, with blackberries, currants, and blueberries, complemented by cocoa and bright tannins.
      7. Late Harvest Viognier is a sweet, vibrant and acidic wine featuring candied peaches, orange blossoms, dried fruit, and honey.
      8. Chenin Blanc is at once gentle but vibrant, with an off-dry, light-body and classic peach, passion fruit, melon and pear notes.
      9. Grenache is a welcoming version, with subtle but warm toasted and vanilla notes, with red currant and blueberries.
      10. Petit Verdot features silky tannins, a full rich body, and dark blueberries with warmer baking spices.
      11. Tempranillo contains eight percent Malbec and is among the most savory wines 14 Hands produces, with sage, dried pomegranate, fig, and a soft, rich finish.
      12. Syrah contains one percent of  Viognier and is a rich, full body with textured tannins, dark blackberries, and a smoky finish.
      13. Other Blends, such as Cabernet Franc-Merlot, Mourvèdre-Grenache Red Wine Blend, and Red Wine Blend.

5. Vintage

Wines in this category are the most expensive 14 Hands brand sells and there are just three varieties. Prices average around sixty dollars a bottle. They are all blends, comprised of nearly identical varieties. The differences between these red wines are quite subtle.

      1. 2015 Vintage Series Red Wine Blend Label 1: This is a blend of forty-three percent Cabernet Franc, twenty-nine percent Merlot, fourteen percent Cabernet Sauvignon and fourteen percent Syrah. Structures and complex, this vintage blend features brighter blueberries with deeper boysenberries, structured tannins, and a hint of earthy notes.
      2. 2015 Vintage Series Red Wine Blend Label 2: This vintage blend is comprised of nearly the same blend… It also is described as complex and structured, with bright blueberry and boysenberry notes, but with a touch of coffee to the earthier flavors.
      3. 2015 Vintage Series Red Wine Blend Label 3: The final vintage blend has the same blend of wine varieties as the previous two labels and has many of the same characteristics but a bit more ‘fresh’ of a finish.

What is the overall reputation of 14 Hands?

The 14 Hands brand is dedicated to sustainability, with certifications by both LIVE (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) and Salmon-Safe. Select wines of theirs have been rated at eighty or above on a scale of one hundred by experts, while other wines faired more in an average range. For its price point, 14 Hands offers up a number of wines that mostly have been well received, both by the public and experts.

What overall value do 14 Hands wine brand offer?

 For what it is, 14 Hands is a fairly solid American wine brand. With several high ratings, positive public reception, and connection to reputable vineyards and practices devoted to sustainability, there is a good deal to admire for a producer of commodity wine and wine blend.

Pros: At its best, the 15 Hands wine brand offers a wide selection of American wines that are affordable and feature signature flavors you’d expect:

  • Affordable. Wine costs ten to sixty dollars, with a variety of price points in that small range.
  • Fruit forward and food-friendly. Most 14 brands wines are easily paired with food and tend to be appealing to many, with higher attention to quite fruity wines that are not overly bold, acidic, or especially heavy in tannins.
  • Variety, include specific well-known varieties as well as a number of red wine blends as well as some white blends.
  • Dedicated to sustainable practices
  • Most Reserve wines are close to one hundred percent or one hundred percent the indicated variety as opposed to blends
  • High reviews on select wines
  • Reserve wines have more defined locations

Cons: There are of course some downsides to the 14 Hands wine brand. For one, many wines offered under the 14 Hands label are very much blends. Here are the biggest downsides:

  • Emphasis on wine blends. If you like wine blends, there is plenty on offer, but you may be disappointed in the fewer options for specific varieties
  • Undisclosed proportions for some wines, in terms of how much of certain varieties compromise different bottles of wine.
  • Not many sparkling wines. About your only option is a can of sparkling white wine blend.
  • No word on aging practices or techniques, with most wines appearing not to be aged
  • Not distinguished by a set region. While all wines are produced within a certain radius, they are not distinct to certain regional characteristics as a whole.

Overall impression: While imperfect, 14 Hands is a solid wine brand and a nice option for affordable classic wines and blends.  If you want the very best 14 Hands has to offer, stick to wines that include a complex balance of acidity, tannins, fruit, and spices or warm notes. Even better, aim for wines that have been highly rated in terms of quality by experts.

We recommend the following.

  1. 14 Hands 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley (WA): This Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon was rated eighty-eight out of one hundred points with sweet, plush plum notes and distinguishable tannins.
  2. 14 Hands 2017 Rosé (Washington): This was awarded a still impressive eighty-six points. The wine is noted for cherry and melon notes with a wide variety of dry flavors.
  3. 14 Hands Winery Hot to Trot Red, Washington, USA: If you are looking for a wine blend, this is a nice option, well received by consumers. Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache are the main varieties that comprise this blend. Dark, ripe fruits with fresh acidity make for a pleasant wine. If you prefer, the 2015 White Wine Blend is a nice alternative.
  4. Any Reserve wine may be your best bet in terms of overall value. 14 Hands Reserve wines are mid-range in terms of expense, tend to feature more pure varieties, and classic flavor notes that balance fruity, food-forward appeal and complexity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What grapes are in 14 Hands Hot to Trot?

The amazing Hot to Trot wine is made out of a selected blend of merlot and syrah mostly, and other taste characters such as high-quality cabernet sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petit Verdot, Mourvedre, Grenache and Pinot Noir.

Is 14 Hands Merlot vegan?

14 Hands Merlot is indeed vegan! All the grapes used on the 14 Hands productions come from a strictly controlled production in Washington and bottled in their own facility in Paterson, WA.

Is 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon dry?

With the 14 Hands Cabernet Sauvignon, you can expect a really smooth and light flavor, nothing too powerful or strong. This wine is definitely not dry and you can enjoy some mocha and black cherry flavors.

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.