This is the first post of a three part series on wine blends.

I asked a number of winemakers to weigh in with their perspectives on the importance of wine blends.  Here is what I learned: blending wine to perfection is an art. This reason alone is why the event BLEND has been created.  Its artistry at its best and you can taste more than 100 wine blends along with delicious food prepared by the chefs from nine Columbia Hospitality properties.  The properties featured include the Salish, Inn at Langley, Friday Harbor House, Kenwood Inn & Spa and their latest property the Oitavos in Portugal. BLEND, The Worlds Best Wine, Food and Places is happening Sept. 12 at Bell Harbor.

The majority (32)  of participating wineries are from Washington State with a smattering of wineries from Sonoma County and Portugal to pair with the properties from those locations. Two hands on blending seminars provide a real look into the how and why of blends allowing you to be a part of the process.  You can determine your own taste preferences while hearing from the experts about achieving the perfect blend balance. For details and tickets to BLEND and the seminars please go to www.columbiablend.com

Winemakers Weigh In

Brian Carter, winemaker/owner of Brian Carter Cellars has been making wine in Washington State for more than 30 years. Brian Carter Cellars tag line is A PASSION FOR THE ART OF BLENDING so naturally he was the first winemaker I reached out to. Brian responded “ For me blending is the ultimate artistic winemaking tool, if your objective is to make wines with balance and complexity and distinction, you either have the perfect variety growing in the perfect site in a perfect vintage or you blend to achieve that perfection. Oh, and then there’s the fact that I blend because blending is also the most fun part of winemaking.”

Need we say more? Not really but every winemaker has a different perspective as it pertains to their artistry so following are perspectives from Chris Sparkman – Sparkman Cellars, Hillary Sojund – DiStefano Winery, Steffan Jorgensen and Annette Bergevin – Bergevin Lane Vineyards.

Chris Sparkman, winemaker/owner, Sparkman Cellars

“Guess it’s kinda like cookin’, ya know. All kinds of spices in the spice rack. Ingredients galore. Self restraint has always been an important part of the equation. In wine making, it’s essential. You can bake a new cake. You only get to make the wine once.  But blend is a deceptive word. If you make more than one bottle of wine, it is by necessity, a Blend. A 50 case lot of a single vineyard cabernet sauvignon is, in essence, a blend, because with two barrels (50 cases), you have to blend before bottling. And the truth is, every barrel, in every winery in the world is, in some way very different from all the others. At least that is my thesis.

What we do at Sparkman Cellars is taste every barrel and decide what is coolest. Then we mess around with what we believe are the basic blueprints for our community of wines, our juice ‘hood. Ruby Leigh (our four year-old daughter) was our first blend, a merlot driven siren of power and finesse. Stella Mae (our six year-old daughter and former syrah, long story), anchored by cabernet sauvignon followed in 2006. Even the Kingpin “Cabernet Sauvignon” and the Ruckus “Syrah” are blends. And of course WILDERNESS, our Mongrel Wine, has been a different blend each year.

Truth is, there’s not much of nothin’ around that ain’t a blend.”

Hillary Sjolund, Winemaker, DiStefano Winery

“Blending really gives the winemaker a chance to flex their artistic ability. It is by far one of my most favorite winemaking activities because it challenges my palate, and the possibilities are endless.  Blending allows me to creatively incorporate several varieties from several vineyards across multiple growing regions. This adds layers of complexity to our wines that our consumers have come to appreciate from us. Overall, I think the consumer is taking more risks with their wine purchases, and they are turning towards unique blends. This is a phenomenal opportunity for a winemaker who loves to blend. Find the vineyards you love, on the soils you love, and make the wines you love. This is blending!”

Steffan Jorgensen, Winemaker, Bergevin Lane Vineyards
“From a winemaking perspective the blends are where you bring out the large paint brush and use all your technical, tactical, empirical and most importantly talented skills to bring together the different components and make them work as a “team. If you achieve this you achieve a wine of much greater complexity than just each individual lot sitting alone in the barrel.

Blends are the ultimate in winemaking and the most challenging. Therefore also the most coveted! Blends many times brings each different lot into a completely different sphere and lifts the wine above and beyond because of improved aromatic complexity and a much deeper thoughtful mouth feel. It is amazing that just a few percent of a certain variety can be the difference between complete success and utter failure!  In the wine world there is no greater feel than experiencing the chameleon like changes of the “perfectly” made blend over time in the glass! Its breathtaking!”

Annette Bergevin, Owner, Bergevin Lane Vineyards
“Our blends are a joy, it is our winemakers expression of his favorite lots and barrels.  We look at our blends like a well balanced sauce.  All the components must come together perfectly so that the presentation from aromatics to the first sip, swirl and finally swallow come together as one finely balanced and perfectly integrated experience.”

Notice a common theme here?  Each winemaker talks about artistry, balance, integration and the sum being greater than the parts.  We are interested in your perspective on blends as well so please comment.  What are your favorite Washington wine blends?  Stay tuned for BLEND part 2 and 3 coming up on this blog space very soon!

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