Saturday, August 6, 2011

Making A Diffrence

If you spend any time at all visiting wineries, talking to wine sales people and/or winemakers you will no doubt hear them try to convince you that one percentage change in a wine blend makes a difference in the taste of the finished wine.  Having espoused this view myself it was very gratifying to have the opportunity to experience it first hand at the Raymond Sommelier Selection blending of the 2009 vintage.

When we entered the blending room we were first oriented by Raymond's winemaker Stephanie L. Putnam.  She introduced us to the five component wines that could be used with two rules. First; the wine has to be a Cabernet Sauvignon; so by law there must be seventy-five percent of the blend.  Second;  the Cabernet Franc wine was limited in the quantity available so a maximum of five-percent is all we could assign this component wine in the final blend.  We were paired in teams of two and I blessed to blend with Virginia Phillip MS.  After that we got to taste each of the component wines...
  • 2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon: Red scarlet in color with a wide meniscus.  The aromas are straightforward; cherry, smoke and earthy heft in the background.  The flavors are big and BOLD; juicy lush cherry and velvety vanilla with noticeable tannins and a delicious finish.
  • 2009 Napa Cabernet Franc: Red with notes of brown and purple in the highlights.  A very pretty nose; smoky up front with cranberry and tart cherry and a cedar quality in the depths of the aroma.  The taste is rich with red cherry, vanilla and a tart tannic structure in the finish. (We really liked this wine, a lot. Five percent did not seam like it would be enough.)
  • 2009 Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon: Dark red in color approaching inky quality.  The aromas are a bit closed with notes of black cherry and a brooding qualities that implies a really big wine.  The promise in the aromas are delivered to the palate with a BIG TANNIC entrance with flavors of red and black cherry developing into vanilla and a long smooth finish.
  • 2009 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon: Red wine with brown highlights.  The aromas start out green with a appealing Eucalyptus quality leading to blackberry fruit.  The flavors are fruit forward with red cherry, blackberry and plum, so fruity are the flavors it implies sweetness.
  • 2009 Sonoma Merlot: Red with blueish tints in the color.  The aromas are blackberry with a tart quality, yet on the palate it tastes soft and rich with blueberries and blackberries, notes of vanilla and a hint of earth in the background.
The five percent Cabernet Franc was a no brainer.  From there we had a preference toward the Napa and Lake Cabs upping their percentage through several blends.  We did try cutting back the Cab Franc to three percent and did not like it as much.  Virginia was very thoughtful in her blending approach and was helpful in guiding the blending to the fifth blend or "Wine E." We both agreed that we really had something in this wine;  45% Napa Cab, 5% Napa Cab Franc, 35% Lake Cab, 5% Sonoma Cab and 10% Sonoma Merlot.  It was smoky in aroma with cherry fruit and a herbaceous note in the background. The flavor was fruit forward with cherry and vanilla giving way to smoky flavors and a tasty finish.  This tasted like THE WINE and it goes on to be tied with the blend from Emily Wines and Matthew Turner which wins the tie breaker.

Stephanie had recommended that when you found the blend you liked to keep blend to see if you could improve upon your success.  We blended three more wines.  "Wine G" I really liked, it had 47% Napa Cab, 5% Napa Cab Franc, 37% Lake Cab, 5% Sonoma Cab and 6% Sonoma Merlot.  The aromas of black cherry came through the smoky qualities and a hint of blueberries shows up with vanilla and richness.  The flavors are also rich with a nice tartness from black and red cherry fruit and vanilla giving way to full tannins and a complex finish.  It was destined to be voted the least liked wine by the group and I am still a little hurt about it.  It was a better wine than that; but some wine had to be last.

Emily and Matt's WINNING blend really was the best blend of the day. It was 60% Napa Cab, 5% Napa Cab Franc, 20% Lake Cab, 12% Sonoma Cab and 3% Sonoma Merlot.  The nose was lush with smoky notes up front with black cherry fruit and a pretty vanilla background.  The mouthfeel was velvety and smooth with the vanilla flavors opening the palate and giving way to juicy red cherry and earthy note in the background fading into a very long finish. In the blind tasting I rated this wine higher than my own and in the tie breaking vote I voted for this wine; it is delicious!
From Left to Right: Matthew Turner -Michael Mina, Stephanie L. Putnam -Raymond,
Jean-Charles Boisset -Raymond, Emily Wines -Kimpton.

Congratulations Emily and Matt for a great job on blending this wine.  The few percentage points difference in the blends really are making a difference in the finished wine. It will be easy to sell and very fun to drink. The experience blending with this group of Sommeliers is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Thank you to Jean-Charles, Stephanie, Peggy, Carla and everyone at the Boisset Family Estates.

If you think this sounded like fun; well hold on, because you will be able to do it too!!! When the winery renovation is complete the blending room will be open to the public and you will be able to create YOUR OWN blend which the winery will bottle and label for you while you wait!  This will be very exciting; I might go back and make another "Wine G" for myself.

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