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Blending California Wine: A Multitude of Ways to Create Savory Wine, Or Ruin It

“None of these wines are ready for prime time.”

“That’s why we blend them: Syrah, Grenache, Malbec and Cabernet.”

“We think we should add Malbec to the Cabernet.”

“We’re thinking of adding Syrah to the Grenache with a little bit of Cabernet.”

Thus begins our afternoon exercise of blending wine by committee. Four couples hunkered around a table at Cass Winery trying to fuse four wines into one. We have eight people, eight different palates. We all experience wine differently. We’re competing with nine other teams to create a great wine blend.

But you know what they say about working groups like this. “A camel,” it has been said, “is a horse designed by committee.”

Blending wine is a taste exercise, mix a little of this with a little of that. Decide if you like it. Create a baseline and keep testing even though you may end up with a dog of a wine.

Our first blends were:

#1-90% Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Malbec………..good, do we hold here, no

#2-95% Cabernet Sauvignon with 5% Malbec…………..not as good, another mix

#3-85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 5% Syrah……no go, back to #1

So we have a baseline, but we’re not there yet. Next blending was:

#4-50% Syrah, 25% Cabernet, 25% Malbec……………no go

#5-37% Syrah, 25% Cabernet, 25% Malbec, 10% Grenache…………much better

After 45 minutes of sipping, spitting and dumping marginal tasting wine we settle on two of our blends, either blend number #1 or blend #5. Mix a big batch of each and pass it around, sip, taste, spit and decide. We ended up with the simplest of blends, #1. We all felt the Cab was too soft, needing a tannic bump  supplied by the Malbec.

After teams created their blends, each of the 10 teams filled extra bottles of their wine. We ate dinner before taste testing all candidates and voting for the best.

The results:

1st Place – 55% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 10% Malbec (we’ll call this an SGM)

2nd Place – 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Malbec (a GSM!)

These two blends are very different, a Syrah is quite different from Grenache, but they both created a savory blend. Blending parties are a way to learn about wine, what you like and how other people perceive wine differently than you. It’s a great exercise. Do it, blend it.

Many wineries will have a blending party sometime during their harvest year and they’re either free if you’re a member or cost upwards of $150 for the party. Check with your favorite wineries to see who’s offering one of these events.

Test your palate against your friends’ and maybe impress the winemaker with your prowess.

Some notes on our wine ranking system.

Bill & Erin Hodge write about California Wine, the estates & winemakers producing them and educational information about Vino. Living in California Wine Country provides a front row seat to the places you want to visit the most here in the Golden State.

– -✰  means -What’s next on your list of wines
-✰  means -Not liking it too much
✰ means  -We’ll drink this wine, especially if it’s hosted!
✰+ means -You’ve got our attention and we might buy this wine.
✰+ + means -We’re hooked and we’re going to buy this wine.
When you see -✰/✰+  with a slash, it means we disagree.