I recently attended a blending seminar at Novelty Hill Januik Winery in Woodinville with the Master of Merlot himself, Mr. Mike Januik. We were given five wines, out of barrel, from different sites and tasked with blending and bottling our own wine. There were no rules.
First, I started with the Stillwater Creek Merlot. This is a cooler vineyard than most and makes for a great Merlot site, because Merlot ripens earlier than the other Bordeaux varietals. This wine is soft and plummy with a round mouth feel and dark berry fruits, it will be perfect for the mid pallet of my blend and could soften any hard edges the other wines might have.
Second, I tried the Cabernet Franc from Ciel du Cheval - one of Washington’s most famous vineyards on Red Mountain. Wow! The aromas soar from the glass with violet, red and dark berry fruits carrying through to the pallet. My impressed self thought, "I MUST incorporate this in my blend!"
Third, I tried the Malbec from Stillwater Creek. Oh boy, a very showy wine with dark berry fruit and creamy texture, it is dense and dark. I realized I would have to be careful with this one if I wanted to blend with it. A wine like this could overpower a blend.
Number four was a Cabernet from the Wahluke Slope and the Weinbau Vineyard. A good example of Cabernet with slight herbal notes, red and black currants and Mocha nuances. This is a medium to full-bodied wine with moderate tannins.
Number five was the Shaw vineyard Cabernet from Red Mountain. This wine has the markings of good Cabernet, like the Weinbau, but is bigger in structure. It has more concentration of fruit weight and tannin with good acid to make it balanced. I liked it, and a little could go a long way in a blend.
After tasting the five selections given, and I was tasked with coming up with my own blend. The question to myself was, do I want something out of the ordinary or try my hand at a classic style that could compete with the world’s best. I decided to go for a right bank Bordeaux style with a slight twist.
I eliminated the Malbec and the Weinbau Cabernet, as they didn't have the structure I need, and decided to use the other three wines.
50% Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Franc
30% Stillwater Creek Merlot
20% Shaw Cabernet from Red Mountain.
Typically you wouldn’t see any Cabernet in a right bank Bordeaux style wine, but I wanted to add a little mussel to this blend. I used a heavy dose of Cab-Franc, because I liked it so much, and the Merlot helped soften and smooth out the transition from the mid-palette to the finish.
My blend resulted in a wine with floral aromas and dark fruit that expressively carry through to the palette, with a soft and seamless texture in the transition, and a long finish. Too bad I only got to make one bottle.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and maybe learned something. If you ever have any questions about Washington Wine or anything at all please e-mail me Jeff@esquin.com