Blend Seattle and DIY Winemaking

Many wine tasting events follow a basic formula: a get together centered around wines from a particular region/varietal/theme. Winemakers and tasting room staff may talk to those in attendance about the wine that they're making and trying to make; they talk about what got them into wine and where you can find them. Oftentimes these events are great ways to meet smaller producers, or put a face to a wine that may come from further away than you normally travel. For many people, this can be a perfect opportunity to try a variety of really good wines all at the same time and do a little comparison across varietals, vintages or regions. I love wine tasting events, they're great places to try something new and meet new people.

Living in Seattle I've had the good fortune of being able to attend a number of events, and they all have tended to be similar until recently. Jamie Peha has recently added a little bit of bang for an additional buck to her tasting events with the incorporation of seminars and educational workshops. The first such seminar was at the Merlot Gone Mad tasting where winemakers and growers talked about the unique qualities of Washington Merlot while attendees tasted multiple vintages side by side. In her most recent foray, Blend Seattle, Jamie outdid her last go round with the addition of blending workshops. I got to attend one, and it was a blast.

Winemaking staff from Washington's Columbia Winery founded by the late David Lake started us off with a bit of an historical and scientific look at why winemakers blend wine for years, and for today's consumers.

After a bit of history on the blending traditions of Bordeaux we set about making our own blends. Columbia Winery had provided varietals from two different vintages to blend together in our own creation. I was at a table of all-star Seattle wine talent that included Annie Hong, GM for the Black Pearl restaurants, Taryn Miller fellow wine blogger, and the reigning king of the Washington wine blog scene, the man himself, Sean Sullivan, author of the Washington Wine Report, and the cover boy of the Seattle Metropolitan Magazine's 100 Best Washington Wines. We were also accompanied by an actual journalist and editor Jessica Voelker from Seattle Met Magazine as well.

Equipped with four of the traditional Bourdeaux blending varietals, we went to work. Traditional Bourdeaux styles are either Left Bank, blends predominantly made from Cabernet Sauvignon, and Right Bank, where the predominant grape is Merlot. Our table decided to buck tradition and we all experimented with different blends.

Using the Columbia Winery Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from 2007 and the Red Willow Cabernet Franc and Malbec from 2008, we measured our blends into 100ml batches. Yours truly created a blend fancifully named Dark is the Night 1.0 that was 50% Malbec, 20% Merlot, 20% Cabernet and 10% Cab Franc. My blend was popular with the ladies, but Sean felt it needed a little more backbone. Annie and Taryn also had winning combinations, but they both lacked the cool name that mine had.

As we went into round two, I eased the Malbec back to 45% and beefed up the Cabernet to 25% at Sean's suggestion. (He's Sean Sullivan folks, the guy knows his stuff, you should listen to the man.) Dark is the Night 2.0 was a hit. Jessica had a nice blend this time around as well. We decided the table’s best chance at victory our best chances lay with Dark is the Night. Before submitting our blend, we tweaked the blend a bit, coming to rest at 45% Malbec, 20% Merlot, 25% Cabernet and 10% Cab Franc. A bit of field blending was done after that and we submitted our wine to the judges. Each table submitted a wine and then scored each other's wines blind.

Unfortunately, we did not win. The winning table walked away with a bottle of the Penninsula blend from Columbia Winery. Tails between our legs we made our way out to the big event, Blend Seattle.

I was really pleased with some of the food tasting options, and some wine blends I hadn't experienced before. A favorite was the La Boheme from Saint Laurent and one I didn't try but heard great things about was the Vinify from Forgeron Cellars.

Curious to see what Jamie has up her sleeve for her next event? Get your tickets for the upcoming Lamb Jam.