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The Art of the Blend

As most of you probably already know, myself and my winemaking team at Dutcher Crossing really appreciate the blending process, and we thoroughly enjoy creating inviting wines for you, our DCW family, from our estate vineyards, as well as from our grower partners.  With that in mind, Assistant Winemaker, Paul and I, love to show up in the conference room at the winery, blending supplies in hand, with creative juices (pun intended) flowing, and a great new DCW wine, or wines, as our end goal. 

I view blending as an art form (with some science mixed in, of course) and compare the process to a chef and their spice rack, or an artist and their paint palette.  You start off with your base – whether it be your pasta sauce or your canvas, and you utilize the spices or colors given to you to work on your masterpiece, layer by layer.  There is always some chaos in the trial and error of it, but that adds to the fun. 

However, don’t get the wrong impression, while “drinking for work” sounds fun, it isn’t always a walk in the park.  For instance, during our latest blending session, we called in for back-up.  We had Debra, Becky, Leanna, Lauren, and Mary all taking turns trying the various blends for our next vintage of Sauvignon Blanc (see picture for the madness – most of these glasses were filled with new blends 4-5x).  We always have what we call the control wine (the base) – typically some variation of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Roussanne, and Viognier- and in this one session we probably concocted up to 30 different blends off that base to get it to where we want it to be.  Everyone giving their opinions on updating some of the grape blend percentages by 1%, 5%, even the silly ¼ %!    We might consider tweaks to the yeast being used, or fermentation percentages in tank, neutral and new oak.  At the end of the day, it’s all about the goosebumps moment when the final blend is agreed upon by everyone in the room!

Checking in throughout the evolution of the wine, as part of our blending program, allows us the opportunity to see how the various components are working together.  We take this time to see how certain grapes might be extracted within the blend and if we are happy with the oak integration.  From here, we decide if we need to make a shift, or any tweaks in the layers we are creating within the wine.  We always keep in mind that sometimes original plans might change, and that particular vintage can be taking us down a different path – your chocolate chip cookie recipe is never perfect on the first try.  You need to keep your creative willingness open, and continuously work on the craft. 

We work together with so many amazing grower partners in AVAs spanning Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino counties, and each time we bring a new one into the fold we start at square one.  It can take years to finetune and garner a specific understanding of the vineyards we work with, and we are still continuously learning.  Every time I am working with let’s say Maple Vineyard, I already have an idea of the wine make-up and what components might work well with it.  We really love finding and sourcing from new vineyards and it’s so important for us to learn the land and vineyard property intimately – this ultimately helps us with our winemaking blending process and leads us to producing wines we are always so proud of. 

While we have hosted some private blending experiences in the past, we are now gearing up to create more small blending event experiences for our wine club family!  We hope to see you at one in 2024!

I hope you enjoy the DCW blends as much as we do!

Cheers,

Nick

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