First saw wine made at age 7, became a Master Gardner and now my favorite plant is Vitis vinifera. Published wine reviewer, teach wine appreciation at the local school district. And at my old age completed some WSET levels just because I love all things wine. I pour wine for various distributors, have worked with chefs pairing wine and food at corporate events and do private home parties too. Between events, I meet with winemakers in various states and countries.
RAVENSWOOD WINERY “Blend Your Own” Wine Experience
“I always have a problem liking things I'm told I
― Karl Pilkington, An Idiot Abroad: The Travel Diaries of
hard to understand what you like about a wine until you know what particular
characteristics about that wine are pleasing to your palate. Learning this
is easier than you may think. And by learning this, you’ll be better able to
communicate with retailers when asking for help selecting a wine. You’ll be more relaxed ordering wine in
restaurants and happier with the wines you bring home. And no, it’s not necessary for you to become
a wine “geek”, or study enology.
course, there are courses available, both formal and self-study. And then there
are the “experiences.” You can combine a
fun experience with a vacation and come back with both wine and an appreciation
of why it is that you like what you do. I enjoyed just such an experience at
Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma last October.
host at the winery will start you with three wines. Ravenswood
being famous for
Zinfandel, that will be one. You’ll also have Carignan and a Petite Sirah. Of course, you have the opportunity to taste
these individually, but more important is learning what these varietals
contribute to red blends (the fastest growing segment in America today).
for example, contributes bright fruit with peppery spice and aromas of red
fruit and clove. It’s often higher in alcohol than other varietals, which some
people describe as creating a “hot” finish.
Carignan has saturated tannins and provides the acid that is necessary
for a clean finish. Petite Sirah contributes body and structure, enhancing the
mouthfeel. Since I’ve already said you needn’t become a wine “geek”, I’ve kept
these descriptors simple. Your host will
provide you more information
out with a 20 milliter (ml) measuring tube, you’ll make your own blend. A reference I was given as a starting point
was 10 ml Zin, 5 ml Carignan and 5 ml Petite Sirah. That works out to 50% Zin, and 25% each of
Carignan and Petite Sirah: below the required 75% of any grape required to be
sold as a varietal. You can make several
blends and taste each before arriving at your
Testing different blends before arriving
at my preferred combination
blend. I increased and decreased
percentages several times along the experience before I settled in at 13 parts
Zin, 3 Carignan and 4 Petite Sirah. My
friend concocted even more potions before arriving at 3 ml of Zinfandel and 17
ml of Petite Sirah. She eliminated Carignan completely. We learned that she
liked a wine I would consider “flabby” due to its “lack” of acid. Hers could
legally be labeled Petite Sirah (and I have had several that I did enjoy). Mine
would not be labeled as a varietal, but simply a red blend consisting of 65%
Zinfandel, 15% Carignan and 20% Petite Sirah.
the words of Pliny the Elder spoken more than 2000 years ago (“The best wine is
that which taste good to thine own palate”), there is no wrong blend. And
whether you are a novice or advanced wine consumer, Ravenswood’s “Blend Your
Own” experience will give you a memory and an understanding of wine and your
likes that you will long enjoy. To
reinforce the experience, you’ll also leave with a corked and sealed 375ml
bottle of your own blend. And on a
separate level, the whole experience is just good fun.
Your own bottle to
winery offers beautiful views and an opportunity to enjoy these views while
tasting their acclaimed and awarded wines. Although famous for Zinfandel, Ravenswood also
produces Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, a red blend and Chardonnay in
addition to those already mentioned.
Varietals are offered both as single vineyard and cuvees and along
several price points. In fact, the winery’s first vintage of two single
vineyard lots from 1976 were ranked #1 and #2 in 1979 at a San Francisco
Tasting. That’s a good history and
things have only gotten better.
haven’t read Pilkington’s book, and can’t claim to even heard of him. But I agree
with the sentiment of his quote that it’s better liking what you like than
being told what to like. Ravenswood’s
“Blend Your Own” experience gives you just that opportunity.
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