Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Consensus Blending - Fun at the Winery

The Barrel Room and the Consensus Blending

 What great fun. A day at our favorite winery with new friends.

There is an annual event at Keswick Vineyards called Consensus Blending where we get to spend a day sampling a set of wines and then, as a group, by table, developing the best blend possible. You can read last year's account at Consensus.

The event is conducted in the Barrel Room of the winery, where it tends to be a bit cool, as one might expect. But it provides us a day to get back to the winery and sample wines and make our best blend of wine from the wines provided.

But in now the second year of our experience, we have met the greatest people and had an incredible amount of fun. Everyone is a lot of fun to be with and we all share a passion: wine.

Assessing the Blend

As Stephen, the winemaker says, the trick is not to blend a wine that you will like--but it is to blend a wine that someone will want to buy.

This year we had four wines to consider for blending. A Cabernet-sauvignon, a touriga, a syrah, and a chambourcin. We were limited in that the final blend could not contain more than 25 percent of the touriga or the cabernet sauvignon. It could contain 25 percent of each--just not more than 25 percent of either. We could use as much of the chambourcin and the syrah as we felt necessary.

We Realized We Won

The first task was to assess the four wines. That is always the greatest fun because as soon as you taste one varietal I begin to think about what it would need to be a spectacular wine. And this is the chance I get to actually do this in practice.

Additionally, it is critical to assess the palette of the other people at the table. By their comments on the varietals, you can begin to determine whose palette is most like the majority of people and so that person becomes weather vane for the blends. I know that I am not a good person to build a wine to because I like a specific group red wines, but I think I can assess a wine that others will like. It is always good though to have a couple other people to provide confirmation.

Standings Board

Our table was blessed with six people who knew wines and understood that we needed to develop a complete wine--a nice nose, a good finish, a deep rich dark color and a well balanced taste: not too tannin in nature but not a fruit bomb either.

I won't go into all of the details about how we did it--because fundamentally, we were really lucky because we decided on our basic blend after our second blend and then it was just tweaking the blend from there. We eliminated the syrah after the fourth blend because it just didn't add anything that improved the blend. We were quite happy to work with just the chambourcin, touriga, and cabernet sauvignon.

The Winners
Chris & Shannon Andrews
Barbara & Bob Gitschier, Chris & Bob Doan,
and the winemaker
Stephen Barnard
Something I have learned over the past two years--one percent makes a big difference. I never thought it would be like that, but looking at the standings board, the top two wines are very similar and tasted very different. The scores are along the side and our wine was wine J. The two on the bottom were both 100 percent chambourcin and the winemaker added them into the judging as control wines.

And so last year our wine came in second place. This year, I really wanted to win. I don't know why, but I just felt we had a good wine last year and I knew I had learned so much more about wine this past year. And our table did win. It was a great team effort in which everyone participated.

What do the winners get? Our wine will be bottled and sold by the winery as the 2009 Consensus Blend.

And I will buy a few cases of it because I know it is good.

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