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JUNE 2008: The Magic of Blending with Edward Sellers Winery
The Magical Kitchen, Simi Valley, CA

edwardbottles.jpgWorking a harvest gave me a realistic view of the life of a winemaker, which is more hard physical labor than those of us who regularly imbibe in wine care to think about. The magazine spreads, dinners and tastings make this life look glamourous, but believe me, those are just the icing on the cake. If a winemaker/owner cares at all about the final product they are working hands on, which is dirty, endless, tiring and requires almost every hour of the day to make their wines a success. Personally, I'd just prefer to drink and talk about their products, than make my own.

However, the chemistry of the process from grape juice to wine and all the variations of flavor and style that can be created are fascinating to me. So, when we had a chance to make our own blend, I couldn't resist. Especially since it was with our friends from Edward Sellers Winery in Paso Robles. They are, in our opinion, one of the best Rhone-style wine producers in the region and take wine blending very seriously. In fact, most of their bottlings are blends of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault, using various percentages in each blend to showcase both the finesse and power these grapes create when they're mixed together.

magickitchen.jpgDave, myself and about 20 other wine lovers met their winemaker Amy Butler, one of the few ladies with that job in Paso, at the Magical Kitchen in Simi Valley, a small cooking school that occasionally holds wine events. She brought half bottles filled with wines from their 2007 vintage, single varietals, straight from the barrels. These wines were barely 6 months old, but each had a very distinct personality, which obviously, was to contribute something different to the blend we were being empowered to make. After tasting each wine several times, my nervousness seemed to melt away and I started mixing with abandon. Dave decided to sit back and watch me work, preferring to be the final arbiter of the finished product. After a hard day at work, thinking was not on his agenda for the evening. Neither was taking pictures, which he failed to get accomplished. Frankly, I was lucky to get him out of the house at all.

WineBlending2.jpgWe both loved the Mourvedre the best on its' own, so we used that wine for the bulk of our blend (55%). It was lush, ripe, elegant and spicy. (We hope they save some of it to be bottled on it's own.) The Syrah was a behemoth, purple and opaque and filled with flavors of meat and earth. Too tannic and thick on its' own, we used only a small amount (20%) to give our wine backbone and color. To compensate for the heaviness of the Syrah, we added Grenache (15%) for its' lift and bright red fruit flavors and Cinsault (10%) for its' floral aromatics and acidity. It was an instant delight. I also tried a second version that was more light-bodied with the bulk of the blend being Grenache (60%) with 30% Mourvedre and 10% Cinsault, but it lacked the depth of flavors and silky mouthfeel of the first go round.

The process was messy – our papers quickly covered with drops of wine – yet intriguing and fun. The permutations were endless and we only had four wines to play with. How they do it at the winery where they're dealing with a myriad of barrels each containing a unique wine is a challenge I'd like to face, but don't think I'd survive. Personally, I had to stick to numbers that could be divided by 5 since math is not my strong suit. The ladies sitting next to us were much more precise and could clearly add...even after drinking for an hour. Our wine – which we dubbed 2007 Flirting with Disaster – may have been a simple blend, but, thanks to the quality of the base wines, it sure was delicious.

2007flirting.jpgAfter waiting 3 months to crack the half bottle we got to take home, I have to say I really hit the nail on the head and can't wait to see what the professionals at Edward Sellers come up with. Alas, our joy quickly turned to sadness, as our wine was gone too soon. If our bottle is any indication, their 2007s are going to be gooooood. We only have a couple of years to wait. Wine blending is certainly one of the more artistic aspects to winery life and if you ever get the chance to do it yourself, you won't regret it. I can't wait until next year.

Alas, we will not get the chance to do this again, at least not at The Magical Kitchen. They closed up shop a few months after this event. Total bummer.

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