Mastering the Blends

This time of year, the cellar is abuzz as Peter, our winemaker, meticulously works his way through the rows of barrels, tasting barrel by barrel to determine which will achieve stardom. It’s all part of the art of making our wines. We sat down with Peter to understand the process.

How do you go about the process? It seems so complicated!
With 80-100 lots per vintage, each sings a different octave. The process first starts with me blind tasting to get a new, unadulterated impression of the blends, chalking each barrel to identify the bottling it is destined for. I then compare the notes I’ve taken over the course of months of tasting with the final blind trial. Most hold true to the initial impression, but there are always a few surprises.

How much depends on the time of year, or how long a wine has been aged?
The exercise is so dependent on timing – some barrels might be hidden and backwards at the particular time of tasting but they change, evolve and sing over time. Part of that is that at first pass, the wines are quite young and the exercise requires a bit of guessing toward the future. As the process nears its end, the wine is more mature, and it’s often a closer estimation. At that time, some barrels fade away, and some elevate.

What goes in to mastering the final blends?
We put the barrels all together on the floor and listen for the barrels to sing and speak. The primary decision is which barrels go into our flagship Black Label bottling, and which barrels best represent our single vineyard program. The task can be relatively easy or more challenging, depending on the characteristics of a vintage. Because I am so closely involved in the farming of our estate vineyards, I am in tune with how each vineyard performs and what it should taste like. It makes the final selections more clear. I can taste the wine and say “this feels like the vintage.”