Blending trials anything but

Blending notes from the 2009 vintageLast Saturday night, an elite and thirsty crew gathered at the house to taste through our four Eastern Washington wines, and thus inspired, construct the perfect blend that is the Peugeot. We’ve been doing this for the last 5 years right about now, approximately a month before we need to begin bottling to free up space for the next vintage. But while the timing was the same, the results were anything but.

In all our blends up until now, three things have been constants: three grapes (Merlot and the Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon); a stellar Cabernet Franc to work with; and one less-than-stellar wine to work around. Usually the under-performer is Merlot, but sometimes the Sauv stumbles along in the rear. In either case, it meant we couldn’t simply blend for optimum taste — we had to fill the holes that the laggard wine left gaping, too.

But not this time. All the individual 2009 wines are rock solid, and in one or two cases even magnificent. So we found ourselves in unfamiliar territory: with nothing flat-lining, our usual triage methodology was useless. Or to put it another way, we realized all the wines were good enough that any blend that didn’t transcend the quality of its components was probably not worth going to the trouble to build.

I know, I know: we think our own wines are objectively “magnificent”? There’s a surprise! All I can say is that we loved the components to a degree we’ve never before, which made hitting the perfect blend especially challenging. But at the eleventh hour (as we were getting hungry — hmmm…), we think we did just that.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Peugeot blend:

  • 42.5% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 10% Merlot
  • 42.5% Cabernet Franc
  • 5% Syrah

Oh yes, my friend: fractions. Why, it’s almost as if our blending trials were scientific! Are we winemakers now or what?

Okay, maybe it’s a stretch to characterize so precisely what was really a shaky eyeballing of pours into a crude 100ml graduated cylinder. But that doesn’t mean proportions that minute don’t affect the blend. In fact, we noticed substantial differences across even small variations as we zeroed in on the final. It was kind of like picking a lock: a few tumblers would align, but not others; then others would align, but not ones that aligned before. Then, magically, all the tumblers clicked into place and the vault opened up before our palettes. Man.

So if our live blend is anything like our 100ml approximation, I think in a couple of years we’ll be drinking one of the best Peugeots we’ve ever made.

Pics after the jump …

Blending in the basement, set up near the lab to misleadingly convey a scientific feel to the proceedings
This year, cooler heads prevailed. In the past, the mid-August heat cooked both our brains and our wines as we tried to blend them, so this year, we set up a tasting table in the basement. Ahhhhhh… Plus, it put us nearer the barrels we were actually sampling.

James and Mike grimly discuss the blend
James and Mike discuss the blend. This appears to be one of the low points.

Salad Nicoise amongst the tanks
After the 2009 Peugeot blend had been successfully unlocked, James whipped a stunning Salade Niçoise with fresh tuna loin and vegetables from 47th Ave Farm, then kept the heat outside at bay with what he called “meat-sicles” – rack of lamb done perfectly on the grill and sliced into chops. Deftly interspersed with bottles of our 2009 Rosé (lovely), our 2007 Cabernet Franc (at the height of its flowery grace right now), and a 1999 Ken Wright Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir (not much there there, oddly), the meal was the perfect end to great blending session.

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