Posted by David Cragg, the author of this article, is a retired web marketing professional and the publisher of Temecula-Wineries.net
(Pictured on the right: Jim & Ellen Weiss, Lori Schwartz and Ben White)
A warm reception from the Wiens family began our exhilarating night of wine blending at Temecula's Wiens Family Cellars
' annual wine blending seminar. After a warm greeting, the crowd of more than 30 participants was ushered into the beautiful barrel room. This handsomely decorated room had ten tables covered by white linen table cloths. Each table had four place settings, four mystery wine bottles labeled A to D, a graduated cylinder (like you’d find in a chemistry class), and several other tools for blending wine. To set the proper mood, each of us were poured a glass of Wiens exquisite wine and provided tasty hor d'oeuvres.
The seminar was lead by Doug “The Palate” Wiens a winemaker, viticulturist, and one of the many Wiens family members in attendance. His 30-minute seminar was designed to prepare us for a contest, pitting table against table, as we designed our own blended wine which was to be judged by the Wiens family later that evening. During the seminar we learned that wine blending is a very common practice for wineries. It is used 1) to enhance the quality of the wine in terms of color, aroma, taste and finish, 2) to expand the size of a harvest lot in order to achieve bottling economies of scale, and 3) for marketing considerations. Doug also shared that as he blends wine and tastes the results, his math skills (critical for the blending process) deteriorate as his philosophical skills improve. Interestingly, we were able to share this unique experience as the night progressed.
Once Doug's seminar was done, the teams got to work. You could feel the tension as each team battled to refine their blends. Some teams had more fun than others as their bottles emptied faster. It reminded me of my youngest son and his early experiments mixing various household items to see what would result; even though my son had a great time, he didn’t taste his creations (Thank goodness!). Some of our blends were not fit to be tasted either, but in the end, all 10 teams submitted their best blends with pride, wondering how large the royalties would pile up for their award winning blends.
These 10 blends were taken to the back room to be judged. Five minutes later, when the judges returned, we learned the identities of the four wines we had blended: two were high quality Wiens Temecula wine and the other two needed more time to mature. Being able to guess the weak from the strong wines really separated the novices from the connoisseurs in terms of wine palettes. The connoisseurs congratulated themselves with their award winning blends, while the rest of us took our bruised egos home with a better understanding of what is considered good wine. Surprisingly, some of the winning teams were able to include large percentages of the weak wines into their blends – a critical goal for professional wine blenders as they don’t want to waste a drop of the harvest.
After the awards were announced, we each tasted the winning blend. Most of us shared Rich Wild’s (one of the participants) observation that adding a small amount of a different wine to a blend can make a huge difference to the taste. Because of the fun we had at the seminar, other attendees, like Su-Chun Huang, plan on throwing wine blending contests of their own at their next dinner parties.
What really caught my attention was the fact that so many of the Wiens' family members attended the seminar. They warmly greeted each visitor as we entered the winery and supported each of us as if we were members of the family. This family oriented Temecula winery is reminiscent of an earlier day when the family and community took care of one another. The attendees loved having the family there and gave a lot of extra attention to Grandma Wiens. As Mike and Holly Lester said, "Your help allows each of us to return home as wine Mix Masters." We all look forward to the next event at the Wiens Winery. Well done Wiens family!