Guests at Wiens Family Cellars unleashed their inner winemaker at a recent event where they sipped, described and blended different varietals in a blind tasting.
People packed a room of the winery for the Jan. 20, “Blending Experience.” The event gave them a chance to try tastes of five different wines: dolcetto, sangiovese, barbera, petite sirah and cabernet franc. Each of the wines was covered and labeled with a letter from A-E.
Winemaker Joseph Wiens told the audience that people have a tendency to gravitate toward certain types of wine and dislike others, and that’s why the tasting was a blind one.
“We keep it blind to keep everybody just focused on the individual flavors of the bottles and not really thinking about the variety,” he said.
Using a scorecard, guests got to describe the wines and their flavor profiles and determine what percentage of each wine to put into their own blend.
Afterward, they put those percentages into a 100-milliliter graduated cylinder, enough to fill one glass of wine and taste their unique creation.
Attendees not only got to unleash their inner winemaker, but also their inner artist. At each table was a container filled with brightly colored Sharpie markers, and guests were able to draw up their own label for their bottle of wine.
Next, guests multiplied their original percentages by 7.5, enough to fill a 750-milliliter bottle.
After putting that amount into a larger container, guests poured their wine into a bottle, brought the bottle to a station to have it corked and labeled with their unique design.
Toward the end of the event, guests learned which wine each letter represented and what they had put into their blend.
Wiens said that red wine blends are fairly popular right now and that the winery is well-known for its “Crowded,” a red wine blend which has between six and 15 different component wines depending on the year. He said the event allowed visitors to make their own “Crowded.”
Wiens said that blending varieties is a great way to come up with a quality bottle of wine. For example, sometimes a winemaker may have a cabernet that needs a little more fruit, so they might add in a dash of merlot. They might have a wine that needs more color so they could add in some petite sirah.
“Basically the way I look at it, it’s like a chef working with spices on spice rack,” Wiens said. “You’ve got a dish, and you think it needs a little bit of something, so you blend in a little bit of that something to make it work.”
He said the event has an educational aspect because guests can experience the flavors of the wine and the effects of the blending firsthand.
“Honestly, hands-on learning is usually the best way to learn anything,” he said. “Even as a winemaker, growing up, you can read all the books you want and that’s great, but until you get your hands dirty and start working with the wine, you’re not really going to know what you’re doing.”
Wiens said his favorite part of the event is the label design.
“Everybody gets to make their own labels and decorate them, and I’m an artist as well,” he said. “I’ve actually painted quite a few of the labels for our winery, so it’s cool for me to see other peoples’ artistic takes on the labels.”
The event was a hit with Keith Chalman of Yorba Linda, who arrived with a group of friends and neighbors.
Chalman said the event’s laid-back atmosphere made it a great way to learn.
“For the novice just getting into wine, this is supreme,” he said. “You learn about all the idiosyncrasies.”