Fence Stile Vineyards and Winery offers a FirePit Red wine blending workshop on Sunday, March 4th, at 1 p.m. The workshop (registration details below) is a rare, invaluable opportunity for wine drinkers to experience firsthand how unfinished wine from different grapes, such as Chambourcin and Norton in this case, is blended.
Unfinished wine refers to grape juice pressed after harvest that has undergone fermentation. Stored in stainless steel tanks, the wine is monitored to determine how its flavor, aroma and other characteristics develop. At this stage, the winemaker has not refined the wine to the point where it is ready to bottle.
"There are a number of reason and ways to blend wines," explains Shriti Plimpton, owner and founder of Fence Stile Vineyards and Winery. "The goal of blending is to create the best wine possible with the elements you have to work with. Blending creates a more balanced wine (and often a more complex wine). Winemakers may blend different varietals, different lots of the same varietals, different barrel lots, lots from different geographical areas of the same grape, different vintages or even different styles. Some wines lend themselves to blending in order to improve aromatics, round out the harshness or tannins or improve color. Blending can happen as early as fermentation, throughout aging or right before bottling."
Blending wine is part of the craft of winemaking that begins with harvest and crush in fall and continues in the wine production facility. Blending is typically not an experience accessible to the public. Fence Stile's blending workshop is a chance for a select few guests to "peek behind the curtain."
"To create a blend, we start with the goal," Shriti says. "The goal for FirePit Red was to create a smoky wine that you would enjoy by the fire. We want to develop a wine that is light enough to enjoy without a meal. Yet, it has the aromatics and familiarity of a warm fire."
Samples are drawn from the available target wines in the winery's tanks and barrels for the workshop. The fun and learning begins in the Tasting Room as participants work in pairs as a team. They taste each wine to understand its nuances, flavors and characteristics before blending.
"Then we create sample blends, working to highlight the strengths of each as well as account for missing elements," Shriti says. "We may have a sample that is nice and smoky but too harsh. It may need to be softened with an off-dry wine or perhaps a more fruit-forward wine. We create numerous combinations with the elements we have available to strike the right balance. The availability of the elements for us to work with often determines the quantity we are able to bottle."
WINE BLENDING WORKSHOP
The 2017 FirePit Red Wine Blending workshop is limited to 14 participants that will work in pairs (7 pairs total). Individual participants that sign up will be paired with a partner. After a discussion on wine blending led by Fence Stile's team, participants will briefly taste three unfinished red wines to assess their flavor, aroma, and other qualities. Using these samples, the participants will create up to three blends. Each pair will select one wine from their three blends, share the blend, discuss its attributes, and explain why they chose it.
Cost for the workshop is $15 per person ($10 for Wine Club members). Limited space available. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot and list the participant name(s) for up to two people.
Creative director Pete Dulin documents wine, food and operations at Fence Stile Vineyards and Winery through writing and photography.