Blending wines: why OR why not?

SUMMER’S BEST LOCAL EVENT IS COMING UP JUNE 13 & 14. I am referring to the TOPANGA CANYON ART STUDIOS TOUR: tBoW travels through Topanga Canyon often. Once a year the Topanga cooperative art gallery hosts a tour of local artists who live in the canyon. This is hands-down the best one day summer activity for people who want to know more about the venerable, charming and mysterious canyon. If you want to see how and where Topanga artists live then you must buy a ticket at the gallery and spend Saturday and/or Sunday June 13 & 14 driving around Topanga. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Tablas Creek wall.jpgTo blend or not? Since the 1970s California vintners have chosen to produce bottles of one varietal; in those days it was the ubiquitous Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. This was not always the case when the blended California Chablis and Hearty Burgundy where the state’s flagship wines. In Europe the general preference is to blend grapes, with notable exceptions. tBoW prefers blended wines because they are more interesting PERIOD. With that, let us hasten to immediately confute ourselves by reviewing and praising a French wine that is Gamay-based (perhaps 100%!!) while suggesting an international and a couple of domestic wines should go into a blend. Go figger. Here is an easy-to-follow link that will freshen up your Beaujolais IQ.
corcelette morgon 03.jpg2003 Corcelette Morgon $18: Peter Weygandt imports this wine purchased at Woodland Hills Wine Co. Showing some toughness when opened. Made me wonder if it was over the hill. Woody, receding “fruit-line”. Either the wine was not ready or it’s time had passed. 30 minutes later the fruit emerged, showing a supple quality that was quite lovely. Lots of cherry fruit. Showing some age in the color and the fruit. Not exactly vibrant. More like mature and perfect. One would guess this wine could go another couple years. Really shows how refined Beaujolais wine – and a single varietal – can be. 13.5%
TC Syrah 04.jpg2004 Tablas Creek Syrah $32: Through the TC WIne Club. A gentleman bruiser. Not so big and tough to put one off but plenty solid around the middle. Rich and ripe Paso fruit. Dense without being overstuffed. Great steak wine. Put it in the Panoplie! 14.5%
trenel MV 07.jpg2007 Trenel Macon-Villages $16: A Robert Chadderdon selection from a house that tBoW counts on for premium wines. However, this is unimpressive. Chardonnay without much flavor. Why not blend it with Viognier? Fairly lean. Not over-oaked (if at all). Just ordinary. Not what I expect from producer or importer. Even the best hitters strike out sometime, right? [ed. ekchooly the best hitters strike out a lot; this is a first for Chadderdon] 13%
TCroussanne06.jpg2005 Tablas Creek Roussanne $23: tBoW is going to write blasphemy. I wish Tablas Creek would blend all their varietals, red and white. We like the blends so much, e.g., Esprit de Beaucastel, Panoplie, etc. There is nothing wrong with the single varietals. I just find the blends do a better job of showing the terroir. Maybe it is the young vines and the single varietals will be more interesting in the future. This Rousanne is lovely, with a solid tannic spine. It is medium weight. I just do not find it very captivating. The Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, on the other hand, is dynamite with explosive flavors, and strong character. And the EBB, like the EBR, needs some time to develop. 14.3%
tBoW posed the blending question to Jason Haas and he replied promptly. Here is a distillation of his thoughts. He got so pumped up he posted a longer reply on the Tablas Creek blog Sunday May 31. Be sure to check it out.
This is a great question. There are a couple of different reasons for us to do single varietals (recognizing that 80% of what we make, including our flagship red and white wines, are blends).
Some lots of Syrah and Roussanne are so powerfully characteristic of the varietals we don’t feel they integrate well into blends. At the same time, it often seems to us a shame to blend these tremendously characteristic lots away. So, we bottle them on their own.
The single-varietal wines are great educational tools. They help show the trade and public why we bother with relatively unknown grapes like Mourvedre, Roussanne, or Grenache Blanc. Having top-notch examples of these single-varietal wines helps us educate the public about why they should care about them.
There are people out there still convinced (thank Robert Mondavi for this) that the best wines are single varietals. I happen not to agree. [Single varietals provides] a way for us to [encourage folks] to take a chance on…the world of Tablas Creek. Think gateway wines.
I think you’re right that the single varietals often need more time to really show well than the blends do. This makes sense; we have a lot more tools in our toolkit when we’re working with blends. Grapes like Syrah and Roussanne that are fairly monolithic when they’re young can be opened up with the additions of Grenache Blanc and Picpoul, or Counoise and Grenache. We typically hold back these wines for quite a while before we release them.

Thank you Jason for these very educational comments. Makes me want to bust open a 2005 Cotes de Tablas AND a Vermentino!

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