Mix A Lot

There’s nothing like the taste of Chardonnay in the morning. For wine aficionados this is literally true – our taste buds, well-rested after hours of sleep, can pick up on things they might miss later in the day. For winemakers, this makes morning the perfect time for blending.

And so it was that Kirk Gafill, general manager of Big Sur’s Nepenthe and restaurant Wine Director Aengus Wagner arrived at Roar Wines in Castroville one morning in late November, palates ready for the annual Nepenthe Cuvee blending. Joined by Roar Vineyard Manager Adam Franscioni and Winery Manager Nick Franscioni, plus winemaker Scott Shapley, the group began by tasting six component samples, made up of grapes from three different Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards, each with a unique composition of oak aging.

After each component has been tasted the real fun begins – blending, say, 25 percent of component A with 25 percent of D and 50 percent of E to see what results. You might think that the bright, citrus-heavy flavors in D will blend well with the refreshing, softer palate of E – you’d be wrong. The sour citrus of A combined with a little more of that refreshing E and just a dash of the buttery tones of C? Now we’re getting somewhere.

Each of the 12 distinct blends gets a roundtable critique, an experience that evokes the feeling of a creative writing workshop. In a second round of tasting, five finalists are narrowed to two, then – finally – one. And what is this blend distinctive enough to win over the whole table? Keep an eye on Nepenthe’s wine list to find out.

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