WALLA WALLA - A blend of wines, food and entertainment are taking place this weekend, as the annual Holiday Barrel Tasting weekend takes place at dozens of local wineries.
Along with events like horse carriage rides, catered dinners and live music, a class on blending wines was held by Forgeron Cellars.
"The blended wines are so much better," Forgeron winemaker Marie Eve Gilla said in her heavy French accent to a small class in back storage facility on Saturday morning.
About 11 people, a good number of them from the west side, sat at three tables that were topped with close to 150 empty wine goblets, several 100 milliliter graduated cylinders, measuring cups, funnels, four different red wines fresh from their barrels and the all important log sheets.
"At the end we ask everyone what kind of wines they made. And you never know, it might inspire me," Gilla said, encouraging the class to come up with several varied mixtures of four different red wines: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot.
Assistant winemaker David Kennell explained that blending is a key part of wine making, almost as important as growing the grapes.
"Very few of them are not blended. Even our '08 merlot is going to have a pinch of cab and a pinch of petit verdot," Kennell said.
Still, there are a few single variety wines being made, mostly in the whites.
"It is more on the white zinfandels. We don't like to put anything with the zinfandels because it is so expressive already," Gilla said.
So what blend of people take a class on blending?
"We are big collectors. We have 600 bottles at home. So we can learn and understand what we have and why we like it," Chris Bailey said, as he prepared to mix some cabernet sauvignon with petit verdot.
Gilla and Kennell pointed out that when they mix wines, they also must consider whether it will be consumed that year or 20 years down the road.
"For us it is just a matter of tasting each individual wine and then coming up with the taste profile and then saying how will this work with the blend," Kennell said.
Acidity, fruitiness, body, spice, robustness are all factors that need to be considered.
The wines are mixed in the barrel, allowed to set for months or even years, then finally bottled and labeled with their blended ratios.
Most people won't ever get to do blending at such a level, but learning about it still caught the attention of Dave Stevens of Federal Way, Wash.
"I am just trying to learn more about the wine-making business, whether or not I ever make wine. I drink a lot of wine and enjoy it, and I would like to know what goes on behind the scenes a little bit," Stevens said.