Finalizing the Grand Reserve Cabernet Blend

Blending is one of my favorite parts of being a winemaker.  Working with an array of different wines from multiple blocks, sites and elevations is an awe-inspiring task. I love every minute of it.

In fact, at the winery, my team has been preparing to make the 2010 Grand Reserve Cabernet blend. After many component tastings and blending trials, the KJ All-Star Bordeaux team (made up of Winemaster Randy Ullom, myself, and two of our talented Assistant Winemakers) has come up with our final blend for this vintage — and it’s a real head-turner.

The Grand Reserve Cabernet has been focused on Sonoma County for several years now, and the blend is comprised of two lynchpin vineyards. The first, Alexander Mountain Estate, is a phenomenal property with vineyards planted high above the Alexander Valley.  Many of the blocks that we harvest for Grand Reserve come from 1500-2200 feet of elevation. The second site, which we refer to as the Trace Ridge vineyard, is in Knights Valley. I am truly fortunate to work with such phenomenal grapes from our estate vineyards.

In addition to Cabernet from these two sites, the new blend also includes a significant amount of Malbec and Petit Verdot. I love using these traditional Bordeaux varieties in the Cabernet blend.

Malbec brings aromatic complexity, typically contributing floral notes and white pepper. It can also provide intensely rich fruit and chocolate-like richness. Petit Verdot is a stunner.  It is so dense and powerful that we rarely would consider bottling it as a single variety. Our Petit Verdots add color, weight and length to the overall blend.

When we are working on the finished blend, I always find a core of Cabernet that represents the soul of the wine. Then, I look at adding these blenders as additional layers of complexity. I set up blending series so that my team and I can evaluate the precise effect that these additions have on the character of the wine. Usually, we will look at small, incremental additions (1% each) of these blenders until we find the point where they magically contribute complexity to the blend without changing that original character.

It may be hard to imagine, but we can truly see the change in the wine even at such a small amount. So what is the final blend, you might ask? Here are the “stats” for the 2010 Grand Reserve Cabernet:

91% Cabernet Sauvignon
5% Malbec
3.5% Petit Verdot
0.5% Cabernet Franc