DIY wine blends are tougher than you'd think

DIY wine blends are tougher than you'd think

>DRINK IT

Who: St. Francis Winery
What: 2009 Red Splash
Where: Santa Rosa, California
Why: Research only, would not recommend
How much: $11

My husband and I gather with friends often to eat, drink and socialize. (I think we would be wise to add a visit to the gym in that list because the socializing doesn't burn enough calories for all we eat and drink.) When the group gets together we're always trying new things — maybe it's a recent food recipe, a new wine find or a combination of the two for a great pairing. For Valentine's Day, someone had the idea of hosting a wine blending party. Wine blends are standard in the liquor stores these days, but the idea of making our own was a new concept and sounded like a fun challenge.

We began by selecting four pure wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah. Each person attending the party would use portions of these to create their own unique blend. The hosts provided carafes for mixing and each guest brought two types of wine to be shared by all nine mixologists. We were given a sheet to write down the name of our creation and the percentages used.

Prior to the gathering, my research included testing a bottle of 2009 Red Splash, a California blend of Petite Sirah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. (It has similarities to the four wines being used during the blending party.) Promoted as being medium-bodied with hints of vanilla bean and spice, I was sadly disappointed with the taste of this wine. In my book, it was thin with no nose and was too heavy on the sugar. The bottle suggested it pairs with anything, and I'm guessing this is because it lacks any flavor of its own. But, all this information was helpful. With a few tweaks, I could re-work this into a nice, full-bodied blend to impress my friends.

Often, my ideas are better than my reality. In working to add body and cut back on the sweetness, I went overboard with the Cabernet, leaving me only with something red that most people wouldn't even cook with. I won't go into detail regarding my mix because it wasn't good. One person thought my mix got better as the night went on and had time to breathe. I believe she had run out of all other options and mine was all that was left to drink.

I commend other attendees though, who did a fine job of mixing something decent and drinkable. One was a blending of 98% Merlot and 2% Zinfandel, just the right touch of Zin fruitiness to complement the Merlot. The second was 55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet and 10% Syrah. We decided this one could sell for about $12 per bottle.

When doing research, it is required you present results. So, our conclusions are: 1) Wine blending works best when using varietals from the same region (we did not do this); 2) It is also best to use the same year (we did not do this); 3) Merlot is a good base wine (I did not do this); and 4) Always take pork tenderloin to a wine blending party. Thank goodness I scored one out of the four.

As I mentioned, this was a learning experience, so not all was lost. The time I spent researching, mixing and testing was fun. But, I think next time I will purchase a nice blend directly from the liquor store, sit back and wait for the fun!