Monday, October 17, 2011

2nd Annual BLEND - Bell Harbor Conference Center

For this year’s Columbia BLEND event, held September 18th, 2011, I was honored to be asked by event promoter Jamie Peha (@TableTalkPeha) to be on the panel of judges for the “BLEND Awards”. Now, I’ve tasted a lot of wine in my day, but this was the first time I’d been asked to participate in something like this, so I was excited! Little did I know it would be so much work! This year’s event featured over 40 wineries pouring 130+ wines, all blends.

(look at me! I'm on the "panel of experts"!)

The lovely Erin Thomas (@erindrinkswine) and I arrived at BLEND an hour before kickoff, ready to don our stemware, clipboards, and spit cups in an effort to taste through all of the wines being poured at the event. The next two hours went a lot like this: swirl, sip, spit, dump, repeat. That was a TON of wine to get through. It was a great experience, however, and was the first time I’d tasted so many wines and not actually consumed one drop of any of them! Some of the highlights of this year’s event included the “Bubble Lounge”, which showcased several sparkling wines, as well as an oyster line-up from Taylor Shellfish Farms, as well as a blending station from Cave B Winery (@CaveBWinery), where their winemaker Freddy let us create out own blend using Cave B wines. Mine was a fun 60% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Not too shabby at all! The custom blending was my favorite part of last year’s event (read my post on BLEND 2010 here).

(sips and treats in the "Bubble Lounge")

(custom blending with Cave B Winery)

And now for the winning wines! As I mentioned, it was pretty hard to judge so many amazing wines, but there were a stand out few. Several that I gave highest points to ended up in the winners circle, which was nice to see! Without further ado, our 2011 BLEND Award Winners!

White Blends:

1st Place - McCrea Cellars 2009 Sirocco Blanc. This is 43% Grenache Blanc, 41% Marsanne, 10% Picpoul, and 7% Roussanne. McCrea is well known for their unique blends and usage of unique grapes. In fact, the McCrea Picpoul was the first of that varietal that I had ever tried (read about that in my post on Urban Enoteca). The ’09 Sirocco Blanc definitely held its own as a unique blend and was a well-rounded and sweet white blend.

2nd Place - Brian Carter Cellars (@briancarterwine) 2009 Oriana. This is a Viognier/Roussane blend that brings forth a lot of my favorite fruits. I’ve enjoyed this one during visits to the winery in the past.

3rd Place - Naches Heights Vineyard 2010 Can Can. This is a Viognier based blend that was a new one to me. I enjoyed the bright fruit flavors and crispness. Definitely one I’ll seek out again.

Red Blends:

1st Place - Woodward Canyon 2006 Estate Reserve. This is a big bold blend made up of 42% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Petit Verdot. This blend changes from year to year and will definitely age well for years to come.

2nd Place (TIE) - Robert Ramsey Cellars 2008 Mason's Red. This is a fantastic, budget friendly, food wine that is Syrah-based and changes from year to year. A good everyday drinker to have handy!

2nd Place (TIE) - Sparkman Cellars (@SparkmanCellars) 2008 Stella Mae. I liked the 2007 vintage of this so much I bought two bottles of it at separate visits to the winery (and discovered this when I organized my wine a few weeks back!). The 2008 is no different, and is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Petit Verdot, 16% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. Named for the Sparkman’s oldest daughter, this is a deep dark wine, with flavors of dark chocolate and dark fruit.

As you can see, there were some fantastic wines at this year’s BLEND event. It was a shame we couldn’t give awards to even more wines, there were many deserving ones in attendance! As I mentioned before, I spent most of the event with a clipboard in one hand and a spit cup/wine glass in the other (yes, both in one hand, that was tricky..), so I don’t have as many photos of this event as I would have liked, but that just shows how hard at work I was! I look forward to the 2012 BLEND event, and can’t wait to see what Peha Promotions has in store for us next year!

Want to see Erin and I as fancy judges? Check out this photo from Seattle Weekly!

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