In the past, I have talked a lot about single grape varietals. Strey Cellars initially focused on these solo red varietals, since they tend to be our favorites, however, here we are approaching our sixth anniversary and things have changed. While initially, it was really important for Strey to make a name for itself in Ventura County, CA with wines that were 100% single origin; whether it be Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, or Syrah. We have been proud of our big California style wines and have enjoyed sharing them in the tasting room. In 2013 our winemaker, Scott tried his hand at a blend, you may have heard of it? Slanted… at the time we weren’t sure how our customers would react to a blend because some people have a very “snooty” attitude towards wine blends. You see, there is this idea that it’s “easy” to make a good blend and it takes more skill to create a great single varietal. I can see why this idea is popular, however, it is important to note that wine is good, if you like it. There certainly are different expectations and bars to reach, as well as specific tasting notes that correlate to certain varietals, but ultimately, you should like what you’re drinking. Strey wines have been awarded many times with gold, silver and bronze medals in various wine competitions, we still urge you to taste and make your own decisions.
Often when you are drinking a wine that has a label with only one varietal listed, that isn’t entirely true. Legally a winemaker can add up to 25% of another varietal to enhance the color, nose or mouthfeel. Over the years I have come to appreciate the way Scott knows which flavor profiles compliment each other whether it’s choosing the tasting lineup, food pairing, or blending. Scott trusts his palate, and so do we. When we released our 2013 Slanted, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Syrah, and Zinfandel, we blew our own minds. I think that’s when I started to become a believer in blending magic. In fact, thanks to such a widely loved wine, Scott began to experiment with other blends. Remember Cynder? That stacked, packed Barbera Blend? We also released a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) with a little twist, the Mourvedre was a Rosé. It was such a lovely light GSM, and I personally held a place in my heart for it because during my first harvest at Strey, I helped out with the Grenache. That’s when I learned not to wear cute clothes to work during Harvest. Since our GSM, we created Slanted 2.0, and had our first “blending party”.
What is a blending party, you might be asking yourself? It’s when the winemaker invites wine club members, employees and friends with wine knowledge to taste different varietals that have not been bottled yet. We also blend some of these wines together to make blends that we think are worth bottling. With Harvest over, Scott’s next project is prepping for a massive two day bottling scheduled for the first weekend in April. That means everything gets racked and adjusted, we create Slanted 3.0 and also a handful of limited edition blends that we don’t even plan on bottling. A few months ago we installed a tap system in the tasting room. So during OUR blending party we were tasked with creating blends that we can pour by the glass as small production tasting room exclusives! Eventually we will introduce a growler program so you can take these blend gems home. Scott gave us each a few pages to write out our tasting notes, and a few bottles of wine he had just pulled from barrels… I think there were 8 or 10 wines. Scott walked us through the rules of blending so we weren’t just pouring random wines into glasses. We were tasting, meticulously blending, and recording our experiments. Scott had an idea of the types of blends he wanted, gave us a few guidelines, and let us get to work. He wanted a Zin Blend, a Zin/PetiteSirah Blend, a Bordeaux Blend, a Cab/Syrah Blend and our best creative concoction.
After many trails (and so much math you guys!), we bottled the top contestants and let them settle for a couple weeks. Over the next month or so, Scott, Katie and I took some time to open the blends, and taste them blindly (which means we numbered the blends, but none of us knew who had created which blend) to decide which blends were going to make the cut.
Since last harvest we focused solely on white wines, we decided to create a white blend that we will be calling Inclined (the perfect compliment to Slanted). This was such a fun day for me because months before I had helped Scott rack the whites, and tasted them when they were just weeks old. This time, while we tasted, I was able to take notes in order to write the labels for all the bottles, and weigh in on blend options. I can’t wait to share these wines with all of you! It is so satisfying to be a part of each of the stages of wine making, and winery life. While my true love is writing, I am giddy about the opportunity to introduce you to these creations in the tasting room.
Author’s note: My name is Justine and I have been working in the tasting room at Strey Cellars for over four years. We are a small family owned local boutique winery. If this is your first visit to my blog, you’ll notice that I write as if we are old friends, because this is the energy of our winery. Come visit sometime, and see for yourself. If you enjoyed this blog, please share it with a friend.