08/21/07 – Proprietary blends

By Jesse on August 20, 2007


Tuesday’s our last meeting before the big trip.  Just to reiterate what’s been said, the Sonoma trip is this weekend, August 25-26, with either a one- or two-night stay depending on individual preference.  One car will be departing Friday evening, and one car will be departing early Saturday morning — both cars will return Sunday evening.  There is extra space in the hotel rooms that we have reserved, so if you want to come aboard, it’s not too late to do so.  Anyone interested can e-mail me or Jason with any questions regarding costs, etc.

At this week’s meeting we address a rather large omission that has occurred as part of our region/varietal method.  We’ve generally been looking at either wines grown in the same place, or wines made from the same grape.  But what about those innovative winemakers who endeavor to rewrite wine history by creating their own unique blend of grape types?  To them the Young Winos finally say, “congratulations on your initiative.  We’re going to drink your wine now.  Hopefully it’s a good one.”

A proprietary blend is any wine created out of a blend of various grape types and given a special name by the proprietor or winemaker.  Often the name has some special significance to the winery in question, to the terroir, or even to the grapes contained therein.  For example, if Jason ran a winery, the tasting notes on his proprietary blend might say this:

The Meltzer Vineyards 2004 Betta is a resplendent blend of Shiraz and Zinfandel which displays the deep coloration of the aquarium fish for which it is named.  Also, this is our first release, so you might call it our “beta” version, if you get what I mean.  Enjoy with fish.

In that case, rather than calling this wine a Shiraz/Zinfandel, he chose his own name, “Betta.”  Sometimes these proprietary blends will be a vineyard’s signature wine, their pride and joy, and the most expensive wine they sell.  Other times they’ll be a less expensive wine than some of their varietal wines, like the “Full Boar Red” that we tasted at Eberle up in Paso Robles… not as pricey as their single-vineyard Zinfandels, but still a strong seller and an interesting wine.  Your task is to find a proprietary blend, ideally from somewhere in the New World (i.e. the US, Australia, maybe South America, etc.) because producers there tend to be generally more innovative with blending than in Europe.  Extra points if you bring one from Sonoma!  Here are a few Sonoma proprietary blends to get you looking in the right direction…

“Cinq Cepages” by Chateau St. Jean
“Geyserville” by Ridge
“Tresor” by Ferrari Carano
“Legacy” by Stonestreet
“Trios” by B. Wise
“Venezia” by Geyser Peak
…and many more.

One question you may have is whether or not a Meritage counts as a proprietary blend — as you’ll remember from past meetings, “Meritage” is a term used by California winemakers to describe any wine blended from the traditional grapes of the Bordeaux region (Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec for reds).  It’s not really a proprietary blend, because it’s not unique to a particular vineyard.  That said, if you have an awesome Meritage that you want to bring, go ahead… especially if it’s from Sonoma.

We’re back at Jason’s house in Brentwood.  Go find yourself a delicious proprietary blend (or, if you’re having trouble in that regard, a $10 donation to the Sonoma municipal gas fund).  Also, check to make sure your bottle lists the varietals on the back so we know what we’re tasting, and if it doesn’t, snag some tasting notes from the internet or your friendly local wine retailer.  We’ll see you all on Tuesday at 9:00!