Putting together a world-class wine blend is about shaving off the edges of failure, until the harmonious roundness of success is all that is left.
I have been making wine for nearly 20 years now, and putting blends together for almost exactly the same amount of time. Though a blended wine like Lineage | Livermore Valley can be exceedingly complicated, there is nothing particularly complicated about the term.
If one starts with Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, in a variety of different barrels, the act of putting a grouping of those barrels together (while discarding others) is, by definition, blending a wine. Each barrel has a role in the play; each contributes something individual that exalts the whole. It may be a flavor contribution or the adding of texture or length, but each barrel sacrifices its individuality to the greater good. In some cases (due to the need for a specific volume) the act of blending can be one of “good-enoughs.” In that example, there isn’t a barrel that is so disparate that it too greatly affects the final wine in an adverse way. This is the easier blend.
The harder blend is one of “not-good-enoughs.” These blends, like Lineage | Livermore Valley, comprise only the best barrels – those barrels that are irreducibly and profoundly great. The joy of making Lineage is in taking only the barrels that express the purest potential of each individual variety AND then making sure that each expression of individuality contributes an even greater level of purity when it is part of something larger. The allusion in the beginning of this post refers to the act of making blend after blend after blend that we realize is just not commensurate to the final wine’s potential. There were 28 failures in 2013, 28 sandings of rough edges, 28 not-good-enoughs before my sense of the best wine was realized.
For the Lineage Wine Company there is only one wine each year. The final wine is meant
to be a triumph, organoleptically and emotionally. Not emotional in the sense that each of the wines is like one of my children, but emotional in the sense that each wine has a natural and inherent potential to express the perfection of the growing year; the perfection of sunlight, of rain, of tannin and acid and sugar; the perfection of vision. And it is my job to discard all of the extraneous, all the “not-good-enough,” keeping only the most complex, most alive, most beautiful, most inherently perfect elements. Being human, perfection is not to be attained. However, the desire for it and the working toward it never ceases.
In the end, we winemakers will be cursed always by the very quality that makes wine the bottomlessly interesting and heartbreaking thing that it is: all of its moments of perfection and all that we have done to express it are transitory, mutable, and in the process, already, of being transported to the past. Any measure of greatness that may have achieved will have been – by the time the glass is empty – sacrificed to implacable, uncaring Time.