New Red Wine Blend Mixes Wine Regions

A blend of grapes from three California appellations and one Washington State wine region yields a new kind of wine
New Red Wine Blend Mixes Wine Regions

Mixing and matching wines, and their regions.

Even if you believe in terroir and the idea that wine is made in the vineyard, then do all those grapes have to come from the same vineyard? Or the same region? Or even the same state?

Everything tends to go in cycles, and that includes food and wine trends. In the 1960s and '70s, Julia Child led the movement to open American consumers’ minds to the infinite possibilities in sourcing ingredients from across the globe to prepare exotic dishes, and the world became our pantry. Beginning in the 1980’s, this international sourcing was countered by a trend toward buying what was grown and produced locally. California’s Alice Waters became the antidote to Child in this regard, and we were subsequently treated to Slow Food, the 50-mile-menu, and the farm-to-table movement.

Are we ready to think more broadly again?

The Crimson Wine Group, which owns a half-dozen premium West Coast wineries, apparently thinks so. They have created a new wine called Luminary, made from blending grapes from four of its estates in three California regions and in eastern Washington. “It was the idea of our CEO, Erle Martin,” says Michael Beaulac, winemaker at Napa Valley’s Pine Ridge, one of Crimson's properties, who was charged to be lead winemaker for the Luminary project.

For the blend, Pine Ridge provided cabernet sauvignon (55 percent of the total) and merlot (2 percent), while Double Canyon in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills district contributed syrah (19 percent), as did Chamisal in California’s Edna Valley (8 percent). To complete the blend, Dry Creek’s Seghesio added zinfandel (16 percent).

With grapes from the 2012 vintage, the four winemakers made 2,300 cases using all French oak – 42 percent new barreks – for 18 months of aging. Released this fall, the 2012 Luminary American Red Blend is priced at $45 per bottle. The wine is a very ripe combination of red and purple fruits with notes of mint and creamy chocolate — quite drinkable now but with the potential to age nicely.

“We plan to make Luminary every year,” Beaulac says, “although the blend will vary slightly. The whole experience is like herding cats." There will be an increase with the 2013 vintage to about 3,000 bottles.

Similar cross-regional experiments are taking place worldwide, including at two premium Bordeaux estates – Château Palmer and Château La Lagune – who are making blends using Bordeaux grapes mixed (legally) with syrah from the Rhône Valley, reviving a practice that was common in the region in the 1800s. Neither may be labeled as Bordeaux. Palmer's, the first release of which (from the 2004 vintage) is 15 percent syrah, is called Historical XiX Century Wine. La Lagune's, produced in collaboration with Rhône giant Paul Jaboulet, is a 50-50 blend of syrah and Bordeaux varieties; the wine is called Evidence.

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