Three Sticks Cabernet Sauvignon & the Art of Blending – Part I
Winemaker Don Van Staaveren has quite the reputation for crafting world-class Bordeaux-style blends. He helped create Chateau St. Jean’s 1996 Cinq Cépages, which was chosen by Wine Spectator as the “No. 1 Wine in the World” in 1999.
As we prepare to release our 2008 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in the coming months, we thought it would be both fun and insightful to peek inside the winery to see how Don and the winemaking team approach the art of blending in this two-part blog.
First of all, we’d like to say that the appellation designation of Sonoma Valley is a bit of a misnomer. All the fruit sourced for our Cabernet Sauvignon are selected from vineyards along the western side of Mayacamas Mountain range (Sonoma Valley) and vary in elevation from 1,400 to 1,900 foot. We’ll speak more to the vineyards and specific blending components in Part II. Here, we’ll focus on the process of selecting the final blend.
Don and assistant winemaker/enologist Tracy Bledsoe have set up a system of 3 Sessions where Three Sticks proprietor Bill Price and other members of our team gather to work through the blending process. The team also occasionally invites friends to participate to offer another perspective to the process. In Session 1, Don and Tracy present 3 to 4 blends for the team to taste and review. They also have each of the varietal components held out separately for the team to taste and help identify the unique flavor profiles of each winegrape.
With the teams’ feedback, Don and Tracy return to the blending process, expanding on the direction to present 4 to 6 blends in Session 2. The process is repeated and refined again, where in Session 3 the winemakers offer up 3 to 4 blends with the wines tasted blind. At this point says Don, “We're really just splitting hairs.” Once the final blend has been selected, all the barrels with the components are spread out on the winery floor to select the very best lots and then racked and blended. Whew...
Click here to read Part II, where we examine the vineyard sources and varietals that make up the Three Sticks 2008 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. We also invite you to meet the Three Sticks team, who work tirelessly to bring you the finest wines possible, in the following video. Cheers!