A few weeks ago, Steve Heimoff discussed his tasting of the Harlan Estate and BOND Estates 2008 and 2007 lineup. He mentioned that he often prefers the *cheaper* blended Matriarch. Much of his post and subsequent reader commentary explored the "concept of whether a blended wine could not be more complete than a single vineyard wine." Steve's argument was based on the idea that blended wines might be better wines because a winemaker could accentuate the desirable characteristics of individual sites or different varietal characteristics. In fact, many wines use this concept to create "house" styles rather than wines of terroir. Bordeaux and the proprietary red wines of Napa Valley are blends that often vary from year to year. High-end reds aren't the only wines made utilizing this concept. Champagne is another popular blended wine. While not as prevalent with white wines, several very popular blends, Conundrum, Evolution and Ménage à Trois, are made from different combinations of white grapes. Blending represents the highest form of a winemaker's artistic expression.
Although I have yet to receive my invitation to visit and taste Bill Harlan's grand cru portfolio, I still wanted to explore the differences of single-vineyard and blended wines. If any from Harlan is reading, I will accept said invitation! The simplest way to do so was to taste not a complex blend like those three widely marketed wines I listed above, but to taste a wine blended with only two grapes. I wanted to determine if a single-vineyard or blended wine is better. Obviously, differences would be highly specific to individual wines. For this endeavor, I selected two wines from Canyon Wind Cellars; a single-vineyard pinot grigio from the Cliffside Vineyard and a blend of 60% pinot grigio from the same vineyard and 40% chardonnay from the nearby Riverside Vineyard. I had my wife pour the two wines and I tasted them blind to determine the differences between these two similar yet different wines. I didn't want to be influenced by my preconceived ideas about what the wines *should* taste like, but the varietal characteristics were quite apparent and I was able to easily identify which glass contained chardonnay and which contained only pinot grigio. In this case, I preferred the lovely aromatics and crisp acidity of the pinot grigio to the blend, but my wife tried them both later and preferred the blend. Get them both and see which you prefer!
2010 Canyon Wind Cellars, Pinot Grigio, Grand Valley AVA, Colorado
Exceptionally light in color and almost clear on the rim, this wine is beautifully aromatic with scents of melon, apricot, citrus and hints of salt and minerals. The refreshingly crisp palate is redolent of kaffir lime and honeydew melon. As I tasted, I knew it had to be the pinot grigio and wanted to pair it with prosciutto-wrapped melon. I'm not usually a fan of pinot grigio, but this one I do like.12.9% abv Sample $15. Good (tasted 5/18/11)
2010 Canyon Wind Cellars, 47-Ten, Grand Valley AVA, Colorado
This wine is light yellow in color, but just slightly darker than the pinot grigio. The nose is slightly muted, but cedes notes of apples and apricots. The chardonnay adds body and alcohol to the bright and crisp pinot grigio. In no way out of balance, the alcohol is more noticeable in this wine than the other. This light blend offers flavors similar to white peach grape juice and apples. This is a nice wine that would complement a tasty summer barbeque or relaxing by the pool. 13.6% abv Sample $13. Average/Good (tasted 5/18/11)