Contrary to what many believe, a winery’s cellar is a busy place all year round, not just for those few ultra crazy months of harvest!

This month, I found myself performing one of my favorite and most challenging tasks – blending the popular Calliope Red.

We first introduced this wine in 2008.  As some of you may know, I have always been a huge fan of the red wines from the South of France – Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cote du Rhone, and Bandol – and have always wanted to emulate the bold, fruity and herbaceous character of these wines.

Here in Temecula, we are fortunate to enjoy a similar climate and the classic grape varieties of the ‘Sud de France’ grow well in our region.

For the 2014 vintage I decided on four grape varieties to use in the blend. All of the wines are vinified from 100% Estate grown fruit; a first for this wine.

Each variety: Mourvedre, Cinsault, Syrah and Grenache, are harvested and processed individually.  After fermentation, the separate lots were placed in barrel where they’ve been resting and improving in character for the past 7-8 months.

Many think that blends are just a haphazard amalgamation of wines with little thought about how much of each is used.  Truth be told, blending is much more painstaking – and creative – than that!

First, samples of each wine are drawn from the barrels and brought into the lab.  I already have a rough idea of which wine will be the dominant one, from following the wine’s progress and doing barrel tasting through the winter.

I put together a base, sample blend, carefully noting the percentage of each variety.  Then, I vary the proportions – just a little – until I have three of four candidates.

I taste the various samples, looking for balance, harmony and structure.  Does the Mourvedre overshadow the other grapes?  Does the Syrah work in tandem or is it a bit ‘bossy’?  It’s amazing how just the smallest alteration, up or down, can influence the finished product.

Finally, the perfect blend is achieved: 74% Mourvedre, 14% Cinsault, 8% Syrah and 4% Grenache.

The wines are combined in one of our stainless steel tanks and then placed back into French oak barrels – 30% new with the balance 3 – 4 years old.  Here, the wine will stay for about 12 to 18 months, developing a cohesive character.

And one more thing:  why ‘Calliope” you may ask?  I named the blend after the beautiful Calliope Hummingbird – nothing to do with wine, grapes, the Rhone Valley – but just because I love the amazing tenacity of these lovely creatures!


-Craig Larson