Guests entered the neighborhood grocery store on Highland Road by ones and twos. They walked past the cash registers, veered left past the stacks of wine bottles and were greeted by smiles and glasses of wine.
The Matherne’s Supermarket wine dinner of Nov. 21 had begun.
Aaron Rader and Mitch Menard of Glazer’s Distributors were the hosts for “Winemaker for the Night” where they guided the wine enthusiasts into concocting their own wine blend. Measuring beakers and pipettes were set out next to the usual wine glasses at each place setting for this evening’s fete.
“Europe has been blending wines for a long time, but it has recently gotten to be very popular in California,” explained Rader.
The wines represented for the evening’s dinner were from Lyeth Estate wineries in Sonoma, Calif., and they included pinot noir, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and the Lyeth Meritage. The guests were charged with making a blend comparable to the meritage they sampled from the winery.
As patrons sipped, they took notes on the tastes of each varietal in regards to color, aroma, flavor and texture on their provided placemats. After perusing their notes, they set about concocting their own blends using their measuring tools.
Dr. Scott Pecue considered his experiment, 40 percent malbec, 30 percent cabernet and 30 percent merlot, a success.
“It looks a little dark, but I would bottle this; it’s pretty good,” he said. Next time, he admitted, he would change his percentages. “I like to round my numbers and that may be a mistake.”
Pecue’s dinner partner Troy Dupuy’s blend got a thumb’s-up from their wives, Marion Pecue and Tommie Dupuy. His blend was 50 percent malbec, 25 percent cabernet and 25 percent merlot.
At the end of the evening, Radar announced the measurements for the Sonoma winery’s blend The Lyeth Meritage: 42 percent merlot, 32 percent cabernet, 3 percent malbec and the remainder, cabernet franc.
“That two percent of a certain wine can make a big difference in the total flavor profile,” Radar said.
The percentages of grape blends vary due to the winemakers’ taste, and sometimes, the crop yield that year, Radar explained.
“Most of the time, they try to be consistent with their blends,” he added.
Both wine representatives acknowledge that some wine enthusiasts are not enamored with wine blends, although most wines are not 100 percent of any varietal.
Many American wines are actually blends, even though the labels may carry a single grape name. In California, that’s permitted if the grape makes up at least 75 percent of the blend. Many bottles of merlot are actually 25 percent cabernet.
Menard said “Just like cooking, you spice it like you like it. Some people like filé in their gumbo, some don’t. Cabernet is like jambalaya, in that not every cab tastes alike.”
Radar explained, “Cork dorks can sniff, snort and swallow, but this is a Louisiana event, people want to have a good time, eat good food and have fun.
“Life is too short to be stuffy and formal,” he added.
As guests continued to sip and measure between nibbles and the servings of their four-course dinner, it was clear they enjoyed experimenting, drinking the hits and the misses.
Menard explained that by the end of class, most of the instruction goes by the wayside.
“We have a certain amount of time when people will actually be concentrating on our presentation. But after a certain point, class is over.” he laughed.
3 WHAT IS A MERITAGE?
3Meritage is a word used to describe a mix of Bordeaux-style red and white wines made in the United States. In order for a winery to produce a meritage wine, it must be a member of the Meritage Association and the blend must be one of the winery estate’s top bottlings. Red meritage wine must be a blend of two or more Bordeaux varieties.
3 W3HICH GRAPE VARIETIES ARE ALLOWED?
3The red “noble” Bordeaux varieties are cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, petit verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, gros verdot and carmenère.3 The white “noble” Bordeaux varieties are sauvignon blanc, sémillon and muscadelle du Bordelais.
3 I3F A WINE HAS ANY OTHER GRAPE VARIETY AS PART OF THE BLEND, DOES IT QUALIFY AS A MERITAGE?
3No. Meritage wines are made solely from the approved Bordeaux varieties listed above. If any other wine makes up part of the blend, the wine is not a meritage.