Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Blending wine with TASTE

As part of my ongoing work with TASTE restaurant, I recently had the opportunity to document (and participate in) some wine blending over in Eastern Washington.

Collaborating with Townshend Cellars in Spokane, TASTE started offering their own wine blends- the Masterpiece Red and the Masterpiece White- back in 2007 to commemorate the opening of the Olympic Sculpture Park. TASTE director, Danielle Custer, has worked closely with winery owner, Don Townshend, to create a bold yet food-friendly Sangiovese blend, largely inspired by the Super Tuscan wines of Italy.

I accompanied Danielle, as well as executive chef, Craig Hetherington, beverage director, Kris Rezak, and Danielle's close friend and Seattle Magazine wine columnist, Shannon Borg, all the way over to the eastern part of the state.

On the way to Spokane, Danielle let me know that she wanted me to participate in the wine blending, saying she valued my palate and opinion. Let me just say right now, that I had NO CLUE what I was in for. Danielle knows I love red wine, and that I have done my fair share of tasting and enjoying red wine, but I am in no way, shape or form a wine connoisseur...FAR from it. Because of that, I was a tad self conscious accompanying these 4 other people with far more wine experience and far better palates than I.

I am not sure what I envisioned when Danielle asked me to photograph the wine blending, but it certainly wasn't what ended up happening. Wine blending is a long and exhausting process, not for the faint of heart. While the day started innocently enough, sampling some of Don's delicious wines in the Townshend tasting room, it quickly moved into something more serious: a 6-hour marathon of barrel tasting, blending, tasting again, adding a new element to the wine, blind tasting, subtracting a component, blind tasting, spitting, blind tasting, drinking water, taking a snack break, tasting, tasting, blending, laughing really hard, comparing purple teeth, blending, and then tasting some more.

By the end of this process, I was in awe, IN AWE, of the palates of these people. My mouth was fried. At one point, I declared that one of the blends tasted like zinfandel, a statement that was met with blank stares. Needless to say, this took some serious stamina and, while I did my best to keep up, I discovered I am no wine athlete.

At the end of the night, we had come up with a delicious new Masterpiece Red wine. And then we went back to Don's home where we proceeded to eat steaks and drink more amazing Townshend wine.
Those photos will not be posted here.



rstaffel said...

LOVE these photos! What a great process to peek in on! I'm only sorry there aren't any purple teeth shots! ;-) Thank you so much for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful work Clare. Love the combo of color and b and w.and the final shot is fun too. Mom of D

Linda Stratton said...

Clare what great shots of everyone Craig, Chris, Dani, Shannon and Don. Makes me wish I had been there for all the fun. Beautiful photos!

lisa b. said...

engaging, entertaining, educational! Well done sister!
Thank you for sharing and inspiring.

Joan Leonard said...

I love these photos, Clare. They certainly tell the story. Your blogs are fascinating for all the varied adventures you share. I never thought about blending wines; I wonder if that is a wide-spread practice. Probably not in the south eastern U.S., ya' think?
Interesting that it is not an easy process. Did you have wine with the steak after tasting wines all afternoon? Our wine tasting group did NOT want wine with dinner after we visited 5 wineries and tasted, umm, make 20 wines?