One of the most crucial (as well as most fun) parts of the winemaking process is when the individual wines have finished their fermentation, and we are ready to start assembling the blends. This past weekend, Francois Perrin joined us (Robert Haas, Jason Haas, Neil Collins, and Ryan Hebert) to put together the blends on the 2005 whites, and confirm that the 2004 reds were where we wanted them to be before bottling.
As each wine has its quirks in how it developed the flavors and texture it shows at the tasting, and we each have found our own favorites (as well as enemies) over the past six months of fermentation, we make sure that we don't know what we're tasting. Ryan Hebert, our assistant winemaker, pulls samples and labels them simply by varietal and by number.
Each morning, we taste through the wines that we have assembled, and try to build the Esprit de Beaucastel wines, the Cotes de Tablas wines, and the single varietals. This year, the process was reasonably straightforward (both 2004 and 2005 were excellent vintages), and took us two full days and a few hours on the third.
During the afternoons, when our palates are not as fresh, we taste through the cellar, looking at individual barrels and tanks, and making decisions on which fermentation processes we think worked, as well as brainstorming on what we might want to try in the future.
If you are interested in getting an inside view into the process, we put on two blending seminars each year open to the public, one focused on whites and another on reds.