September 2007

Wine Talk: Conundrum - It's all in the Blend

Author: Krissy Cantelupe

On the second Friday in July, I had a wonderful experience at the Gallery by the Old Fort Pub. I was invited, along with about 35 other people, to take part in a wine blending seminar. We each took different varietals and blended them together in one glass, thus developing our own individual blends. What we were trying to do was come as close as possible to Conundrum.

Conundrum is a white blend made from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Semillon, and Muscat Canelli. It is produced in Napa Valley and was made famous by Chuck Wagner, the owner of Caymus Vineyards. Once called Caymus Conundrum, the word Caymus was dropped to distinguish Conundrum as a “stand-alone wine.” Chuck Wagner’s other properties are Mer Soliel, famous for Chardonnay, and Belle Glos, famous for Pinot Noir (usually hard to obtain; if you see a bottle, you may want to grab it).

Our “wine blending expert” was Michael LaGrange, a regional manager for Caymus Vineyards, who let us know what varietals make up Conundrum as well as what characteristics each contributes to the final blend. The Chardonnay gives the wine body; the Sauvignon Blanc gives the crisp acidity. The Viognier lends the floral characteristics such as honeysuckle and peach blossom. The Semillon and Muscat Canelli round out the wine with a bit of sweetness.

Seated at my table were six people: wine buyers, food and beverage managers, servers—an eclectic mix. Each participant was given an empty glass for blending the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier #1, Viognier #2 (in place of the Semillon), and Muscat Canelli. We also had a glass of 2005 Conundrum, the blend we were trying to emulate. When told to begin, we each took our measuring beakers and went to work. I started with a lot of Chardonnay, then added a little bit of Sauvignon Blanc, a wee bit of Viognier #1 (it seemed to have more floral flavor), a tad of Viognier #2 (all peach and more full-bodied), and way too much Muscat Canelli. I ended up with a very gold, very sweet blend that was rather awful. I did no more measuring, instead just pouring one glass to the other, but I did end up getting a little closer.

When time was called, each of the seven tables had to send a representative up with their closest blend to the 2005 Conundrum. Mr. LaGrange tested them by tasting each blend three times until he found the one closest to the Conundrum. Although my table was pretty confident (We had one we thought was almost exact.), we came in second. The winners each received a bottle of the 2005 Conundrum, a nice cloth wine bag, and a Conundrum apron for grill nights.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience. If you ever have the opportunity to blend your own wine, I recommend it.

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