Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Blending Cayuga

A few weeks ago Paul and I were over at Whitecliff Vineyards blending their Cayuga wine.  Cayuga White, which is the proper name of the grape is a hybrid cross between Schuyler and Seyval Blanc. Personally, I haven't met a Cayuga that I liked, but when you are blending wine, you are not blending the wine because you like the grape, you need to blend it for the customer.

On a personal note - this was the first time Paul and I had worked together making a blend.  It was just me and him in the tank room.  We didn't argue, we actually enjoyed working together, I think.

We began by making 150ML bottles of blending Cayuga with tank fermented Chardonnay.  We had our control bottle of Cayuga, then began by adding 10% Chardonnay in 5% increments until it was 50/50.  The two blends that were 85/15 an 80/20 had wonderful bouquets.

After everything was blended we went upstairs to sit with Michael the owner/winemaker. The tastings began.  I liked the 80/20 Paul liked the 70/30.  We weren't satisfied.  So....we went back to the blending table and added Riesling to the mix.  Each 150ML had 10% Riesling.  I liked the blend that was 76.5% Cayuga 13.5 Chard and 10% Riesling.  Or course we never agree - Paul like the blend of 72% Cayuga 18% Chard and 10% Riesling.

But we still weren't happy.  So....we decided to take the Cayuga straight and add residual sugar to it.  We mixed one that was 1.5% 3.6% and 4.4%.  I am not one for sweet wines but with the acidity of the wine you couldn't tell that it was 4.4% RS.

The winning blend was the straight Cayuga with 4.4% RS.  Served cold on a hot summers day, the acidic balance with the RS will make it a very enjoyable wine.  At least I hope.

A few things I learned blending wine:
  • Adding vinifera to a hybrid doesn't always make the wine taste better.  
  • Adding just a little bit of another variety can change the taste and bouquet dramatically.
  • Sometimes balancing out the acid with sugar will make the wine taste better on its own.
  • Have a good calculator.


Paige Flori said...

Wow, great story! I am really fascinated that you tried adding several grape varieties to the Cayuga and ended up with going with some residual sugar. I think a lot of people don’t realize the process of blending a great wine. Thank you for sharing your trials and triumphs with us!!

hvwinegoddess said...

Thanks Paige! The process does take a while and what is pretty amazing, just because you blend in another variety, doesn't necessarily create a better tasting wine.