By Becky Zelinski
When you blend grape juice and yeast, you get wine.
When you blend milk and bacteria, you get cheese.
When you blend your own wine with a group of friends,
you sometimes get a little machismo.
A fun, friendly competitiveness is exactly what developed last weekend when a group of friends came back to bottle their 2008 blends. In developing First Crush, I’ve had to anticipate a lot of things but this rivalry was not one of them.
This group – that I fondly call my ’08-ers – have been together since their First Crush in September 2008. Most of them did not know each other. They met in the vineyard, picked and crushed their grapes together and have watched the fruits of their labor develop into a fine wine over the past 18 months.
Up until this point, it was still an all-for-one, one-for-all relationship. In May 2009, they met to create their private blends, and when they met last weekend and took the first sip of their wine, that’s when things changed.
“Did you taste our wine?” asked Chris Kuntz of Manteca, California. “This is the best wine ever! I am a damn-fine winemaker.”
Of course, the others didn’t agree. Every couple or individual thought his or her wine was the best. What’s so amazing is the fact that they were all made from the same 2008 Paso Robles wine varietals. Another interesting thing is how many different wines can be created out of these same varietals. With the ’08-ers, everyone blended their wine from the same 2008 varietals, each of them taste different, and each person likes theirs the best. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
Our 2008 vintage is the first for First Crush. We’ve been doing the blending workshops now for the past six months. It has been fun to watch and taste all of the wines that have developed. It’s has been even more fun to help people create their own custom wine, share the experience with them, and then see their excitement when they taste the finished product.
But the most exciting part is that you can do this too! Whether you do it alone, or with a group of friends, creating your own custom-labeled, private blend is easy and fun. All of our wines are professionally made. You can make as little as two cases of wine (an amount of custom wine that’s essentially unheard of in this industry), and we do all of the hard work and let you enjoy the fun of making your own wine.
When we talk about First Crush with our industry friends here in Paso Robles, most of them say the same thing: “Oh, you mean your customers get to enjoy the romance of making wine.”
Yes, it’s true. Your First Crush winemaking experience is truly the romantic version but the end result is the same. You get to enjoy a great wine with your label on it that you’ve helped create. You can also learn about winemaking along the way if you want.
About Harvest Experiences
First Crush’s Grape Escapes Harvest Experiences are a great way for wine and nature lovers to fall in love with wine in a truly unique way. Join us this fall and discover the fascinating world of Paso Robles terroir and wine making, reconnect with nature, and enjoy first-class cuisine and wine among the vines.
First Crush’s Harvest Experiences begin Friday evening with a luxurious welcome reception and winemaker dinner. They are followed on Saturday with a delicious Champagne continental breakfast in the vineyard, harvest training and meeting the grape grower. Afterward harvest begins and participants roll up their sleeves and harvest, de-stem, sort, and crush the fruit. Harvest is followed by a gourmet lunch and wine tasting in the vineyard with a featured winemaker. And finally a berry stomp competition finishes the fun-filled day.
After Harvest, winemaking participants can return to sample the fruits of their labor and experience the evolution of grape to wine. Following barrel aging, returning guests are guided through the blending process by a winemaker to create several wine blends and finally one that pleases the their palate. Then, participants are invited to return for a bottling and labeling party or First Crush can do that for them. The whole process takes 12-18 months to go from berry to bottle. In the end, participants have had a hand in picking, ageing, blending, creating a custom label, and bottling their own wine.