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The Hot New Thing in California Wines: Field Blends

Ian White | August 5, 2014 | Story Wine and Spirits

Sure, you've probably tried your share of blended red and white wines. But have you tried a field blend? What's the difference, you ask? We called on second-generation winemaker and field-blend buff Kirk Venge of Calistoga's Venge Vineyards to enlighten us.

San Francisco: Okay, what the heck is a field blend?
Venge: It's wine made from different varietals of grapes that have been planted together on the same vineyard or property, then harvested and fermented together.

How does that differ from the red table wine we drank last night?
In most blends, the grapes come from different vineyards, picked at different times, fermented separately, and then blended together. Field blends, on the other hand, showcase an entirely different flavor profile than you could get from a typical blend or from a single varietal. This sounds rudimentary, but the effect is profound when you put different varietals together at the moment of harvest.

Why is this a thing?
Field blends were actually popular a long time ago, but they went out of style. But now, since many winemakers have been focusing on single vineyard wines and specific varietals, people are ready for something new. Since field blends are rare, and people always want rare things, they're making a comeback.

How should I drink a field blend?
They’re all different, depending on what you’ve planted and what nature gives you. At Venge, our traditional field blend, Scout’s Honor ($38), is comprised of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Charbono and Syrah, so it begs for barbeque and smoked meats. The Zinfandel nature and the depth of the blended varietals makes for a savory mouth feel with good acidity, tannin and length. The palate feel is lush and balances the powerful flavors of grilled and marinated red meat.

What are some other wineries making good field blends?
I like Schoolhouse Vineyards's 2010, Mescolanza Zin Blend ($40) Enkiduwines's "E" Old Vine Field Blend ($25), and Murrieta’s Well's The Spur ($22).

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