At the Bonny Doon Vineyard blending bench, February 2011
In an ideal terroir, mono-varietals can sing. Think Pinot Noir in Burgundy, Nebbiolo in Piedmont, Nerello Mascalese on the slopes of Mount Etna. The grape is matched to place, a tuning fork for terroir.
But in many other great wine regions—Bordeaux, the Rhône, much of Spain and Italy—weather and place conspire against varietals. To produce a wine of harmony, blending is the norm (and, often, the law).
In California, too, where varietal Cabernet is king, there are plenty of red blends with personality and verve. Randall Grahm, winemaker of Bonny Doon Vineyard and inveterate blender, calls the art of assemblage “a balancing act.”