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Winemaker for a Day

At Wente’s new studio, taste, test, and blend your very own Cab.


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Photos courtesy of Wente Vineyards

Weak tea was the starting point of my wine appreciation education. It was decades ago, in culinary school, when I was a minor, so alcohol was off limits. Lipton tea offered an astringent facsimile. To create a balanced “wine,” drops of lemon stood in for the acid and pinches of sugar for the fruit. For a hint of oak, my instructor had us add water that had been boiled with Popsicle sticks.

So it is as futuristic as a space walk when I enter Wente’s Winemakers Studio—a new interactive education center where you can blend your own bottle, test your wine trivia, and train your sensory perceptions. I take a heady whiff from a beaker, and it imparts raspberry. Another has aromas of grass.

The aim here is to become more discerning with my next glass of Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc. By stroking velvety or coarse swatches, I get a tactile impression of the vocabulary used to describe a wine’s mouthfeel. And my wine acumen, be it artistic or factual, is sharpened by a little interplay with games on one of the many iPads. It all makes my tea tasting seem as quaint as sucking on sugar cubes.

And boy, I’m glad I’m no longer a minor. There’s a wine bar where I can tap a glass (or a growler) of one of four special blends created by Wente winemakers. And for $125, oenophiles—or Diet Coke fanatics, for that matter—can take a class in winemaking. Choose your favorite style Wente Cabernet Sauvignon and—as with that lemon and sugar—blend and balance it with other classic Bordeaux varietals. Just seal a bottle, and wait for the magic.

“[The wines are] going to be a little rough up front, but they’ll easily last and soften for three years,” says Wente Wine Director Brad Buehler.

And when the bottles are popped, I’m pretty sure the wine won’t taste like Popsicles.

Classes range from $55 to $125 and are by reservation. 5565 Tesla Rd., Livermore, (925) 456-2385. Wine bar, iPads, and aroma beakers are open to the public Thurs.-Sun., 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

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