Behind the Blend | Our Seven Apart Blending Session Explained
Join Seven Apart behind the scenes at the most recent blending session for our Seven Apart Expedition Cabernet Sauvignon to learn how our wine is made.
The art of winemaking is not a flash in the pan occasion. Rather, it is a slow burn. Every hillside, elevation, and aspect offers us a different micro-cru or lot. This is the essence of terroir. Each micro-cru is harvested and fermented separately, then aged in French Oak barrels of various custom toasts. The result is a mosaic of barrels from the same vineyard that display different characteristics and flavors. Here, Winemaker Andy Erickson and the team’s true skill shine as they use a palette of aromatics, flavors, textures, and structural elements to craft each unique Seven Apart wine. In April of this year, the Seven Apart team gathered for a blending session– for another precious step in the long journey to their final product.
What is a Wine Blending Session?
Wine blending is the act of mixing wines of different grape varieties, or wines released in different years, to produce a wine with superior flavor and balance to its base ingredients. At Seven Apart, we use the process to evaluate all the single lot barrels individually before creating the final Seven Apart Expedition blend. Seven Apart Expedition is the only blend in the Seven Apart portfolio, consisting of a majority Cabernet Sauvignon and then Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, or Petite Sirah depending on the vintage
What makes the sessions meaningful is that the entire team is involved. This includes our founder Don Dady, Winemaker Andy Erickson, Assistant Winemaker Patrick Nyeholt, Vineyard Manager Mike Wolf, Estate Manager Yannick Girardo, Controller Lee Ann Kerr and Hospitality host Jan Silberstein. The process takes a few hours, with everyone coming prepared with notes and referencing a detailed sheet that outlines all the information about each lot.
What happened at the latest blending session?
At the moment, the team is working on the upcoming 2020 vintage. For this particular session, they tasted Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Sirah, and Petit Verdot barrels. According to our Estate Manager Yannick, the team worked on four different blend iterations until everyone felt comfortable with the final result. Officially, the latest limited edition 2020 Seven Apart Expedition consists of the following components aged in 61% new French oak:
85% Cabernet Sauvignon
6% Petite Sirah
Unlike the 2019 blend, the 2020 Seven Apart Expedition does not feature any Petit Verdot or Cabernet Franc. Instead, the team opted to introduce the deeply-colored French grape Petit Sirah.
“The purpose is to craft something that will hold up to what we’ve done from the previous vintages. It’s not an easy task as Mother Nature changes everything. Consistency is key, and we fine-tune each blend meticulously. This process is a true labor of love,” explains Yannick.
While Winemaker Andy and Assistant Winemaker Patrick guide the approach to the blending thought process, Yannick also shares that everyone has a chance to voice their opinion:
“All opinions are welcome and respected. It is a great learning experience for all of us. It’s also an opportunity to understand the winemaking nuances better,” adds Yannick.
It’s Not A Recipe – It’s an Instinct
While some may think that the winemaking process is finished as soon as harvest comes to a close, the truth is that harvest is just the beginning. The art of blending is comparable to that of a Michelin-starred chef. While the source of the ingredients is essential, the way the elements are brought together is equally key to a successful serving. To be truly proficient in wine blending and make the best blends from the grapes available to them, winemakers need years of experience. At Seven Apart, we’re grateful to have highly-acclaimed Andy Erickson lead the team, bringing his decades of skill and practiced palate to the cellar:
“The blending process is one of my favorite parts of winemaking. It’s the middle of winter, quiet in the winery, and we sit down with all the wines we had made in 2020. We had about 15 different components to taste. It is a remarkable point in the process that gives us an opportunity to take a step back and deconstruct the objective of each wine and how to get there,” explains Andy.
For Andy and the Seven Apart team, winemaking is not a recipe or a protocol; it’s an instinct that drives us to create the final blend you enjoy in your glass.
“There’s that point where you look around the table, and everybody’s got a smile on their face or their eyes light up because all of a sudden, you’ve got it. You’ve found the perfect blend. It’s a wonderful moment,” ends Andy.
How do I buy the final Seven Apart Expedition Blend?
In September 2020, fierce wildfires devastated Napa Valley. At Seven Apart, we were fortunate enough to harvest our valley-floor Base Camp grapes prior to the fire, which resulted in exceptional quality wine. However, our high elevation Stag’s Ridge Vineyard was not yet ready for harvest and was unfortunately impacted by smoke taint.
As a result, Seven Apart will only be releasing our 2020 Seven Apart Expedition crafted from our Base Camp vineyard. This fruit was picked at optimal conditions and is of an extremely high caliber. As the Seven Apart Expedition was produced in smaller quantities due to the limited fruit, it is available exclusively by allocation. The 2020 vintage will be released in Fall 2022 to active Allocation list members. You can join the list by purchasing your first allocation, which is the 98+ point 2019 vintage of Seven Apart Expedition here.