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Wine Barrels

Pam Starr is the winemaker and co-owner of Crocker & Starr Winery in St. Helena.  She is one of Napa Valley’s leading winemakers and a founding member of an informal group of women in Napa Valley’s wine industry—the Wine Entre Femme–who recently forged links with women winemakers in Bordeaux.  The following excerpt is from her narrative in Tasting the Good Life: Wine Tourism in the Napa Valley.

Blending is one of the hardest and most difficult yet rewarding aspects of being a wine maker.  You don’t just pick the fruit, put it in a tank, make one big ole’ pot of wine, and stick it in a barrel.  It’s complicated.  Five rows of vines that ripen at the same time become one piece of the final wine.  When I have six pieces of cabernet that all come from the old vine block, I look for the most powerful piece – the piece that has exactly the dark, broody, black fruit, black wine taste I am seeking.  Then I’ll add other components.  Maybe one piece brings the wine more into the front of your mouth; another piece attacks the sides of your mouth.  Wine also is changed by the barrel it’s placed in.  Ultimately you want the final wine to have a beginning, a middle, and an end that’s pretty seamless and that leaves you with a response of pure enjoyment but also draws you back to taste it again. Your palette should respond and then clear itself, so that you’ll be able to pick something else out: espresso or chocolate or maybe the mineral character of wet rock.  Blending is about trying to find all those components and create an orb of flavors.  I love sharing wine with people and having them walk away saying, “Look what I get to take home with me.”  I love that.  It’s my passion.

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