‘Blend’ with Family This Holiday

While spending the holidays with our loved ones is a special time, it also is a challenging one. Trying to come up with worthwhile activities to keep the out-of-town in-laws occupied and entertained isn’t always easy.

There’s the old Seattle area standbys: A walk among the vendors at Pike Place Market, a ride up to the top of the Space Needle, perhaps even a jaunt around the lake on an Argosy cruise. Don’t get us wrong, these are all top-notch holiday outings, but if they are your go-to attractions each year, it might be time to “mix” things up a bit.

And we mean this quite literally as we refer to Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Blend: Winemaker for a Day experience during which participants literally will mix several of the Woodinville-based winery’s signature varietals together to create a unique blend.

Under the guidance of Linda Chauncey, the winery’s director of education, and her staff, participants receive a crash course in all things wine-related. Why Eastern Washington is the ideal site for growing grapes. How rainfall, soil, climate, and distance from the equator coalesce to form the perfect, ripe grapes. Or how one properly tastes and evaluates wine.

Next comes the part of the experience that most participants enjoy the most, tasting. Participants are given five wines to scrutinize, including: A Columbia Valley Malbec, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon from the winery’s Canoe Ridge Estate vinicultural area, as well as a Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from its Cold Creek vinicultural area.

Participants are then asked to create their individual blends from the wines provided, a job which Chateau Ste. Michelle’s head winemaker Bob Bertheau said is the best part of his job.

“It is where the grape growing, the vintage, and the winemaking expertise all come together — a thrilling combination of farming, Mother Nature, science, and artistry,” the industry veteran wrote in the class manual.

Each participant is given two opportunities to refine her own blend through trial and error.

Maybe your mother-in-law would choose a blend that is 60 percent Columbia Valley Malbec and 40 percent Canoe Ridge Cab. Meanwhile your sister is going for a 60/30/10 combination, your husband opts for a drastic 80/20 blend, while you prefer an even 50/50 spilt.

Director of Education Chauncey said there’s no wrong way to do it, “That’s the beauty of this process.”

After donning safety goggles and flashing back to 10th-grade chemistry — with words like meniscus, volume, concave, and convex buzzing around in one’s brain — participants use beakers and graduated cylinders to measure, pour, and mix their blends.

When the perfect blend has been found, the staff will help each participant bottle, cork, and label their creation to be taken home and enjoyed at a later date — perhaps Christmas dinner?

The Blend experience also makes a great Christmas gift as more and more givers are choosing to gift experiences over physical items.

Each class is offered daily at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and lasts about 90 minutes. The experience is $125 per person or $95 per person for VRC members. Each class can accommodate up to 16 guests. Visit Chateau Ste. Michelle online for further information and booking.

is an assistant editor at 425 magazine. Email her.
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