Blending Process

Bottles of wine being filled

Arguably the most important step in the process of winemaking (beyond harvest, of course; crush wins every contest!) is the blending. Once vintage is over and we’ve had a bit of a chance to recover, we turn our attention to the bottling schedule, which in turn dictates the deadlines for each wine to be finalized.

It takes about a week to blend and build a wine destined for bottle. The first step is to taste samples from a selection of the barrels. If we have 20 barrels of a particular wine but we only need six to meet bottling quantity targets, then we might sample 12 or 15 of them, spread across different blocks and age of oak, to determine which our favorite eight or nine are. Then we combine six of those into separate blends to at last figure out which exact concoction will make it into the bottle.

There are some guidelines for blending that have nothing to do with stylistic choices and are instead dictated by federal rules. The three most impactful are the percentage breakdowns for varietal, vintage, and American Viticultural Area (also known as AVA):

  • 75% of a wine must be made up of a specific varietal for the wine to be labeled as such;
  • 85% must be made in the same vintage;
  • 85% of the fruit within the blend must be from the same AVA.

Take, for example, our 2019 Petit Verdot which is only 88% Petit Verdot and the remaining 12% is Cabernet Sauvignon. We are allowed to call it a Petit Verdot because it satisfies the 75% minimum requirement for variety.

Similarly, even though 15% of the 2019 Silhouette is wine that was made in 2018, since it meets the allowance we can still have 2019 listed on the label. And lastly for appellation, here at Merry Cellars we harvest exclusively from Stillwater Creek Vineyard in the Royal Slope AVA and thus don’t have to worry about geographical constraints.

Blending is a fun part of the winemaking process. It’s exciting to see how the wine has developed over time, and this is the main step when we get to make artistic choices. The whole team gets involved and luckily we usually all agree on the final product! Once the blend is approved, we pull the barrels and rack the wine to tank. It settles and homogenizes for about 48 hours and then we are ready for bottling. The hardest part is waiting to release the new wine in the tasting room!

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Maureen O'Callaghan

Assistant Winemaker

Hi my name is Maureen!
I attended wine school at the Institute of Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College from 2014-16. Professionally I started out in the industry on the growing side, working as a harvest intern and then viticulturist on Red Mountain. I joined Merry Cellars as the assistant winemaker in 2021.

Maureen O 'Callaghan

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