Virtual Winemaker Experience in A Box

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Virtual Winemaker Experience in a Box Kit


The invitation came in to become a “Virtual Winemaker for a Day” where we’d get all the necessary equipment, wines and supplies to make our own custom blend.  The session was going to be led by Jean-Charles Boisset, Proprietor of the Boisset Collection, and Stephanie Putnam, Winemaker of Raymond Vineyards, who would provide the instruction and expertise to guide a group of ten wine writers through how to create the perfect blend — essentially a virtual winemaker experience in a box.



Masthead, Our Last Blending Collaboration


Having done this in person with another winemaker a few years ago and knowing the time that it took to create this process in person (and somehow doing pretty well in the process when we had no idea the winery would submit for a score), I had no idea how this was going to work virtually.



Jean-Charles and me




Alchemy of the Senses Last Supper Tour


But having met Jean-Charles during his Alchemy of the Senses Last Supper Tour, I knew this is a larger than life personality that was going to figure out a way to keep the experiences going for his customers.  And the virtual “Winemaker for a Day” session, while very different from my past blending session, did not disappoint.

Jean-Charles talked about his inspiration for the tasting kits after having a fun night with his non wine friends who spent a wonderful evening just playing around with different blends of wine.  He wanted consumers to have the same opportunity.  At the winery, he transformed a former lab into a room dedicated to doing that.




Raymond Wines in the Virtual Winemaker Experience


The Virtual Winemaker Experience in a box included four Raymond wines (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon New Oak and Cabernet Sauvignon Neutral Oak), four Graduated Cylinders, four Pipettes, an Instruction Booklet and Blending Worksheets.  The kits are $200 and this week include free ground shipping and a tasting with Jean-Charles on Sunday, May 31 at 4 pm PT with the code TRHOME, from Raymond Vineyards.  In addition, customers can schedule a private virtual session with one of Raymond’s wine educators in the future. Once customers have determined their favorite blend, they can order it, complete with a custom name as well as label image and text, for $50 per bottle ($40 for club members) with a 6-bottle minimum, shipping included.  Buena Vista and Deloach Vineyards also offer the kits.



Materials Included in Winemaker Kit


If you think about the usual blending process, winemakers pull samples from a selection of barrels, and use the pipettes and graduated cylinders to create a ‘base blend,’ which will be the foundation of the wine.  In this scenario, you taste through the four wines, determine your favorite (what becomes your base blend) and then you add (or exclude) the other varieties in differing percentages to make your perfect wine.

I went through four different blends varying the quantities of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, my two favorite wines.  My final blend was 42% Cabernet Franc, 36% Merlot, 16% Neutral Oak and 6% New Oak.

The process is fascinating and like cooking, you see what a small percentage of a certain wine can do to impact the final blend.  It’s also a humbling experience and you appreciate the true art of a winemaker like Stephanie Putnam.

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