Blended families, blended wines age well

Alicia Cuadra is the tasting room manager at Sycamore Creek Vineyards.

When my husband and I met and married some 27 years ago, we brought our young daughters from previous marriages – his one, Sarah, and my two, Tara and Lindsey – and became a blended family. Mark and Sarah’s personalities are robust and structured while my girls and I are a little more fruity and complex. (Note: Mark especially agrees with the fruity description.) Our differences cause the usual squabbles but in the end, we are a great balance for each other. Our girls are all grown up now and it’s such fun when we all get together. Like a fine wine, our blended family has aged well.

And like my family, some of my very favorite wines are blends (wines made with a combination of two or more varietals). I like them because they can be a little smoother and more complex than single varietals. Winemakers add varying amounts of just about any varietal – a little of this and a little of that – to get just the right flavor, aroma and texture they’re looking for.

One of the world’s greatest wines is Bordeaux – a blended wine that is produced in the Bordeaux region of France. Red Bordeaux is generally a blend of one or more of the following grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec or Carmenere. Although Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape, a typical top-quality blend is made from 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 15 percent Cabernet Franc and 15 percent Merlot.

Local Winery Buzz

On the morning of my interview with Alicia Cuadra, tasting room manager of Sycamore Creek Vineyards in Morgan Hill, I spotted an enormous dragonfly clinging to a hanging flower pot in my garden – something I had never seen before. I took it as a good omen – as the dragonfly is the colorful logo of the vineyard I’d be writing about.

Sycamore Creek Vineyards is one of our region’s oldest wineries, originally founded in 1917 by the Marchetti family. In fact, the original “bonded winery” sign from 1917 – weathered and faded – is displayed in the current tasting room. Now with its fourth owners, Bill and Carolyn Holt of Morgan Hill, the winery has an impressive reputation for producing premium wine.

The majority of the grapes used in their wine are estate grown and of the Bordeaux variety: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (a red varietal rarely found in our region). Their wines are fruit forward, bold and very well-balanced. Sycamore Creek Vineyards is well-known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, which is sold under two different labels. The Black label is mostly estate grapes; while the Flagship is 100 percent estate grapes, and received an award from Sunset Magazine. Available for purchase are four different award-winning Cabs – each with a different flavor profile and all ripe, full-bodied and age-worthy.

Every year the winery holds a wine camp where teams of wine club members, using various varietals, compete for the best blended wine, called Mosaico. The winning blend is bottled and sold by the winery – with the names of the club members added to the label. I tried the 2008 Mosaico, which is rich in dark fruit layered with cocoa and spice. It’s also very smooth with a long, silky finish.

Making small lots of their high-quality wine, they don’t distribute widely but instead, sell locally to stores such as Morgan Hill Cigar shop, Rocca’s Market and Nob Hill.

What makes Sycamore Creek Vineyards special, besides the friendly and knowledgeable staff, is that the tasting room is in the cellar among the heavenly aroma of the fermenting wine juice. Outside of the tasting room there are 18 picnic tables with views of the surrounding vineyards and hills where you can watch the fog roll in or catch a sunset. If you’re in the mood to taste some of our region’s best wine, in a beautiful and peaceful place, you’ll want to make an afternoon of it. And if you’re lucky like I was, you’ll spot a few dragonflies.

Sycamore Creek Vineyards will be one of the 20-plus wineries open for Passport Weekend Saturday and Sunday. Purchase passports (tickets) at any winery for $30. See you there!

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