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Art in a Bottle

Author: Frank Sumrall
October, 2019 Issue

Just as a conductor prepares their orchestra, a winemaker studies and dictates the harvest. The amalgamation of grapes is an ensemble of taste, a careful construction of a specific drink that forms within the taste buds themselves. It’s part chemistry. It’s part culinary. It’s part art. Its what places Deerfield Ranch Winery above average wine.

“It creates a symphony, a symphony that blends in your mouth,” says Robert Rex, winemaker and managing partner of Deerfield Ranch Winery.

With his background in science, graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in chemistry, he manufactured an infographic “Where Do You Taste Different Grape Varieties.” It displays the pattern of each grape varietal circulating in the mouth for taste, creating different flavors and combinations. “You have the main player. You got the supporting cast and you got the background players. Same in music. Same in theatre. Same in blending wine. Its art in a bottle.”

The science behind the infographic helps break down the combinations seen in Deerfield wine. Just like food, different grapes impact different areas of the mouth. Syrah affects the bottom of the mouth, just like barbeque. This leads to the perfect pairing with steak, charred burgers or hotdogs. The same wine-food pairing can be experienced with Cabernet Franc and dark chocolate as they both are experienced on the top of your palate.

Examining one of their Cabernet Sauvignon blends, it becomes more than a simple Cab. “Its got to be 75 percent Cabernet to be considered one” says Rex. Cabernet has a long, wide and flat taste that moves from the front of the mouth to the back, almost like a thin board. Full of side flavors and depth in its taste, it resembles a riverboat that escorts and transports other varieties while adding structure and finish, guiding the other grape varietals to their destinations in the corners of the mouth. Mixed within the Cabernet is 9 percent Malbec, a flavor that affects the bottom back of the palate, just like the taste of blackberries. What this contributes to the overall blend is the ability to pull flavors further back and down in the mouth, while expanding the Cabernet flavor.

Then arrives the mix of 8 percent Merlot which, according to Rex, has the three-dimensional shape of a balloon on a string. “There’s a lot of entry notes and taste, but no finish,” says Rex. “We’ve all had a 10 second Merlot.” It acts as a perfect compliment to the long finish Cabernet.

Then to top off the blend, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are introduced. Cabernet Franc is the opposite of a Syrah as its focus is on the top of the palate. Cabernet Franc affects the nasal cavity where 75 percent of your taste experience resides, according to Rex. The Petit Verdot influences the front and bottom of the mouth, right where the teeth are.

Following the infographic and the encompassing ellipses, this blend covers every area of the palate with each sip. “A blend broadens up the flavors to reach every part of your palate, leaving no place untouched and in perfect balance so nothing is too aggressive,” says Rex.

Where solving and diagramming this experience employs his chemistry background, his culinary prowess shines in finding the perfect balance for each blend. “If I lived in New York I would be in the restaurant business. It is my second love,” says Rex. “There’s a lot of cooking in wine, all these flavor combinations and balance of the wine and various carbohydrates and sugars and alcohol. It’s more cooking than chemistry.”

Winemaking is a balance of precision in chemistry, creativity in culinary and possessing the obsessed passion to create art in a bottle. Just as a conductor balances an entire orchestra to generate art, Deerfield Ranch Winery creates a symphony of wine for every visitor to experience with each sip.




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