The four set out for Sonoma County this past Sunday morning with a single goal: blend a wine that will be sold later this year by the Selland family of restaurants. The sleepy eyed team included Josh Nelson (general manager of Ella Dining Room & Bar) and three sommelliers - Doug Nitchman (The Kitchen), David Baker (Selland's Market Cafe) and Joe Vaccaro (Ella). And the end of the road was Hirsch Vineyards, a premium wine producer especially noted for its pinot noir.
Hirsch winemaker Mark Doherty was there to help, as the crew from Sacramento tasted through 27 barrel samples of pinot noir and pondered which mix would make for the perfect blend. They also walked through the various vineyard blocks at Hirsch to get a better sense of their wine.
Tasting through all the samples and figuring what to blend was tougher than expected. But by 4 p.m., they had produced a pinot noir that'll be ready for bottling in March.
"To me, the wine had a kind of red and purple fruit to it," says Nelson. "It also had underlying minerality which was really nice. It definitely has a floral side to it as well. We used only 35 percent new oak. It's not too earthy. We wanted to have something that would be approachable right away and ready to serve in our restaurants."
So what to call this blend? That's still being decided, but expect a Hirsch labeling with perhaps a "Selland Family Selection" to designate this special blend. The price of this bottle is also being worked out, but Nelson expects a retail cost of $45 per bottle. Look for this pinot noir in a couple months on the wine lists at The Kitchen, Ella and Selland's Market Cafe.
"This was a really challenging process," says Nelson. "I walked out with a little more respect for winemakers."