“I came up with the idea when I was doing a blending seminar up in Sonoma with some winemaker friends,” recalls Mark Bright, co-owner and wine director of Saison in San Francisco, talking about the blend-it-yourself wine program he recently introduced at Decantr, the wine bar adjacent to the restaurant.
A part-time winemaker, Bright was tasting and sampling barrels of wine he’d made when inspiration struck. “I thought how great it would be if I could just bottle up a barrel from each different vineyard, bring them back to the bar and allow people to blend them.”
That’s exactly what he does at Decantr. For $15 for 150-ml. glass, guests can assemble their own, blends, puzzling together the different aromas and characteristics from several barrel selections in 10-ml. increments.
Aspiring winemakers are given descriptions of the wines’ characteristics, small samples and guidance from staff if needed. The final blend is mixed at a table in the center of the bar, using graduated cylinders of the samples. The blending theatrics usually cause a stir of curiosity in the bar.
“It’s an education in the art of blending,” says Bright. The program is designed so that each of the samples have widely different characteristics from each other. “Customers make different blends, taste each others and argue about whose is better,” points out the wine director. It’s a fun experience.”
The DIY blending program has only been in place for a few months. After a slow start, interest has picked up. “I’m getting repeat customers coming back and bringing their friends here to try it,” says Bright.
He eventually plans to change up the wines. “I going to do some blends with cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc,” says the sommelier. “I want to teach customers about Bordeaux.”