Breckenridge winery now offering DIY wine blending classes | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge winery now offering DIY wine blending classes

Three Summit Daily staff members recently braved a wine blending class, learning the finer art of smelling what you taste.

Blending classes let participants mix different wines to create their own concoction. Jeffrey Maltzman, co-owner of the Continental Divide Winery, says to think of it like chemistry. The spread of beakers and measuring vials across the table certainly gave off that feeling.

Maltzman starts his class by talking about how even the smallest change to a wine can completely change the flavor. Before Maltzman and his wife, Ana, got into business of making their own wine, they took a blending class 23 years ago. During their class, the Maltzmans made one case that had two different kinds of wine. Years later, Maltzman said that one mix tasted excellent, and the other not so much.

The class is what inspired the pair to start a winery. They now own two wineries in California. Most recently they have partnered with Kent Hutchison and Angela Bryan to open the Continental Divide Winery. The location in Breckenridge is primarily a tasting room featuring wines from the Maltzmans in California, as well as wines from local Colorado vineyards.

“The real magic of wine making, and the real magic of wine blending, is that when you take your two ingredients and blend them together, you end up with something that is completely different than what you started with.”Jeffrey MaltzmanCo-owner of Continental Divide Winery

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The tasting room opened around Christmas, and it was always one of Maltzman's goals to eventually offer his own blending classes in Breckenridge.

"The real magic of wine making, and the real magic of wine blending, is that when you take your two ingredients and blend them together, you end up with something that is completely different than what you started with," Maltzman said.

Maltzman runs the blending class for 16 participants. The class begins with looking at the four base wines individually — cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel and petit verdot. Guests smell and taste the wine, pinpointing the individual flavors that come to mind.

If you are a novice, like I am, this portion of the class may present a challenge. I have difficulty discerning one wine from another, but Maltzman expertly leads the class through the different ways wine experts can taste even the smallest ingredients. For newbies, the key is to swirl and slurp.

Participants rate their wines based on personal taste. In wine blending, you pick a base wine that will make up the majority of your mixture. I went with the zinfindel because I liked the bolder flavor. Maltzman explained to the class why some wine experts will mix particular types of wine. Petit verdot, for example, is a very dark red wine. Maltzman said that many people add it to blends for the color.

"You may have a wine that you really like, but it just doesn't have much aroma, you want it to have more aroma," he said. "Maybe one of the other wines that you're trying here today has a great aroma, so you want to add a little of that into it to create that blend."

Then the fun begins. The class tests blending different wines in a glass. The first rounds are an experiment, measuring wines down to the millileter. I wanted a darker wine for my first test. I used zinfandel as the base and added equal parts petit verdot and merlot. The former for color, and the latter to add a little sweetness to my wine. Finally, a little cabernet for a more familiar taste.

I found that the verdot cancelled a lot of the sweetness I wanted to add with the merlot. For my second experimental glass I lowered the amount of cabernet and petit verdot and upped the amount of merlot. What I got was a nice wine that reminded me of warm fireplaces and smelled faintly of caramel.

Some people went through three or four blends before hitting their ideal combo. Once you find the blend you like, you make enough for a bottle. The participants make a label and name for their wine.

Maltzman said that the label is an important step. The wines that he and his wife made in their first blending class were not labeled, and so it is a constant question in their life: Which of them made the good wine?

To watch a video of a wine blending class, visit summitdaily.com.

If you Go

What: Wine blending classes

When: Times vary, private sessions are available.

Where: Continental Divide Winery, 505 Main Street Station Breckenridge

Cost: $75, includes one bottle of wine. Additional bottles of wine are $35.

More Information: There are 16 participants per class. For more information, or to register call (970) 771-3443