For the highly anticipated 2008 vintage of Rock ‘n Roll Wine’s The Grotto, Vegas-based winemakers Chris Hammond and Sonny Barton have flipped the script (or rather, the cuvée) on the grapes that comprise the luscious red California blend. Whereas the 2006 featured grenache, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel, the 2008 blend relies mainly on zinfandel and syrah, plus just a five percent blend of petite syrah, cabernet sauvignon and petite verdot to express Rock ‘n Roll Wine’s mission of making wine more accessible. As the cépages (grape varieties) change with each vintage, the guys simply call it “Chris and Sonny’s Proprietary Blend.”
Whether creating the blend for The Grotto or their white blend, Reggae Rhapsody, the goal is harmony. While Sonny looks for complexity and fruit-forwardness, Chris leans toward smoke. Both seek structure and a bit of spice. “We know the style we’re going after when we sit down to do the blend,” Barton says. “We try to make a soft, approachable, melodic wine,” says Hammond, finishing the thought.
At their popular Thursday wine happy hour at Lavo, the guys recently swapped the 2006 with the 2008. Guests were impressed by the medium-bodied red’s spicy clove and black cherry nose and the smoky, savory, bacon and cherry on the palate. “When you’ve poured wine for as many people as we have,” Barton observes, “and drank as much wine as we’ve done, you start to know what people like.”