Science Meets Community
Greg Stratmann and Jimee Hwang, owners of Bed & Barrel at Stonehouse Cellars, are in a nutshell, scientists. As a pediatric anesthesiologist, Greg uses data to serve his patients when they are most vulnerable. As a medical epidemiologist, Jimee uses research to make malaria shiver in its boots. Then Bed & Barrel added a new kind of scientist to the team in 2017. As a counterintelligence special agent, Director of Operations Jake Bridges used a collection interviews, evidence, and intelligence to reveal spies that were flying under everyone else’s radar.
When you add these three people together with the charge of making great wine, it’s to no surprise that they launched into a grand science experiment.
This spring, with the help of many new and old friends, Stonehouse Cellars conducted blending trials to assess the effects of different oaks and soils. Although a lover of data, Greg appreciated how the numbers took a backseat to individual taste buds, “Our blending trials do away with the bias of preconceived notions and leave only the opinions of a crowd to determine what the best wine is. We believe this is the only way to make the best wine we can. It also makes for a phenomenally fun, and educational experience for everyone.”
A great wine isn’t wine that falls into a specific data profile. Great wine is a wine you like. “We can measure the concentrations of all sorts of chemical components in wine but ultimately the only outcome of relevance is the taste of the wine,” Greg says.
This is precisely why Stonehouse Cellars needed you, the consumer, to make this experiment successful. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this was a casual sip and chat, “We design blending trials as rigorously as the best scientific trials out there,” Greg says. “We vary only one aspect of the winemaking process keeping all other aspects as tightly controlled as we can. For example, we'd split wines made in the same fermenter into barrels made of different oaks and treat them identically thereafter.”
“All we need is a rank order of what you like best, second best and so on. We tally up the scores each wine receives and the highest one wins. This tells us if and how to blend the wines. It also provides an incredibly insightful experience to the average wine-drinker, like us. People learn about how little variations in the winemaking procedures can result in enormous differences in the wine. What seems intimidating to most even experienced wine aficionados quickly discloses itself as one of the most fun and educational experiences wine has to offer and the level of expertise required is literally zero.”
Most importantly, Greg adds, “People seem to feel pretty good about the fact that their input contributed directly to how we make wine.”
So when you drink the Stonehouse Cellars 2016 Cabernet, you can know it was a result of a little science, and a lot of community. Your friends and neighbors crafted a wine they liked because they thought you’d like it too.
Our deepest thanks to everyone who participated in our 2016 blending trials.
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