Wine versatility is increasingly evident on cruise ships as different lines think outside the square of what the beverage can do for its guests, beyond simply drinking or cooking with it.
As more cruise lines see themselves grappling also with the farm-to-table concept – where the entire lifespans of different ingredients are showcased to passengers as part of a meal service – so too are they looking at inviting passengers to get more involved in the various stages of how a wine progresses from the grape growing stage all the way to your glass.
One such experience which has debuted recently is ‘Blend’ by Chateau Ste. Michelle, now on offer on Holland America Line’s newest ship MS Koningsdam, first launched in April.
Designed for interest levels ranging from wine novices and casual drinkers through to experienced connoisseurs – Blend calls upon the expertise of Washington State’s oldest winery, which also coincidentally happens to be fairly local to Holland America Line’s global headquarters in nearby Seattle. A dedicated wine mixing venue has been set aside onboard Koningsdam where you can delve deep into the art of wine making.
The Blend experience is run each day during a standard cruise and certainly requires advance reservations as only ten guests at a time can be accommodated. After viewing a welcome video by the Chateau Ste. Michelle chief wine maker Bob Bertheau, you’re then taken through some of the finer details of how a wine’s ultimate flavour begins right from the growing stage, with soil samples examined and explained on what effect each has on grapes, particularly as seasonal weather patterns can also play a contributing factor in the end result.
Led by the Cellar Master and supported by one of the ship’s sommerliers, the opportunity then comes to sample different products from five wine barrels, which includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot from different Chateau Ste. Michelle vineyards.
Ultimately, these five wine mixes form the ingredients you’ll use to mix your own creation. Each of the wines carry different characteristics and flavours, which in turn will affect your own final result. After sampling each product, you make notes on which you prefer. These notes then determine your individual tastes and how you might like your wine to taste.
Once you’ve decided on your flavour and how much of each mixture you’d like in your bottle, the blending process begins inside graduated cylinders and eventually comes back to you as a finished product, complete with a cork in the bottle. The final stage in the Blend process comes as you get to design your own label. This can include a personal photo or any creative design you like. The label is then affixed and voila! You have your very own blend of red wine.
Of course, what would creating your own wine be if you weren’t able to then enjoy it? While you won’t be able to walk away from the Blend experience with your bottle in hand, your creation can either be delivered to your stateroom for you to enjoy at leisure, or can be sent to one of the ship’s many restaurants and served to you with your dinner that night. With that, you can be certain of one thing – unless you decide to share it, nobody else on the whole ship will be enjoying the exact same flavours with their evening meal as you.