On Saturday October 2nd I drove down to Orlando to attend the Conundrum wine blending seminar with winemaker Jon Bolta, the Epcot Food and Wine Fest and the Party for the Senses, ALL IN ONE DAY! Needless to say, I was exhausted by the end of it all, but I did manage to catch 5 minutes with Conundrum winemaker Jon Bolta…
Kris Chislett: How long have you been with Conundrum?
Jon Bolta: About 30 years.
KC: Conundrum is constantly evolving each year based on the grapes you use, could you tell me a little about that blend.
JB: We use 5 grapes in the Conundrum blend, although we do also have some Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc planted as well as a few other varietals. Basically Conundrum is Muscat, Chardonnay, Semilion, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc.
KC: And you change the blend every year based on what?
JB: We change the blend every year depending on what mother nature throws us, some years are higher acid, some years are higher sweetness. The basic premise of the wine is to bring that floral Muscat nose out and not wash it out with the other varietals. However I/we like to also bring out the flavors of the other varietals, the clean crisp acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc, the fat weightiness of the Chardonnay. I like each of the grapes to “pop” without masking another.
KC: So far as the blend goes, do you have set in stone what you want the wine to be each year?
JB: No, I mean, the public’s view of it is very important, Conundrum is an established wine and people already have an idea of what it tastes like so we have to stick close to that. But of course we always want to evolve, we don’t want it to be stagnant and standard, and that’s why you might see us adding some other varietals Gewurztraminer/Riesling in the future, but we would never change too much.
JB: Oh very much so! In the beginning, Chuck Wagner wanted it to be a restaurant wine, that little bit of residual sweetness in the wine really helps.
KC: I’ve heard various rumors for while now, any plans for a red, rose or sparkling wine?
JB: No, of course that has come up many times and we have played with the idea. We haven’t really gone much further with the idea, but never say never!
KC: How has the winery changed over the last 2/3 years? Did the economy have any effect on you?
JB: Not really, actually in 2007 we built a new winery at the Mer Soleil vineyard, so things are good! We are more or less doing everything the same way we have, we tank ferment some juice, we barrel ferment some, we use different yeasts, the grapes that are grown at Mer Soleil are all from different types of vines on different soils. We still use the same source when we buy our Muscat grapes, the same source we have been using since 1989, because we have a really good relationship with him and he grows our Muscat just how we want it. We also get our Sauvignon Blanc from Napa, just premium Sauv Blanc and Chuck has been very adamant about retaining the relationship with those growers. We can get Sauvignon Blanc anywhere we want it, but Napa Sauv Blanc really fits the blend.
KC: The packaging of Conundrum has changed a little over the last few years, you used to be have a cork closure, now you have a screwcap, the label has changed a little. Are you trying to make the wine more approachable to consumers?
JB: A little of everything, Chuck Wagner is a very savvy businessman, he’s a creative guy I think he takes pleasure in that, and now his son is getting older he helps out a lot. Him and his dad get together and talk about packaging, about what will really stand out on the shelf, you know. They don’t want to annihilate the brand or anything, but gradual small updates gets all of our creative juices flowing! The screwcap has been the main change that has come about, I was really happy when they went with that as it eliminates cork taint.
So far as the future, we have plenty of ideas that we are throwing around, whether they play out… you know, I’m an older guy I so think I add some balance to some of the newer younger ideas. We have played around with the packaging on our Mer Soleil Silver, our unoaked Chardonnay wine, putting it in a ceramic bottle which I think is very cool, so in the future for Conundrum anything is possible…