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California Wine: Blend Your Own With A Kit

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Perhaps you've never given much thought to the percentages listed on the back of a bottle of wine. Enter the Wine Apothecary, a new kit that lets you play with wine. You get a box filled with bottles of syrah, grenache, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot, some cool tools like a flask and pipette, and you get to go to work, trying to make a mix that pleases you. After you do, you mail your percentages in and order bottles of your blend, accompanied by a label of your design. Think of it as the ultimate adult chemistry set.

"After taking a crash course in nearly every wine position under the sun, I began to realize a significant aspect of the industry was somehow being overlooked," says Wine Apothecary owner/creator Billy Dim. "That aspect involved the wine-lover's ability to engage the industry they love in a fun and creative way. Early on -- whether in sales, management, or production -- I was blown away by the enthusiast's desire to learn and participate; but other than tasting, I began to realize how few conduits there actually were for one to do so. That coupled with the idea that each of us is the best discerning judge of what he or she actually likes, led to the inception of Wine Apothecary."

Dim, once a struggling musician, lived with his family in the Santa Ynez Valley between tours and took a job in the wine industry. "I believe the evolution went something like this: Tasting room clerk to tasting room manager, then I worked harvest and production, then sales. Then I got involved in restaurants and became a buyer, sommelier, wine director, and general manager all in the course of six years. You wouldn't believe me if I listed all my roles, but most notably for education purposes I'll mention Beckmen Vineyards and the Los Olivos Café."

As educated as Dim is in the wine world, he's still surprised by what people come up with for their blends. "The amazing thing about Apothecary is that you're creating a blend that you yourself gravitates toward," he explains. "A mentor once told me that my role as a sommelier is to guide someone towards what they themselves might've chosen."

The wine you get to blend comes from a variety of noted sources from Santa Barbara to Paso Robles, and the company, like many smaller producers in Santa Barbara, operates out of Central Coast Wine Services in Santa Maria. In addition to your ability to buy your own blend, Wine Apothecary offers two complete wines of its own, a red blend called Vermillion ("an oddly unique blend, but don't ask us the percentages, we'll never tell") and a limited production chardonnay with grapes from Riverbench.

But it's the ability to blend away that makes Wine Apothecary so much fun. "The kit comes equipped with a step-by-step instruction manual that offers a ton of information on how to best create your ideal blend," Dim informs. "Blenders can take the process as seriously and scientifically as they'd like, or as loose and casual as a drinking game. Remember, the goal is to have fun and create something that you love for you. It's up to you how much the chemist or how wild you wanna get. Hopefully you manage to have a little fun and learn a little something about your wine preferences along the way."

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