Holland America unveils BLEND cruise experience

Holland America Lines has unveiled a new cruise feature it will begin offering when it launches its newest ship, the ms Koningsdam in April 2016.

Developed in cooperation with Washington state’s Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, the feature called BLEND by Chateau Ste. Michelle will enable passengers to experience one facet of the art of wine making by creating their own wine blends.

“At the core of every Holland America Line cruise is our desire to offer unique, immersive and innovative experiences,” Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line, said at a Sept. 28 event announcing BLEND. “It will be exciting for our guests to create an exclusive win tailored to their personals taste that they can enjoy onboard with our exceptional cuisine.”

Artist's rendering of ms Koningsdam

The venue on the Koningsdam, a new Pinnacle-class ship, will have a tasting table that accommodates 10 guests who will create their own blends from a selection of five barrels of single-vineyard red wine.

Through an introductory video by Chateau Ste. Michelle’s winemaker Bob Bertheau, guests will learn interesting facts about the history of Washington wines and winemaking and will see how different vineyard sites impact the flavors and styles of the wines. Guests will then sample five unique wines, making tasting notes about what they like about each, then set about developing their own blend. At the event announcing BLEND, many of us did exactly that.

BLEND venue aboard ms Koningsdam

We were seated at tables of eight, each including a chef from Holland America’s Culinary Council. I and the others at my table had the opportunity to work with Chef David Burke, who owns restaurants including his flagship David Burke Townehouse as well as a half-dozen other restaurant on in Chicago, New York and Connecticut.

We tasted samples of five wines -- two cabernet sauvignons, two merlots and a cabernet franc – then started creating our own blends.

While it would have been easy for a trained and accomplished chef like Burke to run the show – likely quite successfully – he stood back and let the less trained take the lead. My suggestion was to stick with varietals from the same vineyard – in this case, Cold Creek vineyards – and blend two parts Cabernet Sauvignon with one part Merlot and one part Cab Franc. The result, our table agreed, was a very nice but very full blend we dubbed, “Big, Bad Red.” It would have paired quite nicely with a main course of a full-bodied red meat, but we wanted something more universally appealing, so other blends were explored.

Members of Holland America's Culinary Council

And that will clearly be part of the appeal of BLEND: the opportunity to experiment, to meet and interact with others who have a love of and passion for wine and food, and maybe to create something unique.

BLEND will be one of those cruise features that comes at an additional cost and, as of the Sept. 28 event, Holland America had not yet set the fee. However, participants will be creating blends from wines retailing for around $69 to $79, and each guest will be able to take a bottle of the blend they create to their dinner table or back to their stateroom in a bottle with a stopper and with a personalized label. Reservations will be required for the blending sessions, which I am certain will be a hit among foodies and oenophiles alike. Given another opportunity, I will certainly be among them.

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Photo by Carl Dombek; renderings courtesy Holland America
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