Throughout the Napa Valley there are several wine appreciation venues and wine tasting is ubiquitous, but Conn Creek’s Barrel Blending Experience is unique.
By Michelle M. Winner
Throughout the Napa Valley there are several wine appreciation venues and wine tasting is ubiquitous, but Conn Creek’s Barrel Blending Experience is unique. It started with their winemaker Maker Mike McGrath. To create Conn Creek’s ANTHOLOGY wine he blends many of the Napa Valley sub-appellations or AVAs. Lucky for oenophiles, whether aspiring or experienced, Conn Creek developed this experience to teach wine lovers to blend their own from 15 barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon representing most of the Napa AVAs ( sub-appellations) and four barrels of locally-grown Bordeaux varietals to blend; Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
The barrels are set up around the beautiful private room representing regional flavor profiles of three barrels each : SOFT ( Carneros, St Helena, Oakville), SUPPLE ( Oak Knoll, Pope Valley, Mt.Veeder), COMPLEX ( Howell Mountain, Stags Leap District, Yountville), RICH (Spring Mountain, Chiles Valley, Rutherford), BOLD ( Diamond Mountain, Atlas Peak, Calistoga . Further, some of the barrels are from exceptional single vineyards.
Sound complicated? Of course the art of winemaking surely is. But this exercise is not. After a thorough explanation as to what you are looking for and how to balance those characteristics, (our course was taught by a sommelier), we were off to taste the wines we wanted to work with. Then after decisions are made with the sommelier guide’s help as to our preferences, we were presented with beakers to fill to create a sample. Only when we were satisfied with the sample, were we able to blend our perfect bottle.
What I loved was the room set up; very easy to navigate for a visual person like me. I also appreciated the one-on-one assistance. The whole experience was delightful and I highly recommend that you start your Napa exploration here. It will add so much depth to what you taste along the way. And what about the bottle of wine I blended ? I opened it to serve with a lovely autumn meal in Oregon of roasted pork, rosemary and balsamic vinegar gravy, served with butter-candied potatoes and roasted yellow beet. The wine was superb; of course it was exactly what I love!
All images: Kurt Winner