One of the greatest aspects of being a passionate wine lover is that the learning and pleasurable experiences are never ending and last a lifetime. When you are a grizzled veteran in the wine business for almost 40 year like I am you sometimes forget just how much fun wine can be. I was reminded of this on a recent vacation to the Napa Valley with my wife and friends.
It was pouring rain when we pulled into Conn Creek winery on the Silverado Trail; as soon as I walked in I saw a row of Cabernet Sauvignons with the old Conn Creek labels from the 1970’s, all wines that I had enjoyed in my youth, it was an instant flashback and I realized I had not been here in 30 years!
We were there for a two hour Cabernet Sauvignon blending session and it turned out to be one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in Napa and I urge all of our PrimeCellar members to book this adventure on your next visit to Napa Valley.
Wine educator Taylor Almond welcomed us with a glass of 2012 Sauvignon and led us to the room lined with barrels along the walls containing 15 of the 16 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon AVA’s/sub regions from 2012. Taylor handed us a glass of Conn Creeks flagship wine “2012 Anthology” and gave us a geographic and geological lesson on the Napa Valley. Assistant winemaker Thomas Klassen then joined us and was available to answer any questions we would have. We were then instructed to take a taste of every AVA barrel, and make a note on the wine. The AVA’s included Carneros, St. Helena, Oakville, Oak Knoll, Pope Valley, Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain, Stags Leap District, Yountville, Spring Mountain, Chiles Valley, Rutherford, Diamond Mountain, Atlas Peak and Calistoga.
My body felt a rush of excitement as I headed for the barrels; very much like the feeling I get at negociant tastings in Bordeaux where I regularly taste hundreds of barrel samples. After tasting all the Cabernets, Taylor told us to taste the additional blending barrels containing Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Malbec.
After tasting all the elements, we were given a .750ml beaker and instructed to make our own personal blend/cuvee of our favorite AVA’s with no restrictions, any way you like. It could be 100% from one place or a blend of every single barrel if you were so inclined, it was so much fun!
We then poured our wine into a bottle and Thomas helped us cork the bottle with a manual corker, just like the old days! We then colored our own labels. My personal blend consisted of 15% each from Spring Mountain, Childes Valley, Calistoga and Mt. Veeder for the base/power of the wine; 15% Stags Leap and Oakville to add elegance, and 10% Merlot for some fruitiness, just like in Bordeaux! If my hands were tied and I only could pick one AVA for a 100% wine, it would have been Stags Leap; why you ask? Well the wine would drink lovely young and had the textbook elegance and balance that has made the Stags Leap District so famous.
Cabernet Sauvignon is King in Napa Valley and people from all over America contact me at my day job everyday asking me where they should go on their next trip to Napa for a cool and different wine experience. Well my friends this is definitely one of those spots and I cannot recommend this experience highly enough! Every barrel is a perfect example of the appellation, its style, and what it brings to any blend. For the first time visitor to Napa it is the perfect introduction and will accelerate your education and understanding of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon; even the well versed connoisseur will have a great time!
To be honest I was not aware of the cost of this blending experience but I assumed it had to be quite expensive; I was surprised when I found out it was only $95.00 per person. I was not surprised to find out that Conn Creek won the honor of international “Best of Wine Tourism” for this experience. Contact www.conncreek.com for reservations.
Cheers and I’ll see you in Napa!