My husband’s sales position in the wine industry gives us behind-the-scenes access to the best wineries in Napa and Sonoma Valley. We have taken advantage. Over various trips, we’ve expertly swirled tasting glasses and discussed terroir, types of barrels, and varietals with wine experts in Napa and Sonoma Valley.
Of all of the experiences, I can definitively say that the Conn Creek Barrel Blending Experience is the coolest.
We each blended our own bottle of wine and learned what it takes to be a winemaker. This wine experience teaches visitors what it takes to blend an exceptional (or all least drinkable) bottle of wine by putting them in the winemaker’s lab to experiment.
Our experience with the Conn Creek Winery Barrel Blending Experience
A wine educator led our small group of soon-to-be winemakers through the vineyard and into the barrel room. The room features long tables set up like a chemistry lab with beakers and measuring tools. The walls are lined with oak barrels filled with single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley AVAs (wine-growing regions) with facts about each area. The barrels are divided into five categories: soft, supple, complex, rich and bold. Each category features three Cabernets from a different AVA.
Next comes the tasting part. Guests explore and sip their way around the barrel room while scribbling tasting notes like “lush with a hint of cherry cola” and “smooth, tasted olive oil, and incredible.” This helps shape a basic understanding of the regions and determine their flavor preferences.
Here’s where it gets really fun. After tasting wines from the different barrels and taking notes on each one, we became Winemakers, and blended our own bottle. Much cooler than a science experiment in high school chemistry, we used the same tools. Beakers, test tubes, and measuring glasses blend the perfect bottle.
Then, we mixed Cabernets like a list of ingredients to create a bespoke bottle of wine: a bold Cab to compliment a savory pork chop, a medium-bodied blend to pair with a grilled steak or a smooth, easy-drinking bottle of red to open with friends. Guests analyze tasting notes, finalize their selections, calculate ratios, and measure in beakers.
At the end, with a selection of colorful Sharpies, each new winemaker creates a custom label and name for their bottle of wine.
Opening our blends
I named mine “Decade” for our ten-year wedding anniversary the following year. My husband, Will, named his the “W Blend.”
We decided to open the bottles after two years of debating whether the W Blend or Decade would be better.
The first wine, Decade, was astonishingly good at the first taste. The second wine, the W Blend, was completely different, but equally as good. We agreed Decade was a smooth, drinkable bottle of wine and the W Blend was a little more complex and was better with food, particularly the perfectly grilled steak we were enjoying during this tasting.
This process was incredibly fun, and I highly recommend to anyone visiting the Napa area.
Go | If you’re headed to Napa, add the Conn Creek Winery Barrel Blending Experience to your list.