24 January, 2010

The PERFECT Blend - Our Conn Creek Barrel Blending Experience

I was lucky enough to be among several bloggers and writers invited by Paul Askiman to visit and experience the Barrel Blending experience at Conn Creek Winery.  Just to let you know, this rocks! 

First of all, Conn Creek is located along the beautiful Silverado trail in Napa.  The winery is known primarily for its flagship Bordeaux style wine, Anthology, which the tasting started with. A gorgeous bordeaux blend with lovely color, complex spice and fruit and nice structure.  Okay, definitely setting the bar high for beginning blenders. 

Then, after a brief primer on the Napa region and the basics of blending, we were turned loose to take our learning kinesthetic.  Barrel samples from all fourteen of Napa's AVA's awaited. 

The folks at Conn Creek have done an amazing job of making a satisfying blending experience accessible to the newest newbie to wine as well as the most curmudgeonly wonk.  It's just plain fun.  In the elegantly and thoughtfully appointed classroom setting, you are provided with beakers and pipettes.  From there, you are allowed to taste samples of Cabernet Sauvignon from each of the 14 Napa AVA's.  These are further broken down into five major classifications by overarching characteristics of: Soft, Supple, Complex, Rich and Bold.  I took their advice and tasted through, ranking each sample and then blended my three favorites in varying percentages to get to the flavor I wanted.  Oooh!  I almost forgot.  They also include barrels of Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, so you can get that Bordeaux blend perfect if that's what you want.  I loved getting the snapshot of the variances in Napa Cabs.  Soil samples are also included so you can get a sense of how place impacts the flavor. 

From there, they assist you with getting your blend right (hint:  there is a bit of math and *gasp* the metric system) and corking your bottle.  There are also materials to get your label personalized just so. 

Here is a video that gives you an idea of the fun I had creating "Liza's Cuvee",  which ended up being a delicious blend of 30% Surber Vineyard from Calistoga, 30% Hohzoni from Rutherford, 20% Stagecoach from Atlas Peak and 10% each of Malbec and Petit Verdot.  Many thanks to @lorzandrabrxchk for her great camerawork and for capturing our obvious glee.

And everyone in the group had their own take on blending and decorating, so that at the end of the exercise, not only did we learn a ton about the magic/science of wine making and the different flavors of Napa, but also had a souvenir of the day.  An excellent value for a day of learning in an elegant venue.  For more information on how to book your visit, click here
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