Preface: This visit to the Conn Creek Winery happened last year. Why am I just now writing about it? Two reasons: 1) I am reminiscing about our vacation and 2) I found this nearly finished post and realized I never hit “publish.” So, even though it’s slightly out of place since our trip concluded more than a year ago, I do think the internet needs to read about our incredible experience at the Conn Creek Barrel Blending Experience.
Our experience with the Conn Creek Winery Barrel Blending Experience
Conn Creek makes fine wine, but after our experience with the wine blending seminar, I have an entirely new appreciation and perspective of the skill of winemakers and Conn Creek wines.
Wine talk is extremely confusing. The terminology is endless. Terroir. French Oak Barrels. Single Vineyard. Vintages, varietals…STOP TALKING AND JUST POUR THE WINE ALREADY.
And that’s not even getting into the lingo serious wine people use to describe what they’re tasting. Watch the movie Somm if you’d like to watch wine-speak in hyperdrive.
After a few years of tasting wine (let’s not count my college years of boxed wine tastings in non-Reidel stemware), being married to a husband that sells wine and talks the talk, and two trips to wine country with a bazillion private tours of wineries, this is the one experience where all of those little facts and the lingo finally converged and I started understanding just a few elements of the wine-making process just a little bit better.
I’m not sure if I can even describe how amazing this seminar is, but I’m certainly going to try.
We started in the vineyard, and our host discussed the grape growing process – the soil, sunlight, type of grapes, etc. all play a role in how the wine will ultimately taste. The grape pulp holds the sugar and water. The skin holds the flavor profile and the acidity. In California, grapes can stay on the vines much longer than they can in France, so we can get a different sugar level than our European friends. Their grapes can reach 23 Brix (that’s sugar content), and we have grapes that can reach 26 or 27 Brix.
Then we entered the barrel room, with 16 barrels of wine and a table full of measuring cups mingled with wine glasses. I really wasn’t prepped for this excursion, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Here’s the deal: there are 12 barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon from different regions around Napa Valley and four other varietals. The Cabs are divided by region and flavor profile – and even though they are all the same grape, tasting from the different regions REALLY showed how the soil, terrain, climate, etc. can affect how the wine tastes because they were all distinctly different. When drinking a wine, that’s not always so noticeable – but in this seminar, the differences really stood out.
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 to blend the perfect bottle.
This process was incredibly fun.
My wine will undoubtably be superior to my husband’s, and we’ll find out this Christmas when the wine has had enough time to age.
Go | If you’re headed to Napa, add the Conn Creek Winery Barrel Blending Experience to your list.