First – apologies for this post being late on arrival. As some of you may know, I have been dealing with some personal issues that have been hammering me in to the ground like Wile E. Coyote under an Acme Anvil. I’m trying to come up for air, so here goes. Please excuse the lack of video, since I still don’t entirely know how to work my Flip. I will learn someday, but not today. And the lack of pictures is mystifying since I swear I took some of at least the bottles, but they are lost. C’est la vie, tech fail!
One recent Sunday, before the madness of Christmas, and after the food orgy of Thanksgiving, a crew of bloggers descended upon the good graces of Paul Askiman and Conn Creek Winery’s AVA Room to create our own personalized blends of wine.
The Conn Cree AVA Room is a one of a kind wine adventure, where mad scientists wine lovers, and it this case, some bloggers, can learn how Conn Creek blends its flagship wine Anthology.
The AVA Room was developed in Conn Creek’s search to find the best Cabernet Sauvignon that Napa had to offer, and in doing so, they found fruit sources from almost all of the 14 sub appellations in Napa. In this secret room at the back of winery, next to the gardens, you will find 15 different barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon and a barrel each of the classic Bordeaux blending grapes Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Verdot.
The Cabernet barrels are grouped by major profile, like Soft, Supple, Complex, Rich and Bold. One of the fascinating things about this experience is that as a wine ages in barrel, it may not stay in its category, as it becomes more complex or develops some backbone and loses some of the plush fruit upfront. This is what makes wine such a tremendous beast. Each Cab barrel starts out as 100% new French Oak, and eventually matures in 50% new / 50% neutral Oak, which also contributes tot he changes in the wine profile.
I apologize in advance for not remembering all of the different component wines – I just lost my mojo and can’t find my booklet. If i do, I’ll be sure to share!
The base wine contenders that I particularly enjoyed were:
- Atlas Peak – Stagecoach Vineyard
- Rutherford – Conn Creek Vneyard
- Stags Leap – Clos du Val Vineyard
After sampling the different options for the base wine (the Cabernet) I got to work creating my master blend.
First, I tried 50% Atlas Peak – Stagecoach, 15% Rutherford Conn Creek, 25% Stags Leap Clos Du Val, and a splash of Petite Verdot and Cab Franc. While I liked this wine, it was the first one i tried and I found it a big of a fruit bomb with blackberry pie, subtle spice, and firm tannins. I thought I wanted a bit more structure, so I moved on to Blend 2 while keeping careful track of this beginning.
The 2nd try was
- 45% Atlas Peak
- 15% Conn Creek
- 20% Stags Leap
- 20% Cab Franc.
This was totally different than Blend 1, and it was too earthy and I wasn’t sure if I liked it. Back to the drawing board.
Blend 3 was another experiment.
- 50% Rutherford Hozhone
- 15% Conn creek
- 20% stags leap
- 15% cab franc. Given that this was a totlaly differnet base wine, it wasn’t waht i was looking for.
My final blend wa a variation on Blend 2, which after much tasting and talking, was widely agreed upon (mostly by Marcy Gordon) to be the best. Yep THE best. Therefore, I ended my Dr. Bunson Burner experiments with:
- 45% Atlas Peak
- 15% Conn Creek
- 20% Stags Leap
- 5% Petitie Verdot
- 15% Cabernet Franc
As I put the finishing touches on my blend, we snacked on Sift Cupcakery baked goods, and the little ginger man called out my name. Thus, was born, the 2009 GingerMan Bordeaux Blend that I hope to enjoy at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla in June. I really enjoyed making this wine, but I know with a little time to settle together and meld the flavors, it will become even better. I look forward to writing about that tasting in the coming months.
The moral of this story is – for $95 you get 2 hours of hysterical fun and a LOT of wine, education on the different sub-AVAs of Napa Valley, a priceless learning experience of how the Pros do it, and…your very own bottle of wine to take home. This is a MUST do if you are a wine geek, and you find yourself in Napa. Considering that many Napa Cabs cost $95 just for the wine, this is a tremendous value and I reccomend it to any one who wnats a unique experience in Wine Country. In Fact, I gave my mother a “custom blending session” gift at christmas, and my dear old brother was asking where his was. I told him I’d consider it for his birthday if he was a good boy.
There are several places that do custom blending sessions for consumers, including Judd’s Hill (3 bottles), Bennet Lane, Fontanella (case only), and Ravenswood (half bottle). There are probably more, but I haven’t heard of them – yet. You can also avail yourself of Crushpad’s FuseBox, where you can blend your own samples at home and then send away for a case of custom labeled wine. I really think that for the value and the experience, Conn Creek gets a gold medal!
Conn Creek can be found on the Silverado Trail at Conn Dam Road in Napa. They graciously hosted us in the AVA room and were lovely! Thanks again for your hospitality Paul!