The Blending Experience in the AVA room at Conn Creek Winery was the most fun I've had wine tasting in a while. It was the ultimate presentation of terroir and an excellent opportunity to taste Cabernet Sauvignon from each Napa Valley sub-appellation.
We arrived early for our 2 o'clock appointment and took our glasses of Sauvignon Blanc into the gardens adjacent to the AVA room. It was a beautiful 72-degree day in January, so we happily waited in the sun until the rest of our group arrived.
Once seated at the table in the AVA room, our wine educator Karen provided us with some history of Conn Creek and information about the various sub-appellations before releasing us to the barrels.
There were 19 barrels total to taste from; 15 barrels of identical age and cooperage were filled with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (1 each from 13 sub-appellations and 2 from Calistoga) from the 2008 vintage. The other four barrels included Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. With a spigot on each barrel from which we helped ourselves, we were able to taste at our own speed.
As the temperature increases the more north you go in the Napa Valley, so does the weight of the wines. I began with the "lightest" bodied Cabs which were coincidentally from the more southern parts of Napa, starting with the Oak Knoll district. The first three Cabs were high in acidity, and would have paired beautifully with Italian fare, but not generally my preferred style.
I was curious to see if the sub-appellations I have liked in the past would turn out to be my favorites in this environment. Sure enough, I favored the Cabs from Spring Mountain, Stag's Leap district, Calistoga (Fredriani Vineyard), and Howell Mountain (fruit-forward, big bold tannins, long finish). Surprisingly, I also really liked the Cab from the Truchard Vineyard in Carneros (I've always thought Carneros was too cold to grow Cab, but this barrell was a real crowd-pleaser with soft tannins and terrific berry fruit flavors).
I also loved the Cab Franc. I considered making a bottle of 100% Cab Franc, but I decided to be more adventurous. With a test tube, we each created our own individual blends and then poured them into a glass to see if it tasted as good as we had imagined. My blend included equal parts of Stag's Leap, Calistoga, Howell Mountain, Carneros and Cab Franc. It was absolutely delicious; I was bummed that I could only make one bottle of it!