Disneyland for wine geeks

The Wine Bloggers Conference was filled with highlights, but one experience stood out in my mind as the best of the best: Conn Creek’s AVA Room. Let me tell you why.

I’d heard about the AVA Room a month or two before the conference and had really wanted to check it out on my next trip up to Napa, but work got crazy and I never had a chance — so I was ecstatic when our bus pulled up at Conn Creek. We didn’t have time for the full experience, but it was a hell of a taste.

Conn Creek’s AVA Room

The room has nineteen barrels of wine. Fifteen are single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from all over Napa Valley; each of the other four barrels contains one of the classic Bordeaux blending varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot). Each of the Cabs is accompanied by a photo and description of its vineyard of origin along with (this is so cool — yes, I am a nerd) a soil sample. Basically, you taste them all.

Normally, visitors take part in a guided barrel tasting, then create their own Bordeaux blend, bottle it and take it home. Our experience was more casual: We were there for dinner and were sort of left to our own devices, so we concocted our blends in wine glasses (meaning that, sadly, Cuvée Liz lives on only in my memory). Still, although it was just a taste of the full experience, it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It was especially fascinating to compare the Cabs to one another and to see how each addition changes the character of your custom blend. I could have spent all day there and never gotten bored. (I think I mentioned that I am a nerd?)

This is the kind of experience I’d like to see more wineries offer: hands-on education, the chance to put yourself in the winemaker’s shoes for a few hours. Perhaps it won’t appeal to the average tasting room visitor, but if you’re fascinated by the process of winemaking and you find yourself in Napa Valley, you may find the AVA Room worth a visit.

Details: Reservations required. $95 per person (wine club members save $30). Offered Thursday through Tuesday at 10:30 and 2. Photos courtesy of Conn Creek.