The process of wine becoming wine

Barrel tasting with a wine club

Barrel tastings in St. Helena, CA

Many wine clubs hold barrel tastings, where you can try partially aged wine. The fermentation itself is already complete, and was done in a vat. Then the wine was transferred to a barrel for the aging process. In the case of red wine, the wine turns browner with age. The aroma becomes less fresh, and the bitterness of phenols is replaced by a more mellow flavor. The oak of the barrels secretes vanillin into the wine, adding to its complexity.

Barrel tastings near St. Helena

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, holds tastings in its barrel caves, where current releases and library wines may be sampled. Tastings are $65, but one tasting fee can be waived by joining their wine club or making a $100 purchase.

Try a recent Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a complex wine grown from numerous clonal varieties of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. An older Estate Reserve Cab, 2007, was formed by a cold and dry early and middle year, with a sudden burst of heat around Labor Day that helped the grapes produce more sugars. The result was a dark ruby red wine with an aroma of dark chocolate, roses and cigar box. Its flavor is balanced between fruit, oak and acid, with sweet tannins and hints of coffee and chocolate cake. Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards has been owned and operated by the Anderson family since 1983. Anderson’s wines are sold online and in five locations in Napa Valley, and many other locations nationwide.

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Time running out for a barrel tasting

Barrel tastings in St. Helena, CAWine club barrel tastings

Wine clubs often hold barrel tastings in the spring or summer. If you want to go to one, start planning now. The difference between a St. Helena barrel tasting and a regular wine tasting is that the wines all come straight from the barrel. Here you can try last year’s Cab at its earliest stage, long before they put it in the bottle. You might also get the chance to buy a wine future. Two rules of wine-tasting etiquette are not to drink too much (and try to eat a little something) and to behave as if you’re at an upscale cocktail party, not a bar.

Barrel tastings at a vineyard near St. Helena

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, holds tastings in its barrel caves, where current releases and library wines may be sampled and visitors can learn all about the process of making and storing the wine. Tastings are $65, but one tasting fee can be waived by joining their wine club or making a $100 purchase. One wine you might want to try is the Right Bank. Their first Right Bank, the dark ruby 2008, has an aroma rich with mocha, cedar, blackberries, black pepper and plums and a rich, full palate of chocolate, ripe raspberries and crushed rocks integrated with sweet tannins. It also has an excellent texture and a silky finish that lingers on the palate for several minutes. Try their latest Right Bank today.