Napa Valley cave tour and tasting at Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards
One of the many fun things to do on a wine country getaway is to take a Napa Valley cave tour. Many of the wineries that have caves, old and new, are finding that wine country travelers enjoy the uniqueness of sitting in a cave and tasting wine. Napa Valley wineries that have cave tours require an appointment and fees are generally $35 and upwards. The advantages of a Napa Valley cave tour for the wine traveler are several: They are for small groups only, guests have intimate wine tasting experiences, and sitting in a wine cave is very different from a regular tasting room experience.
We took just such a tour at Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards this past Thursday. The winery is tucked away in Conn Valley, far from the crowds on the Valley floor. It is one of the earlier wineries in the Valley, with a first vintage date of 1988. We had the good fortune to have our tour and tasting led by Anderson’s Conn Valley winemaker Rob Hunt. Rob has been the head winemaker at Conn Valley only since 2012. Rob has produced two wonderful white wines, but his 2012 and 2013 reds are sitting in the barrel aging and they are as he states, “my final test as the new winemaker at Conn Valley.”
Rob Hunt has one of the more fascinating stories on how he became a winemaker. He earned a degree in civil engineering and for several years worked in the Silicon Valley designing and implementing “clean rooms” for companies manufacturing computer chips. It did not take too many 70-hour work weeks to figure out there must be something better to do in life. Rob loved food and wine. Would he become a chef or a winemaker? He took a job at the Pine Ridge winery as a cellar rat and thus began his adventures in his winemaking career. His work at Pine Ridge, Ovid, Colgin, and Clos Pegase brought him many valuable experiences and encounters with renowned winemakers and growers. He has taken that knowledge and, with his scientific background, is forging his way to his own winemaking style.
We tasted seven wines and two barrel samples, all in the beautiful setting of Anderson’s Conn Valley’s cave. The 2013 Sauvignon Blanc exploded with beautiful flavors and had a delicious mouth feel and aftertaste. It is one of the higher-priced SB’s around at $40, but it is outstanding. The Pinot Noir from the Green Island area south of Napa was big for a Pinot, but lovely to taste. Then on to the signature wines of Anderson’s Conn Valley, the Cabernets and Bordeaux-style wines. 2011 was a rough harvest for Cabernet, but you would not know this while tasting the 2011 Estate Reserve Cabernet. Rob says this wine will age into elegance and be a standout. Another wonderful wine is the 2011 Right Bank, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, made in the style of the famous St. Emilion winery, Chateau Cheval Blanc. It’s an earthy wine reminiscent of the old country. This wine was our favorite of the tasting. We ended our cave tour and tasting with a barrel sample of 2012 estate Cabernet. This wine has a few months left in the barrel before bottling, and then it will sit in the bottle for another year before release. What an amazing wine! The fruit is abundant, solid, and complex. Rob thinks the 2012 vintage will go down as one of the best, not just for Cabernet but other varietals as well.
To get to Anderson’s Conn Valley, take the Silverado Trail, and watch for Howell Mountain Road just south of Deer Park Road. Drive about a mile up Howell Mountain Road and take Conn Valley Road for another one-and-a-half miles. Take Rossi Road on the left and look for the signs to the winery. The Cave tour and tasting are daily at 10 am, noon, and 2 pm. The tasting fee is $45 per person.
Two other nearby wineries worthy of a tasting and tour are Buehler Vineyards and Amizetta winery. To get to these two wineries continue along Conn Valley Road 1.5 miles and turn left on Greenfield Road. Buehler is about half a mile ahead on Greenfield and Amizetta another mile beyond that. Amizetta has a barrel cave but Buehler does not. Both of these wineries, along with Anderson’s Conn Valley, require appointments in advance. Happy wine travels!