Joseph Phelps Barrel Aging Experience-

If you’re looking for more than just a typical wine tasting, Joseph Phelps has quite a few “wine experiences,” which you can book ahead for. Last time we did the
Insignia Blending, which was both educational and fun. This time we opted for the Barrel Aging Experience, which was again both educational and fun! It wasn’t quite what we expected, as we were thinking it would be us in the barrel room sampling wines from different barrels. Well, it wasn’t quite like that, but, I can say

We then went through our wines, which consisted of four tastings of the 2013 Cabernet which came from four different barrels. They consisted of Neutral Oak, French Oak, and American Oak, at various toast levels. It’s amazing what the difference in taste is! I find that I prefer French oak

2015 Fogdog Rosé (bonus pour)
2014 Viognier (bonus pour)

What we bought:
2014 Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena
2015 Fogdog Rosé

Oh, and if you are interested in how Nadalie (the cooperage that Phelps' uses) makes their barrels, you can watch the video below, which is similar, albeit shorter, to the narrated one that we

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Backus Vineyard (bonus pour)

TIME VISITED: 9/04/2016, 1:00:00 PM

we were not disappointed in the experience!

After finishing our wine, we had an aroma test!  There were twelve different black (so that you couldn't see what was inside) wine glasses filled with a different substance, that had an aspect of what a barrel and it’s toasting (or lack of of) brings to the table in aroma. We had a diagram that we needed to match each glass to the aroma description. It was a LOT harder than it sounds. For me, I definitely struggled more with the earthier aromas, like mushroom and ash. Coffee, cedar, and anise were more obvious. Anyways, I won’t bore you with my

mediocre nose issues, but I will tell you that it was worth doing. A little on the pricey side, although it really isn't all that more than doing a regular tasting on their terrace; plus you'll still get a chance

watched at our Barrel Aging Experience.

There was a small group of us in a private room; this was the same room that the aforementioned Insignia Blending Seminar took place. Our wine host, Stephen, started us off with a short, yet highly informative video on how barrels are made.

with a medium plus toast. Who knew?

Quite the extensive process! The barrels are made with either American or French Oak, and then there is a scale of “toasting” that you can put on each wine barrel. The process of toasting consists of holding the barrel over an open flame. The purpose of toasting is to mellow the tannins in the wood.  It can also change the flavors in the wood, which in turn will develop the flavor profile of the wine. Think of the difference between an untoasted marshmallow and a toasted one. Not just the color, but how different it is in texture and flavor after being toasted. … it’s kinda like that. After each barrel is finished, it’s pressure tested for leaks. If there is even the slightest leak, the holes need to be repaired, and then the barrel is pressure tested again to make sure it’s 100% perfect. I can honestly say I have a greater respect for cooperages than I did before, and can also understand why the barrels are so expensive!

What we tasted for the Barrel Aging Experience:

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon in:
Neutral Oak
French Oak, Medium Plus Toast/Tight Grain
American Oak, Medium Plus Toast
French Oak, Heavy Toast/Tight Grain

What we tasted in addition:

2014 Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena
2014 Chardonnay, Pastorale Vineyard
2012 Pinot Noir, Pastorale Vineyard
2013 Insignia

to taste all of Phelps' current releases, as it is included in the experience.

If you’re making a destination vacation to Napa Valley, I’d say it’s worth setting the time and money aside. Don’t forget all wine experiences require advanced booking, and tend to fill up quickly.

You can go to this link for a list of the experiences and tastings.