Bill and Kathleen Collins had a vision that they knew would require nearly flawless execution. Back in 1973, there were certainly people making wine in Napa Valley, but while the soil and climate of the area seemed ideal, the idea that a living could be scratched out in the California wine industry was far from a sure thing.
Recently retired from the Navy, the Collins’s selected a piece of land on the banks of the winding Conn Creek at the intersection of the Sage Canyon Road and the Silverado Trail in what would later become the Rutherford AVA. They released their first vintage in 1974, with wines made from grapes purchased from nearby Ehlers Estate. The wines were excellent, and Bill set about building a winery mostly by hand. It took years, but in 1979 he finished the winery and tasting room that still stand in the same location today.
Bill and Kathleen’s vision for their winery was to establish a Bordeaux house in Napa, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon, and that vision persists to this day. Conn Creek does something perhaps no other winery does, offering a litany of amazing terroir-driven 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignons, fourteen in total, hailing from 14 of the 16 nested AVAs within the Napa Valley. Each of these powerful, age-worthy Cabernets has a genuine sense of place, and Conn Creek may be the only place in the valley where a person can truly taste through almost all of what Napa Valley has to offer in one sitting.
In 1986, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates of Washington State recognized the excellence of what was happening in Napa Valley and purchased Conn Creek from the Collins family. Since that time, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates also acquired Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Patz & Hall, a testament to their recognition of some of California’s very best producers.
Today, a visit to Conn Creek will involve tasting through some extraordinary expressions of Napa terroir and even blending them if one so chooses. In a special room lined with barrels full of single-AVA Cabernet Sauvignon, visitors can invest time making their own blend of Napa Cab, which can then be labeled, corked, and taken home. For the lover of Napa Cabernet and the die-hard Bordeaux-phile alike, Conn Creek is a must-visit destination.
Much has changed in Napa in the fifty years since Bill and Kathleen Collins set out to execute their vision on the banks of Conn Creek. Though for all that has changed and all the time that has gone by, Conn Creek’s commitment to crafting extraordinary, terroir-driven Bordeaux varietals in Napa is as steadfast as ever. For all Conn Creek has to offer, it should be at the top of anyone’s list of wineries to visit the next time they’re tasting wine in Napa Valley.