Additional articles BY COURTNEY COCHRAN

Multi-Tasking Tasting Room

Napa's best one-stop sipping spot

When I stumbled into downtown Napa's Vintner's Collective after a long day of tasting I knew right away I'd made a huge mistake. The sleek, loft-like space offered a welcome change from the more traditional tasting rooms I'd been visiting, plus an impressive lineup of wines to sample from some 18 different boutique producers. My mistake, you see, wasn't in GOING to Vintner's Collective, it was in going there LAST.  

Colorful History

Located in a stylishly refurbished 130-year-old building that over the years has played home to a brewery and a brothel (including a stint when it housed both at the same time!), the aptly-dubbed "Multi-winery Tasting Room" has become a popular destination for visitors looking for an alternative to the usual wine country tasting experience. Especially for those with a limited amount of time to taste, the Collective is an easy way to sample more than 60 hard-to-find wines under one roof.    

That is, of course, assuming you've got the stamina to power through that many tastes!

Faced with an impressive line-up of far more wines that I could possibly tackle under the circumstances, I resigned myself to trying just a few and vowed to come back again soon, armed next time with a stronger appetite for sampling. Here are a few of the reasons I recommend that you, too, try to fit in a visit next time you're in Napa:

Fabulous Selection
The Collective's 18 wineries release extremely limited amounts of wine, including some whose total case production clocks in at fewer than 100. For each winery, the Collective functions as its main tasting room - meaning that you can't taste the wines anywhere else. This all adds up to make the Collective one of the top spots in the valley for sampling limited-production wines.

How It Works: The Collective is literally a landlord to 18 separate, fully-bonded tasting rooms. Look closely at the tasting counter once you walk inside and you'll see that it's partitioned into 18 different "slots," each of which is rented by a different winery tenant. Over the years, successful tenants have graduated to owning their own off-site tasting rooms; notable graduates include critically acclaimed Patz & Hall and Judd's Hill wineries.

Personalized Service
Because the spot ascribes to the Baskin-Robbins model ("so many flavors, so little time"), the staff at the Collective customizes each tasting to suit guests' varying preferences. Do you only drink whites? Have a thing for Zins? Looking for two tastes, or don't want fewer than ten? Not a problem: The spot's knowledgeable staff makes sure you get an assortment that fits your bill, every time.

Pros of DIY Tasting: This choose-your-own-adventure approach tends to spark conversation amongst tasters, something you don't often find at other tasting rooms. Kibbitzing with a lively couple about the pros and cons of ordering a certain Sauvignon Blanc versus a more daring Pinot Gris during my visit, I realized that I'd rarely had so much interaction (or fun) while tasting in wine country

Still More Personal Service
Folks looking for an even more tailored experience can sign up for a private tasting on the Collective's spacious, well-lit second floor (which used to house the building's brothel, natch). Here, participants are treated to in-depth information about a broad selection of wines while enjoying small bites from an antipasto platter or cheese plate.

Insider Tip: And speaking of the second floor, when the weather's nice, there's no better place in Napa to soak in some rays than on the sunny patio just off the second floor. Just make sure you don't arrive as the sun - and your appetite for tasting - is already setting.

When & Where to Go
Open Wednesday-Monday from 11am to 6pm, and Tuesdays by appointment. Private tastings are available daily by appointment in the airy upstairs lounge for $50 per person.

Vintner's Collective, 1245 Main St., Napa, CA 94559 Tel (707) 255-7150

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