Sonoma County, Spring 2020
43rd Barrel Tasting Weekends Celebrates Winemaking with Exclusive Access to Cellars
It will be an exciting year of Wine Road events from Barrel Tasting Weekends in March to the Wine & Food Affair next fall.
Anyone who visits wineries knows the feeling when he learns he can venture into the barrel room for a special tasting, an opportunity to go behind the scenes and sample a new vintage before almost anyone else. Most barrel cellars evoke awe in the visitor, stacks of gorgeous oak barrels that seem to go on forever. Given their aura, many wineries have recently moved the barrel cellar into the limelight, adorning the walls with gallery-quality art, adding an exclusive dining area and lighting the entire area so that each guest feels she has found her way onto a secret movie set where alchemy exists.
The 43rd Annual Barrel Tasting Weekends (March 6-8 & 13-15) invites you to enjoy not only the tasting room but also barrel room access for the weekend. Over 80 wineries from Sonoma County’s Wine Road that “winds” through the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys celebrate great wines in their infancy. One wristband per weekend allows you to design your exact tasting itinerary. Researching your winery visits on the comprehensive Wine Road website is part of the fun. A 21+ event, there is also a designated driver wristband available. (Designated driver proceeds are donated to the Redwood Empire Food Bank.)
These “futures” are often available for purchase, usually in half and full cases and often at discounted prices, a great way to bank on a particularly promising vintage, especially after increasing one’s knowledge with direct consultation from esteemed winemakers. Repeat attendees often collect their previous “futures” at the following year’s event or plan a special Sonoma County getaway to collect their wine during a barrel release party. Because many of these labels sell out, Barrel Tasting Weekends are the only time you can guarantee your favorite vintage finds its way to your cellar.
“Comparing barrel samples to bottled wines is the most educational thing for a wine lover,” says Rick Moshin, winemaker at Moshin Vineyards. “We pour both a barrel sample and bottled vintage from the same vineyard over Barrel Tasting weekend. Barrel sampling is an exercise in predicting the future. Showing the previous vintage bottled wines trains the pallet on what to expect of that particular vineyard. Past and future side-by-side.”
The 80 participants demonstrate the cooperative spirit of Sonoma County’s wineries. Baldassari Wines and Coyote Sonoma are two of the newest wineries that will welcome guests in for unprecedented visits to their barrel cellar. Though the first weekends in March are always about the barrels, some of the wineries also offer small bites of food as part of the experience.
READY TO POUR
Winemakers are often most comfortable in their personal “lab,” sharing ‘insider knowledge’ about what makes an exceptional grape year, intriguing challenges they have faced and other anecdotes from the study and science of winemaking. These alchemists explain how they make certain decisions, assess futures and generally detail the how and why of what they are doing. This opportunity to learn exactly what goes into a specific wine builds our own special relationship with a label, having heard the exact decisions from selecting the grapes to how long a certain crop sits. A barrel cellar discussion is like attending a “palate-on” tutorial, among the rarest events for visitors to any at any wine estate.
“I love educating and sharing with customers the youthful wines out of barrel,” says Armida Winery winemaker Brandon Lapides. “There is always an excitement and exuberance with tasting the newest vintage. But, the educational aspect is key. We encourage our guests to taste the current releases in our tasting room of the same barrel samples. This allows guests to understand the effects of aging and vintage differences of the wines, and the is the true goal of Barrel Tasting Weekend.”
The Winemaker Breakfast takes this conversation to a more exclusive level still. Held each Saturday morning, just 20 guests join 3 winemakers for a private breakfast. The casual breakfast is followed by a Q&A with the select winemakers who welcome all questions about the process of creating extraordinary wines.
Always a lively affair, the March 7th Winemaker Breakfast will be held at Cast Wines in Dry Creek, Merriam Vineyards hosts breakfast on March 14th. Both breakfasts will run from 9:30-10:45.
Whether you’re a seasoned oenophile or nurturing your growing interest in fine wine, this special opportunity to attend the Barrel Tasting Weekends along Sonoma County’s fabled Wine Road will enhance your understanding and appreciation of each grape’s journey from vineyard to bottle. In-depth winemaker conversations further enhance your experience, creating talking points about your “futures” and other winemaking lore for years to come. Visit the Wine Road website to secure your tickets and start making your barrel cellar selections.
“Comparing barrel samples to bottled wines is the most educational thing for a wine lover."
Get your tickets
an unforgettable weekend
The barrel cellar has long served as the winemaker’s office, the environment where critical decisions are implemented based largely on a personal assessment of each vintage. Perhaps he or she will blend varietals, increase the aging process or answer other questions that reveal the ultimate fate of a specific wine. The chance to go inside the winemaker’s mind is considered by many repeat attendees to be the pinnacle experience of the weekends.
What excites you the most about wine tasting:
A: Hearing the story behind the wine
B: Meeting the winemaker
C: Learning to pick up flavor notes
tHANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING IN OUR SURVEY.