The essence of barrel tasting is held, believe it or not, in the barrel. As the second weekend of the Wine Road’s 34th annual barrel tasting weekend nears, it is important to remember why the 100+ wineries are opening their doors to the prospective 20,000 ticket holders: to sell you the young wines that they are excited to share with you. With the right approach, barrel-tasting weekend can be a great success for both wineries and participants.
In France, a barrel tasting with a broker, retailer or critic, can make or break a wine. In Sonoma County, a successful marketing strategy for selling wine can make it worth your (and their) while. For example, Hawkes Winery in Alexander Valley, who hosted a barrel tasting gala on Friday night to kick off the tasting weekend, managed to nearly double their sales from last year while offering futures of their 2010 Stone, Red Winery, and Pyramid vineyard designate Cabernets.
That being said, barrel tasting may not be for everyone. Some 40+ wineries did not participate in 2012, citing that past years were not profitable enough considering the amount of wine they poured and the additional staffing needed. And after the first weekend, there is a bit of chitchat swirling among neighboring wineries regarding participating in 2013.
For many, barrel tasting has become an annual event for friends to gather and swirl and sip their way through some of Sonoma County’s finest vintners. Whether you’re a wine collector or just enjoying the benefits a wristband can bring, barrel tasting continues to offer an enjoyable time for participants. If you’re in the market for futures, this is a great opportunity to buy wines that are in limited production and may not be available to the public in the future, as well as other wines that might be offered at deeper discounts than usual.
This weekend should be about trying new wines and building relationships with the wineries you visit. So be a respectful taster; don’t get sloshed or be rude. The wineries are opening their doors to you and they are happy to answer any questions you have, and educate you on both the unfinished and bottled wines. If you’re just out to enjoy the weather and company of friends, and not looking to stock your wine cellar, that’s perfectly fine. But please be responsible and courteous.
Things to keep in mind as you venture out this weekend:
* There will be crowds.
* If you’re traveling by bus, make note of the wineries that will accept buses.
* Not all wineries are participating. Look at your map!
* Taste, don’t drink. Use the dump bucket. If you appear intoxicated, you will be cut off.
* Despite what the wineries’ posted hours are, most will close at 4 p.m.
* Finally, and most importantly, drink responsibly and designate a driver.
The final barrel tasting weekend takes place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 9 – 11. Tickets are $40 and available for purchase at any participating winery. For more info, visit: http://www.wineroad.com/
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