From Sebastopol to Cloverdale, Korbel to Fieldstone, the wineries of the Wine Road will play host to wine lovers eager to sample the next vintage before it reaches the bottle.
The Wine Road Barrel Tasting, now in its 35th year, is one of the most popular tasting events in North Sonoma, drawing literally thousands of visitors to the area over the two-weekend affair. This year it runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday on two successive weekends, March 1-3 and March 8-10, 11 to 4 each day.
Visitors to Sonoma County wineries have the opportunity to experience young, unfinished wines still in the barrel at over 100 area wineries. You can meet winemakers, sample wines from the barrel, and purchase “futures” at a substantial discount, taking a gamble that the juice they taste from the barrel will finish off its aging and create a value-added wine when it reaches the bottle.
It's usually red wines that shine at barrel tasting - the cabernets, zinfandels, and pinots that rank among Sonoma County's most sought-after wines. But whites too can tease their finished product - many chardonnays are aged for 8 to 12 months in oak, giving it that toasty character.
Enthusiasts who want to purchase the wine at the event can do so at a 25-30% markdown from estimated retail price, and receive their wine 12-18 months later. Some of the wines sampled throughout the weekend are produced in such limited quantities that they are sold exclusively as “futures.”
Last year's Barrel Tasting led to some ill-will among local merchants who felt the event was too popular, especially with a younger crowd than their own potential customers.
Although advance ticket sales for Barrel Tasting have ended, you can buy a glass and wristband at the door at any participating winery once the event begins. Cost is $50 Weekend Ticket, $40 Sunday Only. A $5 charge for Designate Driver is a donation to the Redwood Empire Food Bank.
Members of the Wine Road are located in the Dry Creek, Russian River, and Alexander valleys in Northern Sonoma County, California. A complete list of participating wineries is available at www.wineroad.com.
Large buses will not be allowed at this event due to limited space at many participating wineries. In order for wineries to be responsible hosts and provide a worthwhile experience, smaller groups are highly encouraged to attend.