Barrel Tasting – an event in North Sonoma rich in history. In fact this is the 34th anniversary.
I look forward with great anticipation to the six days of Barrel Tasting, across two weekends, as do many of the 20,000+ attendees, many of whom fly in from all over the country to taste and stock up on wine, both bottled and futures.
At the end of this article is a chance to win a pair of tickets – 4 winners – so read on!
Barrel Tasting Is For Serious Wine Lovers
I have written numerous articles about Barrel Tasting over the last 3 years, and will admit I am a staunch advocate.
It’s an event that can garner complaints from some locals, jaded hospitality staff, and the occasional cheap Media sensationalism title to get a reader, but the reality is it’s a serious wine tasting & buying event for many, not a party.
The few stories that are bound to happen when 20,000 people go wine tasting, shouldn’t be overshadowed by the people who drive & fly in, from all corners of the US to taste & buy wine. Lets focus on those.
Toss Away Your Stereotypes & Get Some Perspective
Last year, I wrote two articles with dozens of people posting their positive comments on this event, and many who wrote to me as well. Generally, other than inter-industry chatter, consumers are quiet on blogs, but in this case over 40 came out to say something.
Everyone has a bad story about this event, but sadly what’s not shared enough are the many great ones, which last years comments highlighted for me, including one reader who wrote me, asking I not stereotype ” ALL buses as bad.” She was part of a group that every year rents a bus and drives several hours North, and everyone on the bus are serious tasters, all of whom leave with cases of wine. I stood corrected, and perhaps lost a regular reader.
These letters and comments made me realize just how many people really enjoy this event, with comments like:
“I LOVE Barrel Tasting, it’s a chance to get together with friends, who have varied experience with wine”
“This was our third year barrel tasting and we pretty much have it down to a science with strategic routes for Friday and Saturday, while Sunday is more relaxed meandering around downtown Healdsburg.”
“I had an excellent experience during weekend one of Barrel Tasting. The future wines were fun to try and then comparing them to a finished product was an experience that led to the purchase of so many cases of wine that my hybrid was doing a wheelie on the drive home to Berkeley!”
“Barrel tasting has become an annual event for my friends and I. In fact, we collectively have several wine club memberships as a result of Wine Road events.”
“I haven’t missed Barrel Tasting in years. I started going when I was a student at SSU. I got so hooked on the event that I decided to invite my cousins and make a weekend out of it. We use it as a bonding weekend to try fabulous new wines and taste old favorites. I love Barrel Tasting because it brings wine lovers together for one reason. I always come away with new stories, great memories, and a great new wine collection. I never leave a winery empty-handed and often come home with cases. I have also purchased futures and especially love going back when they are ready to try my favorites again!”
Just a small selection of the 40+ comments received.
Stop The Whining About Wine-ing
I love the wine business and wineries, but some it seems are never happy. “Its been dead for weeks.” “This event had no traffic.” “Oh my GOD, There were TOO MANY people.”
So which is it? It’s interesting for me to observe, often first hand, wineries that make a huge success, year over year, of the Wine Road’s three events, including this one, and those that decline every year, and bitch & moan in the process.
Having worked closely with some, (and been on the other side of the barrel) its all about attitude, preparation, and outlook. Is every person who comes into your tasting room an opportunity to join your wine club, or just some pain in the ass who drank too much that is in your way until 5 pm comes? You decide. I can tell you those who view it the former, always lead in sales results.
I have written repeatedly about the importance of the tasting room experience and its impact on wine sales. It’s as important (if not more important) than the quality of the wine. The winery with a great hospitality experience and mediocre wine will outsell the winery with the reverse, every time.
Healdsburg can be a bit crazy Saturday afternoon I know. Our hotels, shops, and restaurants are also all full. If you can’t appreciate what this does for our tax base and smile just a bit, consider it a great weekend to get out of town.
What Barrel Tasting IS:
- A chance to taste some great wines.
- A chance to learn about wine that isn’t done yet, and the wine making process.
- A chance to buy great wine and save some dollars, both in futures and finished wine sales.
I have more detailed information and suggestions in articles: My thoughts on Wine Road Barrel Tasting and Barrel Tasting Insights – What am I Tasting & Do I Get Splinters? What should I buy?
As always, I suggest you print out the Wine Road program, and make a plan. Some wineries participate early on Friday, this is an EXCELLENT opportunity for more attention and less traffic. Some wineries also only participate the first weekend.
What To Bring:
- The program guide, with your plan: http://www.wineroad.com/media/originals/112-BT%20program%202012.pd
- A cooler to put your wine purchases in. Yes its going to be 70 degrees. Bring a cooler. Heat kills wine.
- Some food items. Since much of Dry Creek and Russian River is sparse in dining options, bring a picnic, a blanket and take a meal break. Or make your plan around dining somewhere in Geyserville, Healdsburg, or Santa Rosa. This is a day to be enjoyed, stop and smell the roses and eat lunch – its will enhance your day and experience. Its not a contest to see how many wineries you can visit.
- Common sense. If you hate crowds and/or want to visit popular wineries, make your plan accordingly. Go to less busy areas like Geyserville & Russian River during peak times, and hit Dry Creek, Healdsburg, and popular wineries on Friday, first thing Saturday or Sunday morning.
Ok, Can I Win Tickets Already?
This Thursday Mar 1st, at 6 p.m. we will draw 4 pairs of winners for the Second weekend (March 9-11).
To win one of two ways (enter both!)
(1) Go to THIS BLOG post (not here):
Tell me in comments any one of the following:
- Have you attended Barrel Tasting before, and what is your favorite part of the event? OR
- Have you ever purchased futures before? Where? OR
- If you won tickets, what winery do you want to go to most, and why? (Please make sure the winery you pick is participating, the list is here.
(2) Sign up for Simple Hedonisms email updates in the Blog top right corner.
Its secure, private, and simply emails you when we have new articles. Nothing else. (Important – you will receive a confirmation email to complete your subscription, you must finish that step to be eligible.)
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and giving away some tickets! See you on the Wine Road – Heaven Condensed!
Opinions are solely those of the Author, and not Patch, The Wine Road, or any other organization.