Barrel Tasting’s 40th Anniversary

Rebecca Germolus on Feb 7, 2017

Every year we look forward to Barrel Tasting along the Wine Road, and this year is extra special because it’s Barrel Tasting’s 40th anniversary.

March 3-5 & March 10-12, 2017
11:00 am – 4:00 pm each day

Welcome to Barrel Tasting along the Wine Road sign

When I talk about how much we enjoy the Barrel Tasting weekends, I’ve gotten some pushback from folks who think it is too crowded too expensive or just not what it used to be. Let’s take a closer look at these claims and offer some perspective.

Change Happens

First of all, things change, especially an event that’s been around for 40 years. It’s been a very long time since my first Barrel Tasting weekend, but I remember it well. There were only a handful of wineries participating and very limited information about who was pouring or what they were pouring. There are now over 100 wineries participating at the first weekend, and more than 75 at the second weekend. Also, it is no longer a two-day event, it is now a six-day event—two weekends, Friday through Sunday. And, you can now get complete details about the event online.

As for the cost, have you been wine-tasting lately? A day’s worth of tasting fees can run in excess of $100 or more, depending on where you go, the type of tastings you select, and how many tasting rooms you visit. Barrel Tasting advanced tickets (ends 2-27-17) are $50 (plus tax and fees) for three days of tasting. Even if you only go one day it’s a bargain, but if you go all three days, the cost is less than $20 a day. There are also Sunday-only tickets and designated driver tickets. So yes, it does cost more than it used to, but then again, tasting fees didn’t exist 40 years ago, so that another change that’s has happened over time.

Happy Barrel TastersExplore the Roads Less Traveled

Now to address the strongest comment from Barrel Tasting naysayers—that the event is too crowded. Well, only if you don’t plan out your tasting route before you go to avoid crowds. Here are a few tips that will help you enjoy the event more.

  • Plan your route before your tasting journey begins. Of course, be flexible if the need arises, but if you have a route mapped out the weekend will go smoother.
  • Visit areas or wineries that are most popular on either Friday or Sunday, especially Sunday morning. Saturday typically draws more people to high-profile venues.
  • There are many excellent wineries scattered along the Wine Road, so visit some of the outlying wineries on Saturday when certain other areas have the highest concentration of wine tasters. You’ll discover some new gems off the beaten path for there are many of them.
  • offers several tools to help you plan your Barrel Tasting path. Here are a few links to help you out:
    • About – gives details about Barrel Tasting, purchasing tickets, guidelines, and more
    • Participating Wineries – lists all the participating wineries, whether they are open for Barrel Tasting on Friday, and if they are only during the first weekend
    • Event Map – an interactive map that shows all the participating wineries, lets you check the ones you want to visit, organize them in a logical order, and then lets you either download and print your personalized map or email it to yourself or both. It is a great tool to help you find your way and keep you on track. With so many wineries to choose from, having a plan in place is a sound idea.
    • Event Program – gives details on what barrel samples will be offered at each winery, and also indicates if the winery is open on Friday for Barrel Tasting and if they are only participating the first weekend.
      With all these tools, developing a tasting route and visiting some of the roads less traveled, but equally beautiful, is a snap.
images of Roads less traveled...along the Wine Road
Roads less traveled…along the Wine Road

Here are just a few more tips that will help you enjoy the weekend even more.

  • Be sure to pack a picnic or some snacks, or plan to stop for lunch. This is not a food event.
  • Stay hydrated! I also bring extra water along even though there is bottled water available at every winery.
  • If several tasters are travelling in the same car, bring along an empty wine box to store your wine glasses between each stop. Put wine charms on each glass so you can keep track of whose is whose.

Enjoy wine directly from barrel poured by winemakers or the cellar staff

Barrel Tasting has many great aspects to it, but my favourite part is to be able to have a winemaker pour tastes of young wines directly from the barrel, and then buy these wines as futures, generally at a nice discount. When those wines are bottled and ready to be released, you can either visit the wineries again to pick them up or have them shipped to you. But, we’ll dive into the beauty of wine futures in two weeks when I return for more updates along the Wine Road.

Come explore the Wine Road for Barrel Tasting’s 40th anniversary. I hope to see you along the Wine Road.

Happy Sipping!

#WRBarrelTasting2017 #WineRoad @TheWineRoad

Posted by Rebecca Germolus

Rebecca Germolus, co-owner of Maximum Value Marketing, loves Sonoma County and playing along the Wine Road. Rebecca daily immerses herself in wine country by providing cost-effective marketing and writing solutions to wineries and restaurants.

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