We are just a few days away from the Taste of Alexander Valley, a fun filled weekend, I am very much looking forward. Thirty-five Wineries, many without tasting rooms, or open to public are pairing their wines, with gourmet food, and in many cases entertainment. Reviewing the list last night, planning my route, was making my mouth water – the wineries have really outdone themselves.
Planning Your Stops
If you have read my articles before on events, you will recall a consistent theme of making a plan. Taste Alexander Valley has a little more leisurely pace than some of the Sonoma events where you have to choose from 100+ wineries in a few days, but I have always found the event more enjoyable if I take a few minutes with a map, the list of offers by winery and make an ‘A’ list of those I don’t want to miss. You have unique opportunities, such as “Outlaw 7″ seven very small wineries, you may not come across otherwise.
I find it fun to also have a bit of a theme for the weekend; is my main focus this time exploring wineries I have never been too? Maybe its on a hunt for a certain type of varietal (wine type). Maybe mostly visit favorites. Maybe the music and/or food offers are the theme. I often do one theme one day, and one the other.
My two personal quests for this event: (1) visit as many new wineries as I can, as I have tended to focus on my faves like Stryker Sonoma, Trione and a few others repeatedly, more from habit and friendship. (2) My love affair with Rhone wines (22 wonderful varietals from the Rhone region of France) after attending Hospice du Rhone remains at an all time high, so I will be seeking these out. I have already marked producers of Syrah, Grenache, Viognier; I am hoping to find some other Rhone varietals and blends. (Petite Sirah doesn’t count sorry.) Shout out to me if you have one, or know of one!
Print out the two page overview, look at the map make some notes, give it some thought, I promise you’ll find the investment worthwhile instead of randomly driving and stopping.
The Alexander Valley website also has a great sorting tool where you can search by wines produced, amenities and more.
As a near professional eventer, I have a standard list of things I load up to have on hand:
- Clothing: Yes, wear clothes. Plan on layers, the day starts cool and warms as it goes. Most events seem focused on outside, but if you spend anytime in a barrel room or cellar, the temperature will be 58 degrees, you’ll want a layer to put on. Weather info here.
- Credit Card: This is a great time to buy wine; some of these wineries don’t have tasting rooms, or limited distribution. If you find something you like, buy a bottle or 3. Many wineries will be offering sales on releases and cases, which I will feature in a article tomorrow. Many of these wineries are (very) small business and family owned, and they aren’t non profits, they stay in business via wine sales. These events don’t generate profit, they actually cost the winery money unless sales are good. Please support small local business and artisans.
- Cooler. I actually bring two. One small one with soft drinks, water, caffeine sources, fruit, and a second larger one for wine. There is no better way to ruin wine then to leave it in a 75+ degree car for the afternoon.
- Spit Cup: Most consumers are not going to do this, but I am relentless on sharing how this changed my tasting experience. If you become a hard core wine taster, you eventually have no choice to learn this; taste 50+ wines in an hour and you learn why the big red plastic cups are prevalent at industry events. It takes as little as 6-8 oz of wine to impact your sensory analysis and judgement, and move from wine tasting, to drinking. Nothing wrong with the latter, if being responsible, but it depends on your goal. Tasting room staff should generally recognize a more serious wine taster and buyer, and you usually also get more interesting pours. At a minimum, especially in the first few hours as you warm up, make use of the dump bucket – its not an insult to take a taste, and dump out the rest.
- Sunny Disposition: You are in gorgeous wine country, having fun. Smile, relax, breathe the great air and be one with the vineyard. If it gets busy, go easy on that staff (often volunteers) helping out. Saturday afternoon is generally the busiest time, so I plan accordingly and seek out the less beaten paths.
For participating wineries, the article I wrote a few months ago may be of interest: Wine Road Barrel Tasting & Social Media – Optimizing Your Event
Still haven’t bought a ticket yet? Don’t wait, the Friday night opening Gala has already sold out. You can save $20 buy buying online in advance, AND use promo code FBOOK.
I hope that is helpful, don’t hesitate to post questions, suggestions, or comments – I want to hear from you!
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow (or sign up for email updates) for a special article on Sales Promotions by participating wineries.