Week One of Wine Road Barrel Tasting was a big success, based my observations and talking with a fair number of wineries. This organization continues to amaze me with what does with transformation of industry events. Spoiler alert – read all the way through this – we are giving away 3 pairs of passes for Weekend Two!
There was some level of anticipation – would the negative perception of this as a drunk-fest persist? Would the actions being taken by the Wine Road have any impact? Or would it be a big success and continue its gradual transformation of a serious event focused on futures. Read on….
To my surprise, my midweek article ‘My thoughts on Wine Road Barrel Tasting’ was a runaway success. I do a lot of these types of articles and contests, and they typically get some response and hits, but nothing spectacular. This post got 20+ comments, including after the contest was over. People wrote way more than normal.
This article is now #1 rank, surpassing my prized ‘Shipping Included’ – the Future of Direct to Consumer?’ which was a featured blog and #2 read by Winebusiness.com (and still ranks #4 read in the last 30 days!) as well as my article ‘A New Beginning & Old World Renaissance? ‘ which until recently had ranked #1.
Yet this post jumped over them all, and had little to do with the contest – I give away tickets, often more pricey, all the time.
How would it all pan out? Ticket sales were a record high, more wineries than ever were offering future sales, and consumers seemed excited, and not focused on partying. But one never knows until showtime.
Observations and Interviews
I went out on Friday afternoon and Saturday, and monitored the Twitter #WRBT hashtag heavily on Sunday. I spoke to many winery operations personally, as well as Facebook and Twitter updates.
Friday: Traffic and sales were much higher than many wineries expected, especially new participants. I actually expected this a bit, at least the sales part. People going on Friday are taking a day off, hoping to avoid the crowds and are serious wine buyers. Wineries reported greater than expected sales, both of finished wines and futures. Most I talked too were very pleased.
Saturday: The Weather held out and people were out in droves. By mid afternoon people were reporting Healdsburg and Dry Creek to be extremely crowded with tons of cars, busses and people. This is normal, see my suggestions for itenary planning a bit later. Most wineries reported lower sales than Friday, but were pleased, and year over year results seemed good. I made it back to Russian River Valley for the afternoon to avoid the masses. Crowds were good at all wineries, but not so much to impact my experience in any way.
Sunday: It did rain as predicted, and the impact seemed to be mixed. Russian River Valley wineries again seemed pleased. Some new participants had expected Sunday to be the busiest day, but my observation for many 2 day events is that Sunday is typically slower, and for most this panned out. Several Healdsburg and Dry Creek wineries were complaining on Twitter about lack of people, and had the time to be scouring for people to invite. Smaller RRV wineries still seemed quite pleased with people and sales. A very large winery did report sales about as a regular weekend, but agreed to the possible merits of exposure and the difference this event might be for small versus a large national brand.
Barrel tasting is the main wine tasting event my wife and I attend. We have been going for about 5 years now. Each year it gets better and better and I love all the things I have learned and still learning. Our group has evolved to about 12-15 so we had stuck to the bigger wineries. Last weekend was an absolute awesome time. We found some smaller wineries that would accommodate our group and finally made my first “future” purchase.
Money has been tight over the past few years so buying a future case of one wine had never been really option. Like many, we would buy a bottle or two from different places. I’m so excited to have gone to Old World and they allowed a future mixed case which was perfect for my wife and I, as she is not a big red drinker. So I order a mix and can’t wait to pick it up when it’s ready. For our group, This year was had the most amount of futures that were ordered. We ordered 12-15 cases of futures and took home close to another 7 between us all!!!!
Can’t wait to go next weekend with a small group of 4!!! Finally going to hit up all the wineries we haven’t been able to go to.
Love it! And Kudos to you Jason, and your friends, for your support and openness.
My Prediction for Next Week:
Being the second weekend, traffic should dip some, but similar patterns predicted. Friday will be less busy than previous Friday, but again be a good sales day to serious buyers and enthusiasts, Saturday a good traffic day but more looky-loos, and Sunday slower but decent sales. No rain is forecasted for all weekend, so that should help. Let’s hope too many people didn’t give up wine for Lent. (If you spit it doesn’t count.)
I want to add a quick comment about buses. I got an email from a reader who was perhaps offended (they won’t reply) about my previous article and comments on people drinking in buses. I by no means meant to imply that all people on buses are drinking on the bus. I heard from a number that, like this person, come from a remote location, and are serious buyers. If any are offended by that implication, my apologies. Its broadcast everywhere that buses aren’t welcome at many wineries – that’s more from a lack of ability of a tiny winery being able to handle 30 extra people at once. Kudos to a number of buses I heard call in to ask permission, and were usually accommodated because it was scheduled. That’s far superior to the other tactic, ‘hide’ around the corner, unload on foot.
I get asked a lot where I plan to attend. I typically don’t reveal that for a number of reasons. I try and visit new members, places I haven’t been, with a mix of the wine styles I prefer, and some old favorites thrown in to balance. This weekend I intend to go Friday afternoon, and hopefully both Saturday and Sunday. I am out of space and time here, so I will summate my two weekends of visits in a future post.
My strategy tip for the Wine Enthusiast: Hit busy areas like Healdsburg, Dry Creek, and bigger name wineries on Friday, or start of the day Saturday, or possibly Sunday. Use your Wine Road map – there are lots of clusters of wineries in less traveled Alexander and Russian River Valley – more then enough to fill up an afternoon, and while a tiny bit further apart, less people and less traffic. Driving a mile between stops may save you hours.
My Suggestions to Wineries
With only one exception, I was very impressed with the service, attitude, and experience at each winery. Hats off the hospitality staffs. Two (personal) suggestions for this or future events.
- Put out spit cups. Its hard for consumers to spit in a bucket. Even I rather a cup. Kudos to wineries like Sheldon, Windsor Oaks and others, who do. In my opinion, this should be standard practice. People CAN learn this.
- Food has been de-emphasized by design, and perhaps to a lesser extent cost. Some wineries jumped in with catering on site at a cost with some pretty awesome choices. I had terrific BBQ sliders at Longboard I was happy to pay for. Mateo had food at others. Food trucks are an option. There is nothing wrong with ‘pay to play’ and personally I’d rather eat at the winery.
Finally – The Contest
Thanks for staying with me – now here is your chance to win. Tomorrow night (only 24 hours) we will draw 3 pairs of tickets. To win, tell the Wine Road and I in comments either:
What varietal (wine grape) did you try that is NEW to you, last weekend. Where was it, was it a barrel sample or current release?
What varietal would you like to try, or learn more about this weekend.
Get ready – go!
Cheers, thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog – spread the word!