Wine Road Barrel Tasting – The Premier Wine Buying Event of The Season. Learn, Share and Win Tickets! (4 winners!)

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 buy viagra without rx 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.

Locals, yes 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:
  • 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) 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 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!


Related Articles

Barrel Tasting Insights – What am I Tasting & Do I Get Splinters? What should I buy?

My thoughts on Wine Road Barrel Tasting. Tell us yours and win tickets.

Observations of Wine Road Barrel Tasting Week One; Suggestions & Ticket Contest for Week Two


If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing for email updates, and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter.

31 Responses to “Wine Road Barrel Tasting – The Premier Wine Buying Event of The Season. Learn, Share and Win Tickets! (4 winners!)”

  • Nathan Yin:

    This is going to be my 3rd barrel tasting trip. I stumble into it when I saw a news segment about Barrel Tasting back in 2010. My favorite part of barrel tasting is the opportunity to discover new wineries that I would probably not even have tried on my own. Having the option of trying out 140+ wineries in one weekend is a great way to discover hidden gems :)

  • I enjoy how young wines are from barrel it gives me a chance to look ahead on how they may be when bottled. It’s also interesting how different they can turnout depending on the barrel toasting and yeasts used for same varietal/vineyard/vintage, etc. Look forward to participating this year!


  • I have to comment 1. Because I am one of those crazy millennials everyone is talking about and 2. I LOVE the Barrel Tasting event.

    Yes, it is packed and some people use it as a free for all excuse to go crazy and drink a lot of wine without buying any. But one thing to note is that brand loyalty also starts here. I still remember my first barrel tasting event at the age of 21 and still have great memories of Lambert Bridge winery and a sour taste for another winery who is close by. These memories have lastest and now that I am in a place where I can afford good wine, I go to those I am loyal to!

    • Thanks for sharing Shana. I want to also re-iterate for readers, as I did in earlier articles, its entirely possible to avoid crowds the entire event. Last year I went all 3 days the first weekend,
      and by picking wisely always had winery attention (and didn’t say who I was), never waited for more than a minute or two, and had a great time.

  • Elissa:

    I love barrel tasting! My favorite part is tasting new and older vintages of the same grape and seeing it progress. I am looking forward to this year! I remember my favorite wineries from last year and I plan on going to completely different wineries this year.

  • Randy Fong:

    I have never been to a barrel tasting. If I had to pick, I’d go to the Jacuzzi Winery. In their store they sell ice cream that you can drizzle one of their many infused olive oils on. Yummm!

  • As a winery member of Barrel Tasting, we love Barrel Tasting weekend! We look at it as an opportunity to introduce our wines to a whole different group of people. Sure, it’s wild but that’s fun!

    And, since William mentioned it, Foppiano has a beautiful picnic area where you can have lunch. Please stop by — we’re right off the 101 (exit 502) and just south of Healdsburg.

  • Randy Fong:

    OK.Here is my Alexander Valley entry. I’d like to see the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Not only am I a fan of his movies, I’d like to check out the pool!

  • Alyce Lee:

    This will be my first Barrel Tasting. Our friends told us that this Wine Road event is outstanding! If I won tickets, I would like to visit La Crema Winery to try their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I had an opportunity to taste their wines at a dinner party and would love to compare the finished products against the ones in the barrel and possibly buy futures of the ones I know I will adore!

  • Jason Klafter:

    This will be my seventh or eighth year of barrel tasting. I started out in my early 20’s not really knowing anything about wine just knowing that $20 for a weekend of wine tasting was a great deal to get out and explore. Although I had purchased bottles of wine through the years, last year was my fist year of buying a case of futures. My wife and I got a mix case of wine from Old World Winery. The mix case was the perfect thing for us since I enjoy reds and my wife enjoys whites.

    I can’t wait until this weekend. We have our group of 12 and already planned our route out hwy 128. If I won tickets for the following weekend, my wife and I would venture out to the smaller wineries around Olivet Rd/Hwy 116 that we can’t go to with a large group.

  • Great article and I agree its a wonderful time here in Sonoma County. And if people can’t make this barrel tasting, or even if they do, there’s another later in the month in Sonoma Valley.

  • This will be Acorn’s 12 BT (we think). And for us, and we hope for our guests, it is an excellent event. We enjoy the oppoprtunity to pour three barrel samples (and some current releases) for folks who would not otherwise be able to visit us, while having a chance to chat about field blended wines. We don’t allow buses, as they can’t get out under the rr bridge. Tables and chairs are avaialble, so folks can enjoy their picnics. Six of the Eastside Bunch Wineries are participating (Rodney Strong, Foppiano, Christopher Creek, Limerick Lane, Merriam, and Acorn), so we hope folks will come and explore our special corner of the Wineroad.

  • Jonathan Kramer:

    I realize there are several choices to comment about, but since I have been attending the Barrel Tasting for many years (it was originally FREE if anyone else here remembers), I’m what you’d call ‘seasoned’, LOL. And I have been going to this and other events for good reason. The wineries in the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys are some of the best anywhere! And yes, I have purchased futures many times, though the most memorable was with Pezzi King at the Barrel Tasting in 2 , who unfortunately no longer participates in the Barrel Tasting event (though they are doing a private barrel tasting this Sat).

    I would have to say that were I to win tickets, I would likely select either Dry Creek Vineyards or Kokomo as the winery I’d like to go first.. Both great wineries though Dry Creek Vineyards is legendary for many reasons. Everyone be safe, enjoy, LEARN, listen to what the wine makers have to share and above all, have fun!

  • Rhonda Leitner:

    My husband and I will be visiting my favorite winery which is Thomas George Estates.

  • William,
    Spot on! I always think you nail the details for Barrel Tasting! It’s all about the wine and as much fun as it is, it’s a great event to geek out on wine and really imerse yourself in all it’s glory! My first wine country experiece was Barrel Tasting…fell in love on first sip!

    Stryker Sonoma is participating the first weekend and has some killer wines available for Barrel Futures! I was racking up the 2010 wines this last week and we selected two for Barrel Tasting. the 2010 Merlot, Estate and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate, both winemaker Tim and myself had one of those goofy grins as we sampled from the barrel. This is the only chance to purchase both of these wines if you are not in the wine club (10 cases of each allocated for futures) Oh and on the DL there will be 20 cases of 2007 Alegria Zinfandel in the tasting room for 50% off, that’s $180 a case! I’ll find out the places to stop from you for the second weekend since I will be up in Portland for the Bachelor Party!

  • Tom Cutts:

    Many years ago I attended the barrel tasting event in Healdsburg/Dry Creek. We were a large party and were accomodated nicely, though I bet it has become busier over the years.

    I have purchased futures from Vincent Arroyo and from Rosenblum.

    Looking forward to it.

  • Richard M:

    I have done other wine events in Sonoma County but not the barrel tasting. Maybe this is the year I should do it. I heard you speak on KSRO today. I look forward to hearing you again and drinking some fine wine.

  • Renee Fong:

    I have participated before. My favorite part of the event is speaking with the winemakers and learning the history behind the juice in the barrel, then being able to “see” by comparison of current releases and barrel samples where the wine in the barrel is heading. I would love to win tickets to participate again this year! Thank you.

  • Bill Ostrander:

    I live in Sonoma Valley and have been doing RR Barrel tasting for over 20 years and it is a great event. It was a spectacular deal until a few years ago when they started charging when it was by far the best fun and wine learning experience for the buck. Even now it is very hard to beat the bang for the buck! I have been introduced to many great wineries at the event including Davis Family, Bella, Wilson, Soda Rock, & David Cofarro just to name a few. I always buy a few cases of futures that I pick up the next year and I have learned that my first impressions of the barrel samples have always translated to great wine in the bottle. You really get a feel for the vintage being poured and a wines and wineries style and usually get a chance to talk to the Winemaker or some other very knowledgeable person (much more knowledgeable than the normal tasting room pourer). If you want to avoid the crowds go Fridays and Sundays and avoid Saturday afternoons and the second weekend is substantially less busy. A great event!

  • mary jackson:

    we have attended barrel tasting for many years. it’s great to compare the wines before and after bottling. we have purchased futures from Davis Family and Christopher Creek. Great Wines!

  • Gina:

    I’ve been to Sonoma Barrel Tasting but not Wine Road. I’ve purchased futures from Benziger. If I won I’d be looking forward to Fritz the most.

  • Nikkol B:

    I have attended BT 8 times. What I enjoy most about this event is the ability to taste wines directly from the barrel and to trust my palate. I generally hit fewer wineries at this event and really take the time to taste, think and analyze what I like about the barreled wine, what I don’t care for, and what I believe will occur later. It’s very fun to think about what I think a wine will turn into once I pick it up in the bottles.
    I’ve purchased futures at Stryker Sonoma and Sunce several different years. Although I always intend to keep the wine for awhile, when friends stop over, I can’t help but show off what I think are my abilities to “predict” what will happen to a wine!

  • Grace:

    I’ve attended Barrel Tasting for the last 3 years and was in love with the future wines that I bought at Martorana. I felt like I hit the Jackpot when I found this winery. Hands down amazing wine!!
    If I won I would defintly go back and pick up some more wine!!!

  • if I was able to enjoy this barrel tasting I would like to return to Old World Winery. Old world like many other wineries have there winemaker out at barrel tasting which enables my husband to dork out with them, with there science. While I and others enjoy the great crafted wines.

  • Congrats to ‘’ , Tom Cutts, Jason Klafter, and Gina – you each win a pair of tickets to next weekend’s tasting – congratz!

  • Although I have lived in Sonoma county for 20 years plus, I tend to visit the same wineries that I know and love! This is an opportunity to visit others that perhaps I have not heard of or don’t know enough about when hosting visitors! Being in the real estate business, I strive to learn more and more about this FABULOUS county that many dream about moving to . . . so having the opportunity to experience the barrel tasting is a must . . .almost a requirement, don’t you think? I love La Crema chard but have not been to their winery, so would so appreciate the opportunity! Thank you!

  • Cathy Gerhart:

    If I won tickets to Barrel Tasting, I would make a beeline to Joseph Swan. Why? Because though I have been to Barrel Tasting once before, I was too overwhelmed to ask questions. Earlier this year, I met Rod Berglund at a dinner. As it turns out, he is an approachable winemaker who has incredible enthusiasm and joy for his craft. My husband and I would appreciate an opportunity to talk about futures with him. And the icing on the cake is that we love Joseph Swan wines.

  • Although I have lived in Sonoma county for 20 years plus, I tend to visit the same wineries that I know and love! This is an opportunity to visit others that perhaps I have not heard of or don’t know enough about when hosting visitors! Being in the real estate business, I strive to learn more and more about this FABULOUS county that many dream about moving to . . . so having the opportunity to experience the barrel tasting is a must . . .almost a requirement, don’t you think? I love La Crema chard but have not been to their winery, so would so appreciate the opportunity! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Get Simple Hedonisms via Email

Your email is always secure and never distributed. (You will need to click an activation link via email to complete your subscription.)

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Wine on Instagram
Reaching over 8,000 Readers A Month!
Unique Monthly Readers (not hits), as reported by Bluehost Awstats
North Coast Tasting Rooms
Like Rhone Wines? Check out these North Coast Rhone Rangers locations. Click here to download the printable four page map.
Subscribe Via Google Reader/RSS
Follow Me on Pinterest
August 2017
« Dec    
Past Articles and Reviews
Cellar Tracker Tasting Notes - Last 50