Thoughts from Wine Road Barrel Tasting Weekend One. Share Your Thoughts & Win Tickets to Weekend Two.
Last Friday-Sunday was the first of two weekends of Wine Road Barrel tasting, the 34th anniversary of this event. Last week’s article “The Parenting Aspergers Resource Guide
and Win Tickets! (4 winners!)” href=”../archives/7023″ rel=”bookmark” target=”_blank”>Wine Road Barrel Tasting – The Premier Wine Buying Event of The Season. Learn, Share and Win Tickets! (4 winners!)” was a huge hit, propelling the blog to it’s highest readership ever, just shy of 10,000 unique readers and 300,000 hits for the month. The first two days it garnered 38,000 hits. (Spoiler – we’ll be giving away 4 more pairs of tickets, so make sure you read to the end! )
The local Press overall did a positive job as well with several good articles:
The one true Wine Writer the PD has, Virginie Boone, did a nice article with “Barrel Tasting weekends are here” and there was a nice follow on piece “Learning about wine, one barrel at a time” by Mary Callahan.
Unfortunately that didn’t stop the PD Blog from writing in the same vein as last year with its “Frat Party” post with this weeks “Peculiar wine glasses at barrel tasting?” (EDIT and a second article in the same vein on Tuesday “Revelers add sour taste to Wine Barrel weekend.”)
I will leave my comments at the post – but this is sensationalism writing looking for views, not investigative journalism, and its time to step up, or drop the topic. Looks like at least one other blog agreed. Millennials: The Next Generation.
Come Back Thursday For A Special Article
Of course all wineries offer special discounts for barrel futures, but many also have finished wine sales as well. Come back Friday for a list sorted by Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valley. (Wineries, read your Monday memo. Still have some spots.)
Unfortunately with my new job, and a side ‘project’ I could only attend one day this year, unlike all 6 last year. I had my friend Andrew Healy, the Wine Marketing and Social Media of Guru of Napa in tow, so I stuck mostly to wineries I knew, unlike my normal mix of experimentation. There were so many more wineries I wish I could have visited!
First stop was neighbor Robert Rue, who produces Russian River Sauvigon Blanc and Zin. Oddly, there were almost no barrel or tank samples of whites, something I’d recommend wineries
consider more, especially since whites are so close to being bottled, if they haven’t already. Robert Rue was the only winery we visited that did. I am generally not a Zin guy, but like cool climate Russian River Zin. Their new 2011 Sauvignon Blanc was stunning – a great change from the overdone New Zealand, grassy, cat-pee style. The secret in part is the “Musque” clone of Sauv Blanc, which is catching on as consumers get fatigued with the overwhelming amount of traditional Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is bright, with great fruit and minerality, more French Sancerre style. I will be buying this weekly I can see. Watch for a review soon, and grab some futures this weekend!
Next we headed north to Dry Creek – I wanted to get in and out before Saturday afternoon traffic went crazy. I am a regular at Quivira, and was seeking there futures of Mourvedre, which I buy every year if offered. Wine club members get 40% off, better than industry, its
a great deal on what I think is the best Mourvedre in Sonoma County. Granted, sadly choices are also few, but as someone who tastes/buys Rhones from all over, its one of my favorites. Quivira also released their new 2011 Rose’, which generally doesn’t last long.
We headed across the street to one of my long time favorites the Mounts. I hope to do a full story on them soon – watching them progress over the years has been a delight. Mounts continues to expand their Rhone portfolio, and lean towards more minimal winemaking techniques. They had 4 red wine barrel samples, all native yeast fermented, my favorite being the Grenache, and to my surprise the Malbec. I say to my surprise mostly because I have fallen out of love with most Malbecs as they are generally now made New World – big, extracted and oaky. This barrel sample was all about the grape itself.
Traffic was starting to pick up, so we headed back to Russian River, as was the plan.
Two quick stops: Joseph Swan (loved the 2011 Carignane( Cotes du Something) and Woodenhead, then onto Benovia. Benovia only featured one barrel sample, but had the widest pouring of finished wines, of which I am becoming quite a fan. We tasted through 2 Chardonnay’s, 4 Pinots, of which the Anderson Valley was my favorite, a Grenache, and my favorite of the day a Rose’ of Pinot Noir. At $18 a bottle, another recommended buy.
We squeaked into Krutz & Sheldon right in time. Patrick Krutz was tasting his new Ceja Chardonnay and his usual (incredible) Napa Stagecoach syrah. Sheldon was pouring their new Ceja grenache. All excellent wines from two great vintners, who were also pouring their current releases.
I didn’t take the SLR out that day, but here are a handful of pictures & recommendations you can see here.
Most Wineries I spoke to (some on Sunday) reported Friday as the best day for serious buyers and tasting. Most reported a good Saturday, although almost every Russian River winery I spoke to reported the same, it got slow around 130 Saturday afternoon. Not sure if people were headed North, but for those wishing to avoid crowds, I stick to my recommendation of go to less trafficked places Saturday afternoon if you want a better tasting experience.
This event attracts 18-20,000 people from 47 states, many on wine buying missions. I witnessed no drunkenness, bad behavior, or any of the sensationalism frat party attitude the aforementioned article was digging for. I am sure out of 120+ wineries and 18k people, a few examples exist. The law of large numbers will give you that, especially if you target feedback from a busy winery like Armida that is known for its younger crowd drawing. I witness far worse at any bar on a Saturday night. Lets focus on the 99.95% positive – shall we?
I thought winery hospitality was outstanding. I’d like to see two things: more white wine samples. And more food trucks like the Rossa Pizza oven at Carol Shelton.
Barrel Tasting isn’t about food, and the wineries shouldn’t provide food, BUT I’d love to see more of them partner up with a food truck and offer food for sale. I’d happily pay to eat, not have to lose an hour in a restaurant. If I was an food truck entrepreneur, I’d park one right at the entry to Dry Creek, if allowed. Wineries – if you do offer a food truck next year, and are allowed, put it in your writeup, you increase the chances I’ll be by! (On that note, wineries who put in the program that they were tasting ‘futures’ with no specifics, you were skipped. Please tell us what you are offering, there are many choices besides you.)
Lastly, I applaud the increase in ticket prices. At the door, the most expensive option, a 3 day ticket is still only $40. This is a wine buying event, and I feel this helps weed out the partiers. Any slight decrease in attendance is made up by the higher price – and most wineries will tell you – there is a saturation point ratio of bodies to sales – sometimes smaller groups
OK – Time to Win!
Winning is very easy – simply in comments below tell us:
(1) Did you attend Barrel Tasting weekend one? What was your favorite and/or what did you buy.
(2) If you didn’t go Weekend one – what winery would you most like to visit and why?
We draw 4 pairs of tickets Thursday night – good luck!