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! )

I took a slightly more controversial approach than I normally do with the “stop the whining” and instead of garnering negative complaints as I was fearful of, we had dozens of exuberant responses.

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.)

My Experiences

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.

Overall Summary

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 generic viagra usa 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?

Wishes for 2012

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!


Related Articles

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

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

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33 Responses to “Thoughts from Wine Road Barrel Tasting Weekend One. Share Your Thoughts & Win Tickets to Weekend Two.”

  • Tom Scott:

    Nice piece, and I especially like that you made a conscious choice to focus on the 99% vs. the <1% that seems to consistently draw all the attention. Like most participating wineries we did have a few issues (late on Saturday afternoon) that required some "intervention" but nothing that really detracted from what was an overall great event.

  • Noelle:

    I would love to visit Locals Tasting room for two reasons – 1. My friend’s wine, Bedarra, is poured there and I’ve never been. 2. It’s in Geyserville, which I rarely visit, so I could also hit up other faves like Trentadue and Silver Oak.

  • Gala Grant:

    I don’t think I can pin it down to one winery. What I like about weekends like this is I get to try new wineries that I don’t usually go to. That being said, my new favorite find is VML, so we would go there for sure if we were to win!

  • Kristi Thomason:

    I didn’t attend the Barrel tasting this past weekend, but did recommend several of my favorites from my five trips to The Wine and Food Affair to some friends who were going for the first time to Sonoma. I actually had two MUST stops. Sapphire Hill (love ya Lisa!) and Carol Shelton (even more so now that I hear they had a Rosso Pizza oven there!). Can’t wait for November to get here!

  • Elissa:

    I could not make it last weekend-but that has just made me more excited to attend this weekend. I would love to visit D’Argenzio Winery. I tried some of their wines at a winemaker’s dinner last year. They make lots of Italian varietals that aren’t common in California. We should all strive to open our wine palates to new tastes!

    • HI Elissa, glad your hear you Love D’Argenzio :) We are sampling 6 wines plus an secret special Italian verital that’s a future future wine!
      Barrel Tasting – Strade del vino, 2010 Barbera di Niccolo, Sonoma Mountain, 2009 D’Amerone, Sonoma County, 2008 Petite Sirah, Russian River Valley, 2010 Pinot Noir, Jenna’s Vineyard, RRV, 2010 Sangiovese, Sonoma Mountain, 2010 Zinfandel, Dry Creek, future future_ 2011 Sagrantino Spirito. thanks for the kind words and your welcome to visit anytime!

  • Great article William!
    I wish I could of been out in such nice weather, but was playing hookie and up in Oregon. I followed along during the weekend on facebook and twitter and it looked like things went quite smoothly and folks had alot of fun! I am looking forward to getting out there this weekend and trying some of the wineries you mentioned! Quivera is most definatly on my list. Their Grenache is one of Cathy’s favorites and like you the Mouvedre is on my top tier. I think a stop by Joseph Swan is in order along with some Inman and possibly a trip up to Alexander Valley for Robert Young to-do a little market research.

  • William,

    I am with you on more white wines during barrel tasting… didn’t go to WRBT this weekend (you know why), but did just get to try the 2011 Inman Family Chardonnay (steel barrel and oak barrel samples) and it’s going to be something very unique — 12% abv – I bought some futures on the spot.

    Of course, I would also have to stop by Holdredge, Davis Family and Skewis off of Front St. for some phreaky Pinot as usual… look forward to the next weekend and will be doing some “work” at the Windsor Vineyards tasting room, so be sure to tell your readers to stop by ; )



  • Tim Danesi:

    I went barrel tasting last weekend and on Saturday visited Mueller, where I bought some Old Vine Zin and a bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc. Acorn was another hilight of the weekend. Kokomo and Amphora on Sunday had some great-tasting barrel samples. Martorana and Talty I’d recommend too. As for raising the price for next year, if they raise it again I’ll quite going. I remember when it was $5 if you didn’t bring a glass. If the price goes up, they shoul give a discount to the regulars and those who buy wine. Great articles by the way. Thanks!

    • Hi Tim, I can’t speak officially for the Wine Road, but I suspect we won’t see another price increase for a while; it took years of controversial discussion to get this small hike. Bought in advance, they were $30 I believe, thats still a ridiculous bargain, in my opinion. Thanks for reading!

  • Willam.

    As ever great to spend time in your company and thank you for showing some of the incredible sights and sounds of your part of paradise. I particularly enjoyed the visit to Mounts (their Malbec from barrel was stunning) and they are great people. A definite story to be told there.

    The Mourvedre from Quivira was also impressive as was the speed at which the brisket that they provided disappeared from the platters. Agree about more food options for “Wine Roaders”

    And thanks for the kudos for what I do. I’m no guru by any stretch at what I do. Just a guy who loves what he does and enjoys sharing it with others. Excited for 2013 on #WRBT

  • Thank you for your positive reporting…

    We are part of the Wine Road but were on the ‘non-participating’ list but still had a VERY busy and successful weekend. Everyone we talked to on Sat & Sun were really into asking great questions, pondering the samplings of barrels and bottled vintages. Most reported that the crowds they encountered in all of the valleys were generally very well behaved….

    Thanks again for your insights.

  • Nathan Yin:

    We started from Valdez way up in the northern end of the map on Sunday morning, stopped by Geyser Peak, and then worked our way down Route 128. This was our first trip on a Sunday and the traffic sure was not as heavy as Saturdays when we used to go. Granted, we used to travel down Dry Creek so it could be Rt 128 is not as heavily traveled.

    We did end up buying some futures from W2 Williams — they have 3 different cabs from 3 different elevation and they are all very very good. I was hoping to try out the Petit Verdot from Mercury but that barrel did not make it to the tasting room….

    If I win the tickets, I will go up and down Dry Creek as I have done in the past years and stop by the ones that I have not tried yet :)

  • Jeremy Kreck:

    Thank you for this article. I’ve been ‘behind the barrel’ at Mill Creek for the last 10+ years and thought that the visitors this year were very interested in tasting and learning about the wines. Even though there were some crowds on Saturday, everyone was polite, engaging, and not one guest appeared to be intoxicated. I think that the Wine Road should be commended on their efforts to make it clear that this is not an opportunity to drink all day for a minimal price. For those of you that have avoided the event for the last couple years, this coming weekend is a great opportunity to come out and visit. If you do want to avoid the crowds, both Friday and Sunday are great days for a more relaxed experience.

  • Since I was unable to go last weekend. I believe my work would be cut out for me this weekend. Between Old World Winery, Soda Rock, and Williamson Wines. I may have to crisscross Sonoma’s wine country; With wines like that, It’s a cross I’m willing to bear.

  • venus harper:

    I wake up daily, blessed to be living in beautiful wine country. Driving threw rolling hills of vineyards is a daily occurrence. The simple beauty is not to be taken for granted. To see the vines ripen year after year and produce a simple yet amazing fruit, is truly a gift. Even a better gift than that is to get to taste the finished product. There is truly something magical about walking threw the wineries and seeing barrel after barrel of the raw finished product. Getting to taste the first tastes of last years harvest. The smells are intoxicating, and every taste unique. To choose one winery would be nearly impossible. It is rare weekends like this that make us stop and “smell the wine.” I am thankful they now have two weekends to attend since I could not make it last weekend. Looking forward to seeing the wine carefully removed from the barrel and placed in my glass. A glass that fits perfectly in my hand.

  • You people got to check out Sheldon winery next door they really got some special things going on this weekend WOW i can’t say but very cool idea:)

  • Laura Coy:

    I attended barrel tasting all 3 days last weekend with guests who flew in from Michigan just for the event. Downtown Healdsburg Friday was extremely quiet, the stand out favorite of the day was the barrel sample of the 2010 Hawley Pinot Noir – can’t wait to taste that after bottling! They also had my favorite white of the day with their very nice Viogner. In fact had several very good Viogner’s over the weekend, happy to see that showing up in Sonoma County! Saturday we spent most of the day in Dry Creek, once again I felt it was fairly quiet compared to prior years. I absolutely loves West Wines, they are a new member to the Wine Road. Both the Viogner and their Cab’s were great! We ended Saturday in Geyserville, the only place we saw one younger female who was having trouble standing up and clearly was intoxicated. Sunday was spent on Olivet Road and around Santa Rosa. Wish I had more time to spend at Vinoteca, shouldn’t have made it the last stop of the day as there were some awesome wines there too! Overall in the debriefing with my group, some of whom have been attending this event for over 30 years we thought this was one of the best barrel tastings we have ever attended. Thanks to everyone who made it that way!

  • Cristina carter:

    Loved and bought poizin from armida!!! Can’t wait to go again tomorrow!

  • Congratulations
    Cristina Carter, Venus Harper, Gala Grant, Nathan Yin
    you won a pair of tickets. Have a great weekend!

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