5 Tips for Barrel Tasting Weekend

Barrel Tasting Weekend is Sonoma County’s best kept secret.  Actually, it’s not a secret to anyone who lives in Sonoma County or even the entire Bay Area but it’s something everyone should attend at least once. Whether you think you like wine or not, it’s a great opportunity to find the wine of your liking, talk with the winemakers, and spend time with friends and/or family in the beautiful Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys.

What exactly is Barrel Tasting? 

It’s an event in March held by Wine Road each year where local wineries have open tastings straight from the barrel. Although it is not a consecutive row of wineries like you’d expect with a name like “Wine Road,” the wineries are close in distance and some come together in one location to make tastings easier for more people. Some wineries even offer “futures” on their barrels.  That means you can pre-order for when the wine is bottled and ready for sale. 

5 Tips for a Memorable Weekend:

1. Transportation

Aside from the obvious DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE public service announcement (that shouldn’t even have to be said), having a designated driver takes the stress away from figuring out who in the group will drink one day and who will drink the next.  Hire your younger sibling or indulge in a limo service for a big group, which brings me to my next point…

2. Picking Your Group

The people you surround yourself with will have a HUGE impact on your experience.  If you are looking for a slower paced, casual weekend tasting, don’t go with your friends who you babysit at the bar Thursday-Saturday night. If you are looking to socialize and try as many barrels as possible, go with a group who is there for the party. To each their own, but be sure you know the motive for the majority of the group.

3. Bring Snacks

Most wineries don’t have food pairings. Some will have little finger foods and those wineries are usually packed with people.  I recommend going to Oliver’s Market in Rohnert Park or Santa Rosa before setting out into the vineyards. Buy more than you think you’ll eat. Snacking while driving to the next winery will save you. Trust me!

4. Plan a Route/Have a map

Whether you know the area well or you’re visiting the North Bay specifically for this weekend, it’s good to have a decent plan of attack.  You don’t need to follow it, but having a map on you will help when someone says, “you have to go to Truett-Hurst!” What if you didn’t even think about that winery? Now you have to figure out how to get there!  With little to no cell service, an old-fashioned map will help when you get lost. Tip: There is an interactive map on the Wine Road website.

5. Choosing a Starting Location

You’ll need to choose your starting point when buying your ticket.  Your map will come in handy here but as a recommendation, Kokomo is the perfect choice.  I’ve started here every year and it’s a great meeting place if your group is split into multiple cars.  It’s also a location where multiple wineries come to one place to share their barrels.

This weekend never disappoints.  You have a wide range of people at this event: college alumni of all ages having a reunion, wine connoisseurs, or older couples on a weekend getaway.  It appeals to the masses.

Share with me: Where have you gone wine tasting and what’s your favorite wine?

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