I know Livermore is the new hotness when it comes to wine tasting, but the next two weekends hold another cheap opportunity to get drunk in the countryside and maybe learn ya’ a thing or two about wine in the process. I’m not talking about overpaying for a Barefoot Vineyards White Zinfandel at your corner store and then coming home pass out drunk on your couch while watching Sideways and then waking up to the DVD menu on loop.
Nope, I’m talking about the yearly barrel tasting weekends (plural!) in the Russian River Valley. Barrel tasting is different from the usual wine tastings because: 1) even if you missed the advance ticket sales it’s still super cheap at $30 for unlimited tastings at over 100 wineries around the valley and 2) you’re drinking the wine straight from the barrel. OK not straight from the barrel, but the winemakers themselves are usually on hand with those giant eye-dropper looking things (I’m sure it has a fancy French name or something, but whatever) to fill up the commemorative wine glass that’s included in your ticket price and chat you up about what exactly is going on in that barrel. No bottles, here!
Which is my next point – wine from the barrel isn’t quite ready yet, so it’s really more like a preview of what each winery will be releasing in the fall. So, if you’re feeling rich and decide you like something, you place an order (at a discount, of course) that the winery will fill when the wine is ready and bottled come October.
Finally, with so many wineries, you’ll need a plan of attack. As a veteran of previous barrel tastings, and because any of the participating wineries will sell you a glass and a wristband, I’ve found it’s best to hit a couple of the countryside wineries along the 101 North of Santa Rosa before spending the afternoon strolling around the Healdsburg town square where the tasting rooms are more likely to have free food pairings on hand for when you start getting the munchies. And the best part? Your ticket is good all weekend (Fri-Sunday), so if you happen to pass out in town square and wake up with your wine glass still in your hand on Sunday morning you can get right back in the game.
Barrel Tasting on the Russian River Wine Road
$30 per person per weekend (includes wine glass)
Over 100 Wineries participating so check the list.
Fri – Sun, March 5-7th and March 12-14th 11am – 4pm each day.
*Not all wineries are open on Friday, so again, check the list.
More info at Wineroad.com
Image via: anotherwineblog.com