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More Cheap Wine: Russian River Barrel Tasting

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Not this kind of barrel tasting.

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

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Andrew Dalton - Aggressive Panhandler

Andrew is an East Coast transplant from Virginia hamming it up in San Francisco without any intention of leaving. Having worked every typical job from Bike Shop Employee to Bartender to Ad Agency Hotshot, to Dotcom Layoff he now busts his ass covering the "weird things to do" beat for gracious local audiences at and rallies the Western Addy/Lower Haight/Panhandle neighborhoods into action at His work was published in a real, paper magazine one time. One day he might even figure out how to make money from it.


  1. March 5, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Great blog! Just wanted to let you know that the Livermore Valley will be doing a barrel tasting as well!

    Livermore Valley’s Barrel Tasting Weekend is March 20-21 12-4:30 pm
    Ticket includes: Barrel Tasting on Saturday & Sunday at 27 participating wineries, a take home glass, the chance to purchase futures (wines that have not been bottled yet) and special activities exclusively for ticket holders at each winery!

    Some of the activities include: food pairings, bottle your own wine, winemaker meet and greets, live music, art exhibits, winemaker discussions, generous wine discounts, and more. For a list of activities by winery and to purchase tickets, visit Tickets are $25 adv. / $35 day of event. Tickets are good for 2 days. There are a limited number of tickets available.

  2. March 10, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    just did this, and it’s great! 🙂 tickets in advance were $20, so an even better deal! thanks for the info on Livermore’s tasting, Natalie.

  3. March 10, 2010 at 11:36 pm

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