On a bright day in March my husband, Peter, and I headed up to the Russian River Valley for the 36th Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend(s). This annual event, coordinated by the Wine Road, offers the opportunity to taste barrel samples from over 100 wineries and takes place over two weekends in March.
For those of you who have never barrel tasted before, here is a quick primer, you taste wine about 6-18 months before it is bottled. They use a little gadget called a wine thief to pull the wine directly out of a barrel.
Typically wineries will offer the opportunity to purchase ‘futures’ of these wines for a discount. Young wine can be very different from the finished product, we had a great time at this event, but barrel tasting is not for everyone.
We decided to focus on a little cluster of wineries in south west Russian River Valley. Before running out of energy (wine tasting is hard work!), we got to 5 wineries:
Martin Ray Winery – Offered a nice selection of both finished wines as well as barrel tastings. Their assistant winemaker poured one of the barrel samples and patiently answered our questions about the wine.
DeLoach Vineyards – The wine geek tasting. DeLoach gave us the opportunity to taste the same fruit aged in different barrels, neutral oak vs. new oak. The two wines were incredibly different. They blend both styles of wine for their final product.
Inman Family Wines – Offered barrel tastings of their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and rosé of Pinot Noir. Their winemaker Kathleen was hands-on during the tasting and we got to talk about about their sustainable farming practices.
Hook & Ladder Vineyards and Winery – A dizzying array of roughly a dozen different wines. Hook and Ladder treats the weekends like a party with music and small bites of food. We even discovered some delicious wine and cheese pairing chocolates from Truffle Gateau!
Overall we had a great day, who doesn’t like to taste wine when the sun is shining!