Don’t miss Wine Road’s 2019 Barrel Tasting event in Sonoma County. This is your chance to sample wines from the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River valleys. But this isn’t like your typical wine tasting experience.
Barrel tasting happens only once a year
Each spring, the grapes that were harvested the prior year, usually late summer through fall, are ready for sampling. Winemakers regularly taste test their barrels during the wine’s maturation, checking for levels of fruit, acidity, and tannins. This essential step in the winemaking process helps winemakers determine the best time to bottle the wine. Sampling also ensures the wine hasn’t gone bad or can help to decide whether the wine may be best used in a blend.
Although wine is sometimes aged in stainless steel, it is the oak barrel that really contributes to distinctive characteristics. Oak “breathes,” and the oxygen affects the wine.
A different wine tasting experience
During Wine Road’s Barrel Tasting in March, wine lovers get to experience young wines just like the winemakers do. Of course, barrel samples don’t taste like the finished wines you’re used to. These wines are still evolving, so you have to look for underlying, less obvious characteristics — hints of a soon-to-be a fine wine.
Ilona Thompson, of PalateExposure, puts it well in her in-depth article: “Barrel tasting [is] a great palate exercise. Discerning what the wine may taste like when the oak resolves itself and recognizing its subtler flavors makes you feel like a wine Jedi.” And it’s the sleuthing that makes barrel tasting so fun. There’s a gamble, and you get to wager on the winners!
Chance to bet on futures
When you find a wine you think has promise, you can buy it in advance at a discount, sometimes a deep discount. You can invest in futures. And for small-batch wines, futures may be your only chance to purchase. The risk comes when you pick up your finished, bottled wine 12 to 18 months later. Did it evolve like you thought it would?
Fortunately, you don’t have to make the decision in a vacuum. Barrel tasting isn’t just a lot of fun, it’s an educational experience. At the wineries, you will have the unique opportunity to talk to the winemakers. Here’s a chance to learn about the winemaking process and find out from the experts how they think a particular wine will evolve.
Discover new wineries
If this sounds like a fun wine tasting adventure, buy your tickets and plan out your route. You can design your tour around wineries that you know you like, but this is also a great opportunity to check out ones you’ve heard good things about. The best approach is be flexible and keep it easy. Figure on about a handful of wineries per day. Each winery offers at least three samples, while some offer twice that many. Each one-ounce sample is measured into your glass using a “wine thief,” the device that draws wine from the barrel.
You can buy your tickets at any participating winery on any day of the event, but if you want to save, pre-purchase your wine tasting pass. Advance ticket sales end February 25.
And if you want to read more about barrel tasting, take a look at one of our previous blog posts.
Wine Road’s Barrel Tasting 2019
Friday, Saturday & Sunday, March 1 – 3 and March 8 – 10
11am – 4 pm
Tickets on sale now
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Endless vistas of rolling hills, vineyards, redwoods, and oak-studded grassland soothe your soul. Fresh air enlivens you. While deer graze quietly and jack rabbits nibble nearby, a sense of calm overtakes you. You gladly surrender to the magnificent beauty of Wine Country backlands.
If you’ve been enjoying a few days of wine tasting, you’ve discovered how many great wineries are tucked throughout the countryside around Healdsburg, Calistoga, and the Pacific Coast. Whether it’s wine, beer, cider, cheese, or organic produce, a day of tasting brings you close to the pristine countryside and great outdoors. But maybe you’re ready for a deeper dive into nature. Sonoma and Napa counties offer thousands of acres of hiking trails, from flat pastureland to steep mountain treks.
Getting in close to nature awakens your senses. It’s enlivening and puts you right in the moment. Not only does hiking help quiet your mind, it helps you connect with yourself and those you’re sharing the experience with. So why not recharge yourself with some delicious “soul food”? Taste the ideal complement to Wine Country’s world-class foods and wines!
Here are a few of our favorite local hikes in Sonoma. Each one is an easy drive from your HB Experience vacation home. So lace up your shoes, grab your sunscreen and water bottle, and enjoy!
Hikes in Sonoma
Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
If you want an easy hike that won’t last all day, check out this park southeast of downtown Santa Rosa. Traverse grassy hillsides, oak chaparral, and creeks along 5.5 miles of trails. Spend the morning in nature, and then indulge in an afternoon of wine tasting!
Jack London State Historic Park
This park has something for everyone. Built around the home of renown novelist and adventurer Jack London, there are 20 miles of trails through forests and redwood groves and open meadows. Visit the many historic buildings, bring a picnic lunch, and make a day of it. Great for the whole family.
Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve/Austin Creek
Experience the majestic coastal redwoods at this well-maintained natural reserve. Self-guided nature trails, picnic areas, and space to run around make this a fun destination for you and the kids. Hikes range from short and easy trails to steep and strenuous. Climb the Austin Creek trails to Bullfrog Pond for views you cannot see from any other vantage point.
Robert Louis Stevenson State Park
Trek through forests and chaparral and, if you’re feeling it, climb the five-mile trail to the top of Mount St. Helena. The views of the San Francisco Bay Area will make your effort pay off. You can see all the way to Mount Shasta, nearly 200 miles away, on a clear day! Just a few miles north of Calistoga on HWY 29, it’s a good choice for a morning hike followed by an easygoing afternoon of lunch and wine tasting.
California Coastal Trail/Kortum Trail
Over half of the Sonoma coastline is dotted with hiking trails that afford magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs, and pebbly beaches. In springtime, the blooming wildflowers are not to be missed! The Kortum Trail has a well-maintained stretch from Wright’s Beach north to the bluffs above Shell Beach. About two miles roundtrip, this easy hike is ideal for a couple to share a romantic afternoon together.
Luxury home rentals
Touring around sunlit backroads, breathing in the fresh country air and stunning vineyard landscape, sipping on your favorite red or white varietal — that’s a great Californian wine tour for you.
Though the journey itself is almost magical, it does take some planning in advance. You need to plan for your wine tour beforehand to book the ideal place to stay and the right reservations to sample the finest vintages California’s winemakers have for you.
Here are some guidelines to help you arrange a memorable journey.
Know your preferences before you plan
No two wineries are the same, which is why you need to know your preferences before you sign up for a wine tasting tour. If you prefer white wines, center your tour around wineries that produce and specialize in them. And while you’re in the Wine Country, go ahead and take a chance. Deviate from your plans, follow the inspiration of the moment, and try out something new if the idea strikes you.
Check up on the specifics
From reservation times to which wines are available for tasting to whether or not the venue has a picnic space, it’s a good idea to know everything about the tasting rooms on your tour. You can find this information on the winery’s website. If you are touring around with a guide, ask them.
Plan a diverse wine tasting tour
When in the Sonoma Wine Country or Napa Valley, tour as true wine connoisseurs do. Plan a wine tasting tour with a mix of old and new establishments, with traditional and contemporary styles, and red and white wines. You can stick to your wine preference back home at your house party or during a dinner out, but here you should take the opportunity to sample a broader range of tastes.
Book a chauffeur service
Have fun, but don’t forget to be safe. When you plan a day full of sampling wines, it’s not uncommon to feel … well … tipsy — not a condition in which you want to drive yourself or find your way around unfamiliar terrain. Bring along a designated driver, or book one. If your vacation rental service offers one on their concierge menu, that’s even better!
Bring an empty box with you
Most people don’t even think about this, but what happens when you need to buy a few bottles of your new favorite wine? You need an empty box to carry these in so they won’t roll around in the back of the car, jostling the contents — and your nerves.
Takes notes and ask questions
Wine tasting tour is more than just discussing the flavors in your glass. It’s about increasing your knowledge about wine itself, from how it’s produced to what foods it should be paired with. Ask all questions that come to your mind to get the most out of your Wine Country adventure!
It pays to have the experts of California Wine Country vacation rental services plan your wine tour. Let us personalize a wine tasting tour just for you, and take you on a memorable adventure through the trails of Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Call us today at 707.890.0852 for an exciting “wining” adventure!