Ah, Barrel Tasting Weekend…nothing quite marks the start of Spring in the Bay Area as much as this event to me. It’s always so festive and fun and it’s a nice easy way to explore new wineries and get a sneak peak to some truly delicious wines. It’s also a fantastic wine education, because, you see it’s a bit of an art to taste a yet unfinished wine from the barrel and be able to truly imagine what it will be like finished to be confident enough to buy futures. But the wineries are extremely helpful with this, allowing you to taste from the barrels and taste some finished products to compare and contrast.
Really though, the only way to learn is to jump in and buy some futures! My first year doing it I was a bit disappointed with my wine once I did get it but I’ve gotten better over the years and it really allows you to form a bit of a deeper connection with the winery as well. If you didn’t make it this year, mark your calendar for March 2012!
So Christian and I started our day at Everett Ridge Winery…if you haven’t been up there it’s a must visit on a clear day to hang out on their patio and enjoy the view alone, but the icing on the cake is that their wines are pretty darn god as well. I was particularly liking their Zin from the barrel and Christian really liked their finished Riesling as well. Not too sweet, with only about 2.5% alcohol content so I actually enjoyed that as well (I’m not as big of a fan of the sweet wines as my hubby typically is).
Next we moved onto Martorana Family Winery where we met the winemaker, Gio (pictured above), as he served us some fabulous Dry Creek Zinfandel from the barrel among many other enjoyably complex wines. The atmosphere here was super friendly and comfortable…kind of made you want to settle in and hang out for a while…especially with the Bocce Ball Courts calling, but alas there are more wines to taste!
Zichichi Family Vineyard was next, and while we were excited to try them out based on the wines they were sampling, we were underwhelmed by both the atmosphere/interaction with the staff and the wines. Perhaps we were experiencing a bit of wine fatigue.
Luckily for us, our next stop offered up some small sausage sandwiches to refresh our palettes if they were tuckering out on us! Which I have to say…there used to be a lot more snacks and food from the wineries during Barrel Tasting weekend…it has dropped off significantly which is not only a bummer since there used to be an inventive food element that is now missing, but it’s also a lot less safe for the wineries. They’re just asking for a drunken mess at $30 a glass for all you can drink and no food! So we had a bit of a snack at Truett Hurst before trying their wines and walking the grounds. Another GREAT picnic spot for future trips. They have a lovely little garden (flowering purple kale shown below) and a fabulous sitting area right on the river which was flowing quite readily after all of our rain. This is a great winery for a sunny day.
Next we moved onto downtown Healdsburg so Christian could stop being chauffeur for a bit (such a fabulous hubby!) and actually enjoy the wine a bit more while we walked around. First we stopped at Boisset Taste of Terroir where we stirred things up by having a bit of bubbly. Louise Bouillot Rose bubbly to be exact, and at $13 a bottle it was a bargain (so we bought a few!). We had a few other tastings of some DeLoach and JCB wines as well all which were lovely (especially since my drinking partner in crime was now in full swing!).
We then moved next door to Vintage Wine Estates where we were fortunate enough to find a cozy couch by the window waiting for us. So we hung out and enjoyed our tasting there before moving on to our final winery of the day, Longboard Vineyards. To be honest, I can’t comment on the wines at this point (I mean really, 7 wineries…how the heck did we manage that at our leisurely pace?!) but Christian was a surfer when we lived in San Diego so it had a soft spot for that reason alone. And I have to say the people were awfully friendly and there was a very congenial atmosphere which I liked…plus looking at the hard bodied surfer photos while sipping wine isn’t a bad way to pass the time :)
After walking the wine off a bit and exploring downtown Healdsburg (I always forget how freaking cute it is there! Like a more ritzy Sonoma square) we head down to Santa Rosa for dinner at Zazu Restaurant & Farm on our way home. If you haven’t been to Zazu I STRONGLY recommend it next time you are in the area…perfect end to a day of wine tasting, but that my friends is for a separate blog post…which you can read here!