Joe and I spent this past weekend working Barrel Tasting at a friends' winery in Sonoma County's Russian River. It was a lot of fun to reconnect with everyone and get back in the tasting room, talking with customers. We helped pour bottled wines and wines from the barrels, as well as working the sales counter on Saturday and Sunday. There's been a lot of discussion recently about the state of the industry and the economy (which every business is worried about right now), but I have to say, if things have slowed it didn't show that much as far as warm bodies in the tasting room.
Traffic was about the same as last year, but the crowd was significantly YOUNGER. Now, as I've mentioned, I'm a 20-something and I love seeing people my age out and about, tasting wine. Just because we're young doesn't mean we don't know our s*#!. I mean stuff. ;)
Sales seemed to be slightly down at some of the wineries in the area - this could be because they charged $20 a glass this year for an event that used to be free. Or, perhaps Russian River Pinot is just getting a bit pricey amidst its popularity (I'm not saying that a lot of these wines aren't worth it - in fact, I found quite a few that I fell in love with). Or, maybe consumers are having a harder time justifying buying wines that won't be released until 2009 (and will spend another 6 months to a year in barrel, then blended and bottled, rendering them possibly nothing like what was tasted out of the barrel). Whatever it was, the interest in wine was still there and we saw some good sales go through where we were working.
The first weekend of barrel tasting 2008, we actually got to go out and taste as consumers. Our whole family and a few friends got in our cars (yes, cars plural, and yes, I did feel bad about it the entire day) and drove the route. My favorite stop of the day? Copain's new facility - right across the street from the river park on Westside Road where we used to take our dog to swim. The wines were lovely, the facility was gorgeous, and the view - incredible. Five stars, highly recommended. Especially the Kiser En Bas Pinot from Anderson Valley - mmmm... And his Lake County "Madder Lake" Syrah - a very pleasant surprise indeed.
The whole thing spurred some thought on our part. Perhaps we should do a fall barrel tasting as part of a big harvest bash. There's just something so great about tasting a wine in the vessel that contributes so much to the very essence and structure of the wine. Anyone interested??