Spring is Here, 9 Tips to make this the best barrel tastings ever!
Ahhh ….the grass is green not grey or white, the birds are tweeting and busily building their nest and my inbox is filled with notices from my favorite wineries. The season is here for the wonders of the new vintage and the joys of special deals and discounts. But for a seasoned wino like me the thoughts tend to go to the packed parking lots, rowdy drunken crowds on buses and worn-out wineries staff just trying to cope. Not to say I do not have some fantastic memories from Spring Barrel tasting. But that seem to be before the idea was discovered by the huge crowds and bus tours. Does that mean I will not go to the ones that I am not working at?
Nope – would not want to miss those sweet new vintages and the wonderful bargains that abound. But I will go better prepared for the other less than fun things that I know I will encounter. I will go with a strong sense of patience, a very large sense of humor and a plan.
I know it seem counter to the idea of a fun weekend of wine tasting to have a plan but as a survivor of years of these fun and stressful events I can tell you it makes all of the difference. I am not saying that you have to take the fun out of the weekend, but with a little planning you can make it fun for you and all the others you will encounter. Here is some basic ideas and rules that will help you have a fun time and also make sure that others do too!
1. Take your sense of humor. It is a busy weekend of crowds and sometimes that can make for parking problems or being cut off or many things that can get tempers flaring. Take a moment and a breath before opening your mouth and taking frustrations out on the servers or the person who just took “your” only parking spot.
2. Plan your trip. I would think about avoiding the larger wineries better known that have bus parking or large parking lots. This is where the tours will be headed and that will mean probably anywhere from 10 to 45 people all descending on the place at once and it is very easy for the staff to get a little overwhelmed. (Save these for a non-barrel tasting weekend when you can get to know the staff and maybe still get to try some special stuff) If you must try for them first thing when the staff is fresh!
3. Taste responsibly! I know there are a lot of places you want to go for the spring barrel, but remember you will be traveling between wineries and that can be dangerous. Even if you have a designated driver (and I strongly suggest you treat them very very well for the day) I would still think about tasting an spitting. It can all add up very fast and in warm weather even more so. If you find something you really like buy it and drink it with friends or at home for your own private tasting.
4. Don’t try and visit too many places. I know there are so many fantastic wines and wineries out there but try to limit the number you try and visit in a day. I would suggest no more than 4 or 5 in one day . It will make for a more relaxing day not trying to dash to make the next one and it will help your poor taste buds from being over worked and coated. You will buy less wine that you get home and think it does not taste anything like what I tried.
5. Do have some back up plans. If some of the places you have on your plan are busy or that favorite lunch spot is full up. Have a backup plan. Remember you can always come back hopefully in a less busy time or another year for spring barrel. Again this is supposed to be fun and keep that sense of humor!
6. Have some munchies in the car. Yes I know in rule 3 I said to spit but one I know you will probably not listen and two alcohol can be absorbed through the lining of your mouth so even if you do not swallow you can still get a pretty good buzz with spitting. So keep some munchies handy in the car for a snack between the wineries. This will also help if you don’t get that designated driver that I also mentioned in rule 3.
7. Take a large dose of patience! The staff at the wineries are doing the best they can to make your experience fun and informative. But they are only people ( ok I have seen a few that I consider superheroes) and can only help one person at a time. Remember this is about having fun and having an experience, not how fast can I get through a winery. I promise the staff is going to do everything they can to get things done and to keep the food filled and the checkout line moving but again this is about fun relax and remember that!
8. Have Fun. Remember wine tasting is about building memories and for some of us a treasure hunt for hidden gems for our collection at great prices. Don’t judge a winery or its staff off these weekends in a negative light; it can be a very busy weekend. Find the ones that you want to go back to and see how the staff is on a normal day and then make your review/opinion!
9. Take a Cooler to store your wine! One of the great things about a barrel tasting are the great deals and sometimes the winemaker is even there to sign bottles. But that wonderful red that you got at the first winery of the day may not taste very good when you get home and it had been sitting in a 120 degree car for the entire day. Take a spare cooler with some of the frozen ice packs to store the wines you buy and you will get home with the same wine as you had in the tasting room.
Ok so that are some of the rules that I have used to keep my sanity on one of the busiest weekends of the year for many wineries. I hope they help you and the staff at wineries make memories that will be wonderful and built on every year!