Barrel Tasting weekend in Sonoma County started off decades ago as a free event. Potential wine buyers would head out to wineries on the Wine Road, bringing their own glass to go wine tasting and connect with winemakers pouring from barrels. Almost 40 years later, Barrel Tasting has become its own holiday in the Healdsburg area of Dry Creek, Alexander Valley, and Russian River Valley. Visitors come up across two weekends in March for fun with friends.
To ensure everyone has a good time (yes, this includes the staff at wineries and locals who live in the areas you are headed to for wine tasting), I have come up with a few suggestions for you:
Wine Tasting Tips
Wine tasting is NOT a free-for-all wine chugging contest. Go out and have fun. Enjoy sipping on wine and taking in the experience. But don’t treat wine tasting as an all-you-can-drink buffet. Enjoy the wines and sip if you need to (yes, those dump buckets are there for a reason). Make sure to treat people working (and other guests) with respect. A friendly attitude can go a long way—especially if you have to wait in line to get a pour.
If you have the chance, go wine tasting on Friday with fewer crowds. Only a limited number of wineries are open, but it’s a chance to have a more personalized experience with winemakers and wine staff who aren’t exhausted from the crowds over the busy weekend.
After you buy your tickets, head over to the website to look at the map and a list of participating wineries. Plan ahead with your friends to figure out what your top wineries are. That way, you can make sure to hit the ones you truly want to visit.
Enjoy yourself, but don’t go overboard and drink too much. That will be the one night your kid is up all night when all you want to do is sleep off the wine hangover.
Make sure you have a designated driver. That needs to be said again. Make sure you have a designated driver. Thank you.
Which Wineries to Visit
The one thing I know about moms is that we are efficient. We have a limited amount of time before we have to go back to our kids, so my suggestion for you is to head up to visit collections of wineries. One of my favorite places to go is Dry Creek Valley, just northwest of downtown Healdsburg. The wineries on Dry Creek Road are closer together than the ones in Alexander Valley or Russian River Valley. This allows you to visit more wineries in less time if that’s what you want to do. Here are my suggestions:
- Kobler Estate Winery – in Healdsburg, off the square. Such a fun vibe (make sure to ask for Mike) and yummy rosé.
- Mounts Family Winery – off West Dry Creek Road. Husband and wife team, delicious wines, and a gorgeous view overlooking the vineyards and mustard flowers in Dry Creek Valley.
- Armida Winery – just south of Healdsburg on Westside Road. This is the winery to visit for some fun! Leave any stuffy wine-tasting vibes behind and enjoy yourself.
For the full list of participating wineries, check out the Google Map of Northern Sonoma County!
What to Wear
Comfortable shoes – I know many moms want to dress up and be fancy for a day of wine tasting. However, this is not the place to do it. I speak from experience here: wear comfortable shoes. You will be on your feet, wine tasting and walking a lot.
Layers – Some years, Barrel Tasting weekend has sunny skies and gorgeous weather; some years, it’s pouring rain. Make sure to plan for all types of weather and wear layers. This is especially important if you start in the morning since the weather will be different in the afternoon. You’ll also be in a lot of barrel rooms that are kept cold to keep the wine at a perfect fermenting temperature. So be prepared with layers.
Dark clothing – There are a lot of people at Barrel Tasting, which means that there’s a lot of wine to potentially be spilled on you. Wear dark clothing (you will thank me). I’m sure I don’t have to tell moms this—we’re used to getting kid food all over the place.
What NOT to Wear
Perfume – Heavy smells can affect how you wine taste, so skip the perfume and scented lotions.
High heels – I’ll say this again: high heels are a bad idea for wine tasting. You may want to take a selfie with friends in the vineyards and you might fall. So if you want to wear heels, choose boots or wedges.
Uncomfortable clothing – Wine tasting should be fun. For me and many moms I know, fun is wearing yoga pants or jeans and being comfortable. Wear what makes you feel good.
Wine Tasting for Moms
Wine is just as synonymous with being a mom as coffee or having food on your clothes from messy kids. So go out and have fun with friends during Barrel Tasting weekend! This is our Disneyland. And just like Disneyland, make sure you plan ahead and take a charger for your phone, an extra sweater just in case you get spilled on, and snacks. Moms always need extra snacks. Grab extra water bottles, protein bars, energy gummies, or bring a packed lunch for a picnic at one of the wineries.
Tips for What to Do After Wine Tasting
For me, all I want to do after a day of wine tasting is drink a beer. I love heading to the Bear Republic in downtown Healdsburg for a pint and a burger. Maybe you have to go back to your kids. In that case, I recommend grabbing them and heading to the Bear Republic in Rohnert Park so they can play outside as you unwind from the day.
Barrel Tasting is not a food pairing or themed event. It’s all about the WINE. This is a chance to try “futures,” AKA barrel samples of wine that isn’t ready to be bottled yet. Wine tasters can purchase wine (often at a discount), then come back to the winery when the wine is bottled, typically 12-18 months later. Many wines are so limited that buying futures is your only chance to purchase them. If you’re one of those moms (like me) who loves to impress your friends and family with your wine selections, THIS is the event for you!