It is a week into March and I am already tired. Not for lack of sleep mind you, but for the hordes that are descending upon my neighborhood for the annual March Madness...Barrel Tasting Weekend.
Every year during the first two weekends of March, thousands of visitors descend upon Sonoma Wine Country for this annual tasting fest. It is the time of year when those lovers of the grape are allowed to get a glimpse of what's been hanging out inside their oak homes for the last several months. With over 131 wineries, and multiple barrel samples at each stop plus a few more from the bottle, that is a lot of wine to taste!
Now combine all that wine with all those people and you have a perfect recipe for disaster. It may not be anyone's intention, but I have seen it and I get it. Having worked this ticketed event before, I know you have paid a lot of money, so you want to get the biggest bang for your buck. Let's be realistic though, this event was never designed to be a bottomless progressive drinking festival. Rather, it is an opportunity for those wine connoisseurs to taste futures and buy their favorites at today's prices. Unfortunately, as it as often happens, a few have to ruin it for the rest and you see evidence of it everywhere.
Over time, the winery hosts have learned to be savvy and not only can, but do cut people off when necessary. In fact, they are required to do so. However, it is not just the excessive drinking by our guests that bothers me, it is the rudeness and the air of superiority shown toward those that live in this beautiful area. Look at it from our perspective, we have invited you into our homes, but after you get here, you forget your manners. Don't get me wrong, we love having you visit, but not when your behaviors could potentially hurt someone, whether physical or otherwise. And just because you procured limo/bus or designated driver services, it does not give you license to insult us or hurt our feelings with your actions.
So why am I writing about all of this anyway. It's not that I don't like these wine events, because I actually think they are great (and below I'll offer a few must see wineries to visit any time). What bothers me is the fact that the locals, including myself, all have to hide out in our homes because we can't safely get around town due to lack of parking, jaywalkers or people just simply walking in the crosswalks when the flashing sign clearly says "Do Not Cross." And all because the wine participants are not thinking clearly because they have tasted more than they should.
But all hope is not lost. Last night, we went to the grocery store. While standing in line to check out, we met a really cool couple who had literally got on a plane from Chicago and flew all the way here just so they could sit in the sun for a few days. They didn't care about the fact that it was Barrel Tasting Weekend. They were just cold and wanted to go somewhere warm, so they picked our little corner of the world. This was definitely an exception to the norm, and it was quite refreshing!
So let's be safe everyone. It is alright to have a good time, but after a glass or two, you won't remember what anything tasted like, nor the fun you had. Remember, it is never safe to drink and drive, so be responsible!
Now, below are a few recommendations in Sonoma County Wine Country (in no particular order). These are just a few of my secret gems in the area - enjoy!
1. Carol Shelton Wines - A Zin lover's paradise with a little Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and Petite Syrah thrown in for good measure. Try the Black Magic Late Harvest...yum!
2. Merriam Vineyards - Shhhhh! They have Cabernet Franc...and it is really good!
3. Old Roma Station - Nine wineries in one convenient location. It's one stop shopping !
4. Davis Family Vineyard - Pinot, Pinot and more Pinot! Just across the street from Old Roma Station too!
5. Harvest Moon Estate & Winery - Known for their awesome Zins, but their Sparkling Wines are simply amazing!
6. Toad Hollow Vineyards - Feeling a little Risque? You should...try it that is!
7. Premonition Cellars - Limited Production Wines...worth every drop!
8. Krutz Family Cellars - They have a Malbec, Pinot and Chardonnay. Did I say they have Malbec? Yes, it's that good!
Wishing you moments of to remember to be safe and responsible!
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