Tomorrow’s wines today

Going to a barrel tasting

Barrel tasting - St. Helena, CA

In spring, the weather is nice, and last year’s grapes have long since gone into the barrel. This makes it a great time for a barrel tasting, which is like other wine tastings, except all the wines come straight from the barrel. Often, at barrel tastings, wine futures are sold at a discount. A wine future is much like any other futures contract — you agree to buy a certain amount of wine, once it has been bottled. By committing yourself to the purchase ahead of time, you save money on the eventual purchase price.

Barrel tastings don’t necessarily involve food to go with the wine, which means (especially if no one has provided a spittoon) you’ll want to bring a designated driver along. This is even more important if you’re going to several barrel tastings. You also won’t want to taste too many wines. If in doubt, pick something you’ve never had before — the whole point is to discover something new. As at any wine tasting, don’t wear any strong-smelling perfume or cologne, and remember that this isn’t a bar.

Barrel tastings vineyard near St. Helena

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, holds tastings in its barrel caves, where current releases and library wines may be sampled and visitors can learn all about the process of making and storing the wine. Tastings are $65, but one tasting fee can be waived by joining their wine club or making a $100 purchase. The annual Spring Fling is in May.

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