Sonoma County hosts three weekends of "Barrel Tasting" in March. Do you get to taste barrels? NO, luckily. But maybe wine that hasn't made it from the barrel to the bottle yet. What's the point? From the wineries point-of-view it's usually to get visitors to buy futures.
I've been going out to the Russian River Barrel Tasting for a number of years. Besides the price going from free to $30 the other big change is the crowd. It's a lot younger (and for some reason I keep getting older).
There's lots of talk in the wine marketing areas about the Millennials (aka the young crowd) and their interest in wine. I can't decide if it's wine specifically or just wanting an excuse to party. Looking around downtown Healdsburg late Saturday afternoon during the Barrel Tasting event looked a lot like I'd expect Mardi Gras to look. Lots of people in their twenties having a really good time!
Many wineries don't know what to make of this. On one hand they don't buy nearly as much as middle-aged people with disposable income; on the other they are the future wine buyers. Of course, most accountant-types want to see the money now and aren't interested in who's buying what in 2030.