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Monday, March 14, 2011

Summing up the 2011 Russian River Barrel Tasting

Following are some overall thoughts on the weekend now that I've semi-recovered.  You can find more detail in the other blog entries from the past three days.

David Coffaro's vines and solar array on March 11th

The Wines

Overall, pretty much everything I tried from bottle or barrel was a very good to excellent wine.  Mostly I sampled Pinot Noir, Syrah, or Zinfandel with the occasional Cabernet or Cab blend thrown in.  There was one winery, however, that was making pretty bad wines--you can read about that in the March 13th entry. 

Pinot and Syrah prices seem to be creeping up as there were a number of these at $50 or more.  Zinfandel is holding the line or maybe dropping a bit.   The other nice thing, especially with the Zins, is I didn't run across the overly alcoholic fruit-bombs though that may be partially because of the wineries I selected to visit.

There are a lot of really good, really small wineries out there that you've never heard of (or at least I'd never heard of).  These are wines you'll never see on a store shelf or a restaurant wine list.

The 2010 growing season was the worst anyone remembers as the weather was either too cold or too hot and a lot of grapes were lost.   Any time there's talk of a bad year you wonder what will actually show on in the bottle.  I sampled several 2010 wines from barrels and didn't find a bad one though they are still really young and the reds are not close to being fully developed yet.

Partying Crowds

This event has gotten notorious for the huge crowds, and the intoxicated groups of people, especially on Saturday afternoons.   While I've heard others talking about it on the Internet I didn't see much of this possibly because I stayed out of Dry Creek Valley and the town of Healdsburg on Saturday afternoon.   I've been to this event before and worked this event so I only went into Dry Creek on Friday and again briefly on Sunday afternoon.  I didn't venture into the town of Healdsburg.   It made things much more enjoyable not having to deal with busloads of drunk 23 year olds!

Barrel Tasting and Futures

The Barrel Tasting seemed to have gotten away from its original format of actual barrel sampling and offering futures sales on these wines.   This seemed to go hand-in-hand with the drunken party atmosphere of the past few years.   This year almost everyone had more barrel samplings than bottled wines available plus futures offerings on the wines still in barrels.   I'm glad to see the event return to its roots.   A lot of the credit may go to the Wine Road folks who put this event on.  They do a good job of listening to the member wineries and their customers.

One winery I worked at used to do about $10k in futures during one weekend of this event, but that had dwindled to one case a couple years ago!   I'm hoping the futures program is working out for the wineries. 

Good Timing on My Part

I have my semi-annual appointment to get my teeth cleaned this week.   I'll let her figure out how to get all those barrel samples of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah out of my teeth!