A day in the life of a wine tender

Columnist Misha Herbert.

Barrel tasting is a two-weekend event in the beginning of March that occurs all over Sonoma County.     

Sadly, the prevalence of belligerent twenty-somethings has begun to leave a bad taste in the mouths of participating wineries and event-goers. As both an employee of the wine industry and a college student, I feel compelled to appeal to my like-minded counterparts.

Wine enthusiasts from across the nation come together for the chance to taste wines right out of the barrel from over 200 wineries in the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys.

Ticket prices of $45 for an entire weekend of virtually limitless wine-tasting make this event a killer deal. Considering a standard tasting can run anywhere from $10-20 for a single winery visit, it’s no wonder why this event is a big hit with drinking age college students.
While barrel tasting is an awesome chance to drink a lot of wine for a pretty good price, there’sdefinitely a right and wrong way to participate in the event.

This event offers a unique opportunity for many people to meet and talk with local winemakers and winery owners. For those unfamiliar with drinking wine, this is a great chance to figure out what wines you may or may not like, and even learn a little about wine making in the process.
Whether you like it or not, you are representing Sonoma State University when you go out into the “real world.” Being from the first college in the U.S. to offer an undergraduate degree, MBA and Executive MBA in wine business, you’ll be expected to know wine, at least a little bit.
Barrel tasting gives you a chance to gain that knowledge, all while sipping on some seriously good stuff. Take advantage of this opportunity, you’ll thank yourself later!

One of the biggest mistakespeople make while wine tasting is forgetting to eat and drink water along the way. I’ve seen it far too many times in the tasting room at work: Some poor soul is on their fourth winery of the day, and the situation is quickly going downhill. It’s not pretty.

Courtesy // Misha Herbert

Although it’s not publicized as a food pairing event, many places will provide snacks or palette cleansers to wine tasters. These little snacks are your friend if you want to survive through the weekend. Or better yet, bring a lunch. Many wineries have beautiful picnic areas, and if you ask nicely, most won’t mind you having a picnic while overlooking the vineyards.

Lastly, and most importantly, make sure you have a sober driver to take that hot mess express from one winery to another. This is just common sense, people.

While the one-ounce pours may not seem like a lot of alcohol, they can quickly sneak up on you. Sonoma County police officers will be on the roads, and it’s  truly not worth the risk of driving drunk. You can thank your designated driver by buying them a bottle of delicious local wines. Everybody wins.