Here are my Top 10 Best of the Wine Road Barrel Tasting, some snapshots from yesterday’s trek through the Dry Creek, Russian River and Alexander valleys. You may find yourself in the copy, so check it out.
1) Best Limo: A black Excursion Prestige built like a tanker. It transported 15 twenty-something, blue teethed tasters from San Francisco on Saturday. They were press shy but one was willing to speak – Nema, although he refused to give his last name. “We love wine and limos and you can quote me on that,” he said.
2) Best Risk Takers: Nancy Easling and Rene Thomas from the Sacramento. The couple was at Ridge Vineyards in Healdsburg on Saturday, tasting through what they considered bold and audacious field blends. “This area doesn’t get as much attention as Napa, but it makes great wine,” Thomas said. “Here they’re willing to break some rules and take some risks.”
3) Best Philosopher: Michael Haran, in his 50s, was reflecting on the younger crowd that was dominating the barrel tasting at Armida Winery in Healdsburg. “They are the future of this business and should be treated with respect,” he said. “The only thing I don’t like is when they over-drink and smoke cigarettes. But the kids, they’re okay.”
4) Best Barrel Tasting Getaway: Greg and Sue Straw from Napa were at Saturday’s barrel tasting as part of their 30-year wedding anniversary. Greg said “Sonoma County is a destination for many people in the world, but it’s right in our own backyard. You’ve got to stop and smell the roses or taste the wine, one.”
5) Best Runner Up Bachelorette Party: Laura Entin, 25 of Denver, Colorado and seven of her buddies met in Wine Country to get a little crazy before she says “I do.” “We tried to make a beach vacation work but that fell through so barrel tasting was the next best thing.”
6) Best Dressed: Ben Abraham, 32 of Point Reyes, wore shiny Lycra pants and a black velour shirt and his friend, Annie Schultz, 30 of Vallejo, a tie-dye T-shirt, jeans and a blue scarf that bundled up her blonde deadlocks – more that I could count.
7) Best Cash Flow: The prize apparently goes to the millennials, the offspring of the baby boomers, who range in age from 21 to 31. Steve Cousins, co-vintner of Armida, said on Saturday, “I’ve never seen so many $100 bills as I saw today.” He said the money came from the millennials, almost exclusively
8) Best Barrel Tasting Tough Love: Ridge Vineyards sent party buses away, as well as six toasted tasters.
9) Best Impromptu Performance: Adrian Baker, formerly of the Beach Boys, surprised the crowd in the caves at Bella Vineyards in Healdsburg when he sang the old hit “Sherry.” Little known fact: Baker, who now lives in Reno, said he initially made the song a hit in London and that piqued the interest of the Beach Boys who then tracked him down.
10) Best Perch: Bella Vineyards. The action is on Lily Hill, which has an altitude of about 300 feet, with mountains surrounding it. The picnic area is bordered by olive trees and barrel samples are in the cave nearby. This is the best barrel tasting setting, hands down.