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Barrel tastings prove a challenge

By Dave Buchanan
Barrel tastings are interesting events in that you really don't know how much what you're tasting will resemble the finished product. That's both the beauty and the beast of tasting wine still in the barrel. Most wine lovers get few opportunities to taste wine as it ages in barrel simply because it's a bit of a hassle to line up a winemaker with the time and temperament to take some novice or know-it-all drinkers into his cellar or wine cave and dip onto what is still-developing juvenile product. And it's even more rare to find novice (and even those not-so-novice) wine drinkers who know how to judge a young wine and what they might learn from sipping a wine that still might have six or eight or 18 months left in its barrel stage. I bring this up because the Grand Valley Winery Association recently sent out it's invitations to the annual Barrel Tasting Events held each spring at the eight GVWA member wineries. I know, I know, it's barely December and they're expecting you to make a decision about something taking place next April and May? Well, yes they are, since there are but 375 tickets to distribute and these, I guarantee, will go fast. Tickets are $60 apiece and get you entry to the eight wineries, a drawing ticket for a free case of wine, and a commemorative glass to use while tasting. The tastings will happen April 26-27 and May 17-18. Additionally, the Grand Valley Winery Association again this year is hosting a winemaker's dinner to benefit a local charitable organization. Last year the dinner raised money for the St. Mary's Hospital Association. The various winemakers will offer different lessons about their wines and the winemakers' particular blending and aging philosophy. Don't be afraid to ask questions, this might be the only time you can corner a winemaker in her own winery. Information and tickets for the Spring Barrel Tasting Events are available at Two Rivers Winery, 255-1471, e-mail at or here.