Tips for Spring Barrel Tasting
Spring Barrel Tasting (April 22-24, 2016) is a wonderful time of year in the Yakima Valley. One of the largest wine events in the state, it’s a celebration of the spring season, the warm summer months ahead, and the new vintages’ created by our local winemakers! Winemakers and their staff are on hand to mingle with guests, give tours and answer questions about their wines. Most of the wineries will crack open barrels of their future vintages for sampling. And many of the wineries feature live music, vendors, food and a festive mood!
With more than 50 wineries and a huge amount of attendees, we recommend you plan out your trip so you can make the most of the weekend. Here are a few tips to help make the event easy and fun for everybody:
- Plan ahead: Plan to stay at least one night and to reserve your lodging well in advance. For a listing of Yakima Valley hotels, B&Bs and inns, click here.
- Be responsible: Gather friends and get a limo or join an organized tour. If you do not hire a professional driver, designate a non-drinking driver. Treat the designated driver like a king or queen by buying their lunch and a bottle or two for them to enjoy at a later time. Note: Even if you have a designated driver, the tasting room staff is not allowed to serve you if you appear impaired… it’s the law.
- Get the scoop: Wineries and wine organizations have different offerings and fees (or no fees) during the event. Before you arrive, visit the various wine associations websites for the details on their offerings.
- Consider the “Pre-Barrel” weekend: A number of wineries in the Rattlesnake Hills region and other locations also celebrate what is locally known as Pre-Barrel, this year on April 16-17, 2016. It’s the weekend before the big event, but is a little lower key in style and a lot less crowded. If you want to spend a little more time with the winemakers and staff, this is a great option.
- Bring your own wine glass: With the crowds expected, the wineries can’t supply everyone with a glass, so it’s a good idea to bring one for each person. Some wineries also offer glasses for sale.
- Timing is everything: Friday and Sunday of the main weekend tend to be quieter, so visit on those days.
- Do it differently: Go to wineries early and in the opposite direction as everyone else. Many folks start at one end of the Yakima Valley and head to the other so consider starting with wineries in the middle of the Valley. Check our Craft Beverage Map for those wineries.
- Be realistic: It’s not a marathon. Visit no more than five wineries per day. More than that and your taste pallet will grow numb.
- Be prepared: Bring a cooler filled with bottled water and snacks. Pack a picnic, as many of the wineries have picnic grounds, or plan on eating lunch at one of the wineries that serve food. Food helps you to regain your palate and provides a needed break. Also, if it is warm, consider a cooler for your purchased wines. Heat is bad for wine.
- Try something new: Tasting from the barrel is very different than trying a finished product out of a bottle. Talk to the winemaker and staff. Ask about the flavor, process and how the wine will taste when finished. It’s a great time to gain a greater appreciation of the winemaking process.
- Be Patient: The weekend draws a lot of people, and staff at the wineries will be working as fast as they can.
- Be Respectful…of other tasters and the staff. Try not to get too pushy or grouchy. There can be a lot of people in the some of the smaller tasting rooms. Just remember everyone is there have fun just like you.
- Be aware: When it is busy in the tasting room, please step up to the bar and receive your taste, then step back and take your time smelling and tasting the wine. This allows others to access the bar to get a taste. In other words, don’t monopolize the bar space in front of others who are trying to participate.
- Don’t wear it: 70% to 80% of our ability to perceive flavor comes from our sense of smell. So please do not wear perfume, cologne, aftershave or any other fragrance, as it interferes with everyone’s ability to smell, and hence taste the wines. You should also refrain from chewing gum and breath mints.
- Spitting and dumping is good: Just because wine is in your glass doesn’t mean you should drink it all. You will enjoy it more if you don’t drink every drop. Your mouth won’t fatigue, you won’t become as intoxicated, and you’ll have more fun. Dumping excess wine into the provided bucket is okay.
- Leave it outside: Consuming alcohol from outside the winery being visited is not permitted. This means beer, wine, mixed drinks, etc. The wineries can actually lose their license if there is alcohol brought on to their properties.
- Have pets? Kids? Children are welcome at the wineries, but the crowds and focus of the event may not be suited to them. And while many wineries are dog friendly, it’s best to leave the pups at home on this busy weekend. For a complete resource on Yakima Valley dog friendly businesses visit com.
- Buy! Buy! Buy! No that is not a typo, it’s an encouragement to buy wine during the event. The wineries spend a lot of time and money to stage this great weekend. Show your gratitude by buying wine for another day. They’ll appreciate the business, and you’ll take home some premium wines, many of which are only available at the winery itself.
Follow these tips and everyone will have a great time during the Yakima Valley Spring Barrel weekends. Enjoy your visit and we’ll see you next month!
Resources to plan your trip:
Yakima Valley Visitor Information Center
101 North Fair Avenue, Yakima, WA 98901
Hours: Monday – Saturday 9-5, Sunday 10-4
(509) 573-3388 or 800-221-0751
Click here for Yakima Valley Tourism’s Spring Barrel Tasting website. For a handy map of the wineries and other craft beverage options, such as breweries, cidery and distilleries, click here.