So what does Events 2.0 mean? The Wine Road made some changes to ensure it holds safe, socially distanced wine tasting events. We loved the Wine Road events of past years, and wondered if these changes had taken away some of the enjoyment and magic of these events, so we decided to take deeper look.
Wine Road Events 2.0
The three beloved Wine Road events — Barrel Tasting (March), Wine & Food Affair (November) and Winter Wineland (January) — were on hiatus for a while, but returned as of last November. The Wine Road has retooled their events to 1) make sure everyone is socially distanced when unmasked and wearing a mask indoors while not tasting; and, 2) make sure everyone attending has a terrific time.
Did these changes work? Here’s a quote from a Wine & Food Affair attendee this past November.
I had concerns about the new Wine Road event format, but I have to say, Wine & Food Affair exceeded my expectations. Having our own private table with a dedicated winery staff member serving us allowed us to learn much more about the winery and the wines they served us. I can’t wait until the next event! ~ Susie G., California
The next Wine Road event will be Barrel Tasting, which has changed from two weekends to one long weekend. This year Barrel Tasting will be Thursday, March 3rd through Sunday, March 6th. Barrel Tasting weekends of the past meant crowed tasting rooms or cellars, and lots and lots of people coming and going from all the wineries along the Wine Road, especially on Saturday. Here’s what you can expect if you’re a ticket holder this year:
To protect everyone’s health, the following safeguards will be in place:
- All event tastings are by advance reservations only
- No tickets will be sold at the door
- Ticket holders should check in at each winery at their reserved time
- Wineries will be limiting the number of people on their property at any given time, so they can maintain social distanced tastings
- No groups larger than six people will be allowed to book a reservation, and some wineries will only be able to accommodate groups of four people
- The Wine Road requests ticket holders not travel in buses or with a large group, for the wineries will not be able to accommodate large groups
No Large Groups
Every winery must comply with state and county COVID related restrictions, including the size of groups at wineries—which is not to exceed six people per group! If wineries don’t comply, the county steps in and can put an end to events. None of us wants that to happen!
When you purchase your Barrel Tasting tickets, it is best to book your winery reservations at that time as well. The number of people allowed at each winery per hour is very limited. Reservations times will be 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., giving you a chance to visit five wineries per day.
Making reservations means planning ahead! The Wine Road’s website states, “All reservations are 45 minutes for tasting and 15 minutes to drive to your next winery…. Space is limited.”
Make sure you map out your course before you try to book your reservations, and have an alternative plan if your first choice and time don’t work out. The Wine Road covers a big area, so try to go from winery to winery within 15 minutes or less as you go about your tasting journey.
If you have specific places you want to visit, do your homework before the tickets go on sale on February 8th at 9 a.m. PT so you’re ready to place your reservations!
The Wine Road website states wineries will be hosting additional evening events during the Barrel Tasting weekend. Here is one option for the Friday night of Barrel Tasting weekend:
Library Cabernet Evening at West Wines
Join us for an exclusive opportunity to taste some of our first vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve paired with appetizers. Winemaker Katarina will open bottles from vintages 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Cabernet Sauvignon is the foundation of Bordeaux wines known for their aging potential of 30-40 years or more. Our first vintages of West Cabernet Sauvignon are aging beautifully and we will be opening a few bottles for this occasion.
This sunset tasting will take place on Friday, March 4th at the West Wines tasting room from 5:30-7 PM. Seating for this event will be extremely limited.
A Few More Details
Sonoma County, where the Wine Road wineries are located, has an indoor mask mandate, so please be sure to bring and wear your mask to this event.
The Wine Road and its members are serious about making sure everyone stays well.
Thumbs Up or Down?
There are a lot of changes, but according to initial reports the events are enjoyable as ever—if not more. Here are some quotes from folks who attended Wine & Food Affair in November, or Winter Wineland in January.
We were hesitant to go to a public event, but when we read it was by reservation only, and the number of people per time slot was limited, we decided to give it a try and we’re so glad we did. It was one of the best Winter Winelands ever, and we felt all precautions were taken to make it a safe event. ~ Gerri R., Oregon
Attending the Wine Road events is a highlight for us every year. We typically go with another couple, so were glad that we could still do that. It was so great to have seated tastings, not have to wait in line for a taste, and have one-on-one time with winery staff members. At several wineries, we got to talk with the owners and winemakers. We can’t wait to come back again! ~ Matt G., California
Being back at Wine Road event felt like old times, but without the crowds. We love the new reservation format, and can’t wait to go to Barrel Tasting. ~ Eloise M., Arizona
I almost didn’t go to the last Wine Road event because I just couldn’t figure out how the new format would be as fun as spontaneously going from winery to winery, and having the flexibility to leave on a whim. It turns out the new format is a keeper. Because we could only visit a few wineries a day, we really had to choose and agree upon our favorites to visit, which as it turned out, makes for a much less hectic yet more enjoyable day out wine tasting. And, given the times, not spending time in packed tasting rooms was a bonus. ~ George A., Colorado
That’s a Wrap
So to sum up the good things about Wine Road Events 2.0:
- Sense of “like old times” but without the crowds
- Time to talk to the winery staff and winemaker
- Feel safe when not masked
- Opportunities to taste the wines you came for without waiting in long lines
- Same great wineries, same great wines