ONE THING IN COMMON: The wine-loving community is a vast one, and to try and pigeonhole people as having one personality trait or the other seems to be a fool's errand. But? But. But we must venture forth one observation, and we hope that the oenophiles out there either recognize themselves or their libation-adoring friends in it: Wine lovers are great communicators. If you get three or four in a tasting room situation, or around a barrel in a warehouse, you're going to have some very colorful conversation, and not always about what is being sipped. But the sippers do like to discuss nose and gravitas and body and sugar levels and tannins. Which makes the annual Barrel Tasting weekends along the Wine Road in Northern Sonoma County some of the most chatty and convivial happenings of the year. Why? Well, in addition to the usual barrel-adjacent chitchat there's something else afoot: futures. Part of the fun of the weekend -- or weekends, rather -- is buying the wine now and picking it up when it is bottled in a year or eighteen months down the road. There are discounts to be had, too. So is there discussing among friends? For sure. That's the fun.
DATES AND SUCH: The Barrel Tasting happens over the first two weekends in March -- so March 1-3 and March 8-10. You can purchase your wristband and glass -- that'll come in handy -- at the door of a participating winery (advance sales are over). Finding a participating winery should be a cinch: over a 100 are listed.
WHAT COMES NEXT: And then you put on your deciding cap and choose which wine you'd like to pick up in 2014. Figure that each bottle will come with a story, and when you open it one day for friends, you can talk about how you were there to try it in the early days of its ripening journey. Because oenophiles? They do love the wine-based chitchat, and anecdotes, and tales of winery weekends. Just put this down as a definite trait, large though the wine-loving community may be.