Two Creative Approaches to Barrel Tastings

Prioritizing creativity and highlighting what your winery does best are important elements for wineries that are trying to find novel ways to connect with customers and drum up revenue.

Barrel tastings are tried but true events that some wineries put their personal stamp on to bring people through the doors.

A ticketed event and educational experience is the avenue Dutton Estate Winery has chosen to debut its brand new Chardonnay, whose name is still being kept a secret.

The Sebastopol, California winery — which hangs its hat on its Russian River Valley-grown Chardonnay — uses barrels, stainless steel tanks and concrete eggs to make its wines and is trying to teach customers how to taste the differences between each one.

The new Chardonnay, whose name is still being kept a secret, is the first in the winery’s 26 years to be crafted entirely in the concrete egg. 

Winemakers Kylie Dutton and Bobby Donnell will lead the way at the July 16 event, walking attendees through four Chardonnays.

“Of all the grape varieties, Chardonnay can taste so different depending on the choices we make in the cellar,” said Dutton, who is the winery’s assistant winemaker. “Tasting them side by side is one of the best ways to understand how different types of barrels or a lack of wood affect the wine.”

In Turner, Oregon, Willamette Valley Vineyards CEO Jim Bernau said barrel tasting experiences were a valuable tool for engaging customers. His winery also looks for ways to make it unique and noteworthy for winery guests.

“The ultimate experience in a winery is barrel tasting, and we offer a barrel tasting experience in our cellar learning about wines that are still young and how they’re developing in the barrel,” Bernau said. “Learning about different varieties or different clones directly with the cellar team is the ultimate experience for the enthusiast. It’s hands on for them.”

One of Willamette Valley Vineyards’ unique features is its Pinot Noir Clonal Blending Experience, which engages guests by allowing them to blend their own Cuvee. Machines are hooked to computers that record the customer’s preference, allowing them to replicate their Cuvee on future visits.

“It’s fun for the consumer because they have a record of what they’ve done and they can come back and bring friends,” he said. “It’s not a one off. They can come back and further explore seven different clones of Pinot Noir.”

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