Tasting California From The Barrel


For 31 years … Wait a minute. Think about that. 31 YEARS. That’s not even a decade after the Judgment of Paris made California wine significant … MacArthur Beverages has been hosting a barrel tasting of California wines here in Washington, D.C. It’s an opportunity to try (and purchase) the most recent vintages before they’re ready to be sold – and as the name “Barrel Tasting” suggests, even before the wines are bottled. 

Classic wineries pouring included Chateau Boswell, Hourglass, Girard, Miner, Pahlmeyer, Ravenswood and Ridge, as well as newer labels such as LaRue (one of my IPOB favorites), Relic and Donelan Family. It was comforting to see Hope and Grace – the very first California wine I ever fell in love with – pouring their Cabs, too. (Here’s the full participant list.)

A fun surprise (for me, at least) was to see so many Pinot Noirs (and some Syrahs and other varieties) from throughout Northern California (and dipping down into Santa Rita Hills). My understanding was this event in the past focused mostly on Napa Cabernets (but maybe I was wrong? or maybe this is a sign of changing tastes?).

But what I really enjoyed about the event was the energy in the room. Unlike other big tastings, many of the wines here have never been poured for consumers before. That made the tasting all about discovery –  discovering new tastes and sensations in the new vintages, and for the winemakers, discovering how consumers are reacting for the very first time.

Looking forward to next year’s event! 

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