Wine Road Barrel tasting: Crowds down, civility up

  • Santa Rosa area residents Danielle Buckman, left and Jen Torrone, right, joined their friends at Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves for the 35th Annual Barrel Tasting in northern Sonoma County, Saturday March 2, 2013 to celebrate a friends birthday. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

DeLoach Vineyards was prepared Saturday for the opening weekend of the 35th annual Wine Road Barrel Tasting event.

The smell of Chicago-style hot dogs wafted across the entrance to the Olivet Road facility. Inside the cellar, Boston's "More than a Feeling" blasted on a stereo as about a dozen imbibers enjoyed wines directly from barrels.

The only thing missing?

Wine Road Barrel Tasting


Hordes of inebriated customers.

"I didn't have any extremely rude, obnoxious, drunk people," Ellen Springwater, the winery's tasting room manager, said with relief at 3:30 p.m., a half-hour before the winery closed for the day.

It's too early to say whether the barrel event, which occurs on back-to-back weekends the first part of this month, has shed its rowdy ways. But the early returns Saturday were positive.

"We haven't been overwhelmed at all," said John Balletto, who owns a winery on Occidental Road.

Last year's event, which drew an estimated 20,000 people to wineries in the Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River valleys, generated complaints about public drunkenness.

Beth Costa, the event's executive director, said changes were made this year in an attempt to curtail some of the problems.

The strategy included raising at-the-door ticket prices by 25 percent — to $50 — and banning buses that carry more than 24 riders.

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