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'Millennials' flock to barrel tasting

  • Lacey Johnson captures the moment with her Sonoma State University alumni friends Kelly Fabela and Kris Jacobsen, top left and Erik Rootness after they finished tasting at Bella Vineyards during the Wine Road barrel tasting weekend, Saturday March 5, 2011 in wset Dry Creek. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2011

Among the hundreds of winetasters Saturday at the Timber Crest Farms collective in Dry Creek Valley's were many who looked as if they might be en route to a campus party instead of a classic Wine Country event.

A hand-lettered tribute to the Kappa Delta Zeta sorority on the rear window of a parked SUV hinted at the youthful flavor of the crowd.

Several large parties gathered on the hill above the tasting room complex for the afternoon — their wristbands and glasses good for wines from all nine wineries at the site.

2011: Wine Road Barrel Tasting

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"We came here because there's a lot of wineries here," said 21-year-old Sonoma State student Caitlin Lavezzo, who recruited about 15 friends to share a limousine for the day.

"This is the party spot, really," said Bev Gill, hospitality director for Papapietro Perry Winery, looking out at a large asphalt area edged by tasting rooms and swarming with people. "This is really the epicenter."

Organizers said 19,000 people paid advance admission for the 33rd Annual Barrel Tasting, a six-day affair that runs Friday-through-Sunday this weekend and next.

They expected that an additional 6,000 to 8,000 people would pay same-day admission for the chance to taste the fruits of up to 136 northern Sonoma County wine producers.

Many visitors are repeat customers from as far as the East Coast coming for the opportunity to taste low-production wines that aren't available on the mass market, said Jim Forchini, owner of Forchini Winery and Vineyard, as tasters filled the cellar at his family winery off Dry Creek Road.

Others are finally getting around to checking out wineries they've wanted to visit but haven't yet, said cashier Kim Wilson.

Most wineries hope the event results in sales of both finished wines and futures — the final result of what's still fermenting in the barrels and available for tasting this weekend and next.


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