The idea of standing at a bar tasting wine seems so yesterday. Today’s sippers want an education, too, to learn about how a wine evolves from simple juice in a barrel or tank, to an award-winning finished bottle. And if they can get that information straight from the winemaker, it’s even more of a treasured experience.
It doesn’t get more one-on-one than with the new La Follette “Barrel To Bottle” tasting adventure offered at the Sebastopol winery’s tasting room. Winemaker Greg La Follette personally leads guests through in-depth barrel tastings of his highly acclaimed single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, showing, not just telling, how a wine can be guided from the vineyards to the glass.
Anyone who’s ever met La Follette knows he’s a real personality, lively and witty and able to crack jokes even while being serious about the mix of science, art, and the blessing of Mother Nature needed for this profession. No stuffiness here.
The tour begins at the La Follette barrel aging cellar, where La Follette draws tasting samples of three different Chardonnays and three different Pinot Noirs directly from the barrel, using the long glass tube called a thief. As guests sip, he details what makes each wine so interesting, describing the differences in vineyard sites, grape clones, and even barrel types and coopers.
He explains his signature style of vine thinning techniques in the vineyard and wild yeasts in the cellar, and the labor-intensive effort of punching the fermenting wine down by hand.
Next, guests join him at the La Follette tasting room at The Barlow in Sebastopol for a tasting of finished wines. Does the wine taste better when it’s explained, presented by and sipped along with the master?
You be the judge.
Details: La Follette Barrel to Bottle Tour costs $55 per person and is available by appointment. Contact Lisa Gower at 707-827-4933 or firstname.lastname@example.org. La Follette Wines at The Barlow, 180 Morris St., Sebastopol, 707-827-4933, lafollettewines.com.
Tip: The tours are limited to intimate groups, and make great gatherings for small bunches of friends. Make it a day by reserving a private limo or Town Car for your buddies, and lingering over lunch at Zazu Kitchen & Farm or Woodhouse Brewing Co., also in the Barlow.