An Event I Love

January 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

We strive to provide a wide range of events at Sunset Hills, from our Life’s A Beach with seafood and steel drums, to special vertical or horizontal tastings, to events focused around wine education, like blending seminars or wine history classes.  It is different aspects of wine that appeal to us all, and I accept and enjoy that no two customers are alike – they’re all here for different reasons, and they all want different things from a winery.

Route 9 Barrel tasters after a hard day's work

One is my favorite events to host has become the Route 9 Barrel Tasting.  Each winter, we and three other wineries – Loudoun Valley, Hillsborough, and Doukenie – open up our barrel rooms to customers to give them a taste of new wines, special wines, experimental wines – really whichever wines the winemakers are in the mood to pour.  The purpose here is to allow customers to taste wines before they’re bottled, to meet the winemakers, ask questions, see the cellars, and really get a feel for the types of wines each separate winery is striving to produce.

I enjoy this event so much because it gives me the opportunity to meet and talk with around 300 interested wine geeks over the course of a weekend.  It is fairly often that I’ll be walking through the winery, and there’ll be a couple who loves the wine and would love a tour, and while it’s something I sincerely enjoy doing I think to myself, “Well, I’m in the middle of bottling and I’ve got two guys out there pruning and I’m pumping tank 6 to tank 13 and we’re fermenting this and pressing that and I think I just heard something leaking, so I’ll have to pass on the tour.”

While I know barrel tastings and tours are meant for the customers, I see it as a win-win, because it’s a pleasure for me, and I always learn a lot.  I pour different wines for different people, I ask what they like and what they don’t like.  If they’re in the wine club, I ask which wine shipments they liked this year and which they didn’t.  “Would you be opposed to receiving two dessert wines?  What about a port?  Do you know what mourvedre is?  Would you drink something called grenache?”

In the end I guess what it boils down to is that I enjoy the Route 9 Barrel Tasting because it’s such a social event for the winemakers, whereas much of the other work we do – vineyard work, cellar work, and lab work – are such solitary jobs.  I often joke that nobody has a job better suited for an iPod than me – nearly everything I do at the winery is done alone and for long periods of time.  So when you throw me in the cellar with six customers who think they might like to try every barrel of 2010 Syrah I’ve got, I’ll probably hold them to it, and give them a lengthy monolouge on each one.


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