Spring Barrel Tasting is an amazing time of year in the Yakima Valley! One of the largest wine events in the state, it’s a celebration of spring, new wines and a peek at the warm summer months ahead.
The wineries of the Yakima Valley pull out all the stops: winemakers and staff are on hand to mingle with guests, give tours and answer questions about their wines. Most wineries open barrels of future vintages for sampling, and there is tons of live music, vendors, food and festivities!
With more than 50 wineries involved and huge crowds of people, we highly recommend you take a little time to plan out your trip. Here are a few tips to help make the event fun for everyone.
Be responsible: Gather friends and get a limo or join an organized tour. If you do not hire a professional driver, designate a non-drinking driver. Treat the designated driver like royalty by buying their lunch and a bottle or two for them to enjoy at a later time. Note: Even if you have a designated driver, the tasting room staff is not allowed to serve you if you are impaired… it’s the law.
Get oriented: When you arrive, stop at the Yakima Valley Visitor Information Center for maps, updates, trip planning information and last-minute advice. There also some great Yakima Valley gifts and snacks you can take home!
Buy a pass: Purchase a Premier Pass, which grants you access to exclusive benefits at 40 participating wineries. Premier Pass holders will also get to experience a variety of specialty food pairings, library tastings and tours not available to the public.
Bring your own wine glass: This is an extremely busy weekend, and the wineries can’t supply everyone with a glass, so please bring one for each person in your party. Some wineries will offer glasses for sale.
Timing is everything: Friday and Sunday of the main weekend tend to be a little quieter, so visit on those days if you’re looking for a change of pace.
Do it differently: Go to wineries early and in the opposite direction as everyone else. Many folks start at one end of the Yakima Valley and head to the other, so consider starting with wineries in the middle of the Valley. Check out our Craft Beverage Map to plan your route.
Be realistic: This isn’t a marathon; plan on visiting no more than five or six wineries per day. Any more than that and your tasting pallet will grow numb.
Be prepared: Bring a cooler filled with bottled water and snacks. Pack a picnic, as many of the wineries have picnic grounds, or plan on eating lunch at one of the wineries that serve food. Food helps you to regain your palate and provides a needed break. Also, if it is warm, consider a cooler for your purchased wines.
Try something new: Tasting from the barrel is very different than trying a finished product out of a bottle. Talk to the winemaker and staff. Ask about the flavor, process and how the wine will taste when finished. It’s a great time to gain a greater appreciation of the wine making process.
Be patient: The weekend draws a lot of people and staff at the wineries are working as fast as they can.
Be respectful…of other tasters and the staff. Try not to get too pushy or grouchy. Everyone is there to have fun, but there can be a lot of people.
Be aware: When it is busy in the tasting room, please step up to the bar and receive your taste, then step back and take your time smelling and tasting the wine. This allows others to access the bar to get a taste. In other words, don’t monopolize the bar space in front of others who are trying to participate.
Don’t wear it: 70 to 80% of our ability to perceive flavor comes from our sense of smell. So please do not wear perfume, cologne, aftershave or any other fragrance, as it interferes with everyone’s ability to smell, and hence taste the wines. You should also refrain from chewing gum and breath mints.
Spitting and dumping is good: Just because wine is in your glass doesn’t mean you have to drink it all. You will enjoy it more if you don’t drink every drop. Your mouth won’t fatigue, you won’t become as intoxicated, and you’ll have more fun. Dumping excess wine into the provided bucket is perfectly okay.
Leave it outside: Consuming alcohol from outside the winery being visited is not permitted. This means beer, wine, mixed drinks, etc. The wineries can actually lose their license if there is alcohol brought on to their properties.
Leave the pets and kids at home: Children are welcome at most of the wineries, but the crowds and focus of this busy weekend may not be suited to them. And while many wineries are dog friendly, it’s best to leave the pups at home for this event.
Buy, buy, buy! No, that is not a typo. It’s an encouragement to buy wine during the event. The wineries spend a lot of time and money to stage this wonderful weekend, so show your gratitude by buying wine for another day. They’ll appreciate the business, and you’ll take home some premium wines, many of which are only available at the winery itself
Follow these tips and everyone will have a great time during the Yakima Valley Spring Barrel weekends. Happy tasting!