The Garden State Winegrowers Association has done much to support the efforts of New Jersey wineries, including promoting several events throughout the year. One of those events that occurred last month was Barrel Trail Weekend. The goal of this event was for wineries to showcase their wines currently in production by offering barrel samples, a taste of the wine straight from the barrel. Most people don’t get this chance, to taste wine in an unfinished state, but this is something I’ve become accustomed to. There are several times throughout the year where I get taste barrel samples, most notably when I head out to Napa for the Premiere Napa Valley Auction. It is a bit of a challenge, sometimes, to taste these wines as the flavors and texture you get is usually very different from the finished product.
So why do it? Well, winemakers are tasting their wines out of barrel all the time. Since wine does evolve over time, it’s important that winemakers are constantly testing it to know when to bottle, and to make sure nothing is going wrong. After a while, they start to learn patterns and can begin to predict what a wine will taste like based on what they taste now. It’s a little like fortune telling. So when the rest of us get a chance to taste wine from barrel, we get a small glimmer of what the winemaker gets to do during the winemaking process.
This year, I got in touch with two different wineries who were kind enough to spend some time with me on this busy weekend: Coda Rossa Winery and Sharrott Winery. I met up with Joanne Clarke, General Manager of Coda Rossa, and Larry Sharrott, Sr., winemaker at Sharrott Winery.