The act of ‘thieving’ wine, also referred to as barrel tasting, is an educational process. Usually the winemaker will taste the young wine while it is heading into the barrel and then, using a wine thief, will check on the progress a few more times during the year as it matures. The wine thief itself, pictured below, is nothing more than a glass tube for syphoning out a small sample of the wine. You don’t have to be a winemaker or cellar master to thief wine because around these parts (Sonoma County) we have an event that celebrates Barrel Tasting via the Wine Road, the sponsoring organization. Almost 40 years ago a few wineries banded together, Pedroncelli included, to market wines made in the northern area of the county, specifically the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys, to locals and visitors alike. Today guests buy tickets, roam the wine roads, taste young red and white wines and learn more about the process of aging. We usually pair the barrel sample with the current release for comparison’s sake. Sometimes we throw in a library vintage of the same varietal-all in the name of educating one’s palate. But I digress. During the aging process, as the water and alcohol dissipate, the wine softens little by little. It will take on aspects of the oak as well as loosen up its' grip. If you are trying a wine from the recent harvest be prepared-the tannins are pretty harsh but the silver lining is you get a glimpse of things to come—the fruit components, the acidity, the body—and some of the characteristics will dominate the others. It boils down to a matter of time. Winemakers are a patient lot. Time in the barrel equals a nicely aged wine making it more ready to drink upon release. Enjoy an insider’s look at wine country by attending and tasting for yourself—the first two weekends of March. I’ll be the one at the barrel with my Dino cup.