So I bought tickets for a barrel tasting event at a local vineyard (Connecticut, so I'm not expecting Napa!)
But what *should* I expect? I'm not a wine expert, but did my fair share of wine tastings when we lived out in the Bay Area. What's the "draw" of barrel tasting? Is it so that you can taste how the wine matures in the barrel?
Wine is tasted out of barrel frequently over the course of its development. One reason is to determine when is the best time to bottle the wine.
I don't know what type of grapes the CT wines will be made from (vinifera or labrusca), but generally you should expect to taste something nowhere near a "finished" wine. It might be raw, rough, "grapey," etc.
As far as the draw of such events, one draw is that if you end up purchasing the bottled/finished wine, and if you remember what the barrel sample tasted like, you can learn how the wine developed from one point in time to another. A second draw is that you get to taste wine at a stage of development that many other consumers do not get the opportunity to do.
Barrell tasting is often over rated. You need a history with the vineyard to understand how a finished wine might taste.
On the other hand, one of the coolest things I got to do was taste different barrels of Siduri pinot from different parts of the same vineyard. One part tasted like a 95-point wine, the other like a tannic mess. But the winemaker said both had to be blended to make a wine that will improve with age. So it can be educational.
One of the draws is to get an early impression of the wines, which can be useful if you're thinking about buying them as futures. That's probably more relevant to, say, Bordeaux than Connecticut. And, as the others have pointed out, you'll need some experience with barrel tastings before you're qualified to pass judgement.
Don't worry, as other suggest , about the type of grape - or whether your palate is qualified to pass judgement on the wine in the barrel or how it will develop before bottling.
The real draw is to talk to the winemaker and add to your overall wine knowledge. This is a chance to learn. It's also a usually a really cool day out.
Barrel tasting in the US = a socially acceptable occasion to get drunk.
( Please note nobody spits )