Wine’s Science Revealed

By Janet Eastman

Consider the oak barrel. It stores, ages, flavors wine, and that’s about the extent of most of our barrel knowledge. Phil Burton wants to change that. He’s been working for Barrel Builders in Calistoga, CA. since 1975 and he’ll be one of the presenters at the Science of Wine, three days of wine education May 6-8 in Ashland.

May 7, Burton will explain where the world’s oak comes from, how it differs and why it costs $1,000 for a French barrel. Then he’ll reconstruct a barrel before the audience’s eyes. “Building one from scratch is messy, noisy and requires a fire,” Burton says. “I will bring a finished barrel in pieces and put it together in about 20 minutes.”

He’s prepared to answer anything from “Are all barrels made of wood?” to “Can you discuss the development of trans-lactones during toasting?” Afterward, there will be a wine and food reception.

Here’s the lineup for the 7th Annual Science of Wine, which funds ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum’s educational programs for 15,000 schoolchildren and teachers each year. 

For more information, call (541) 482-6767 or go to

May 6

6-10 p.m., Winemakers’ Dinner at the Ashland Springs Hotel with each course introduced by the winemaker from Pebblestone Cellars, Red Lily Vineyards, RoxyAnn Winery, Trium, Wooldridge Creek Vineyard and Winery, and Velocity Wine Cellars. Fee: $85        

May 7

6-9 p.m., lectures and reception at ScienceWorks Museum on barrel making by Phil Burton of Barrel Builders and biodynamic wines by Bill Steele of Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden. Fee:  $40

 May 8

6:30–11 p.m., Science of Wine Gala fundraiser with offerings by 15 wineries and 15 restaurants. Fee: $65


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