Barrels make good servants but poor masters. Several times over the last ten years of winemaking, the size and availability of barrels influenced my winemaking decisions. When I empty a barrel, I rinse it and fill it with a new batch of wine. I make extra just to make sure there isn't an empty barrel. Not everyone I know agrees.
Wayne is one of the best home winemakers I know. He and I met with a group of Old World style winemakers and one of them advised his colleagues to empty the bar
Once you're comfortable with your ability as a home winemaker, consider contacting wineries and tasting rooms before you visit. Nobody appreciates how much effort winemaking can be more than another winemaker. If they know you'll be coming, you may get tours, barrel tastings and offers not available to tourists. In return, the commercial vintner gets a knowledgeable customer who can talk the language. A year or so ago, a winemaker in Paso Robles invited a couple of us to go behind the tasting
My wife and I have been fortunate to make some award winning wines from a variety of sources (upstate New York, California and Chile) and we enjoy traveling to winemaking regions to talk with professional winemakers. We've found them to be very gracious and generous with their time, wine and advice. So far, we have been to Bordeaux, Champagne, Provence and Lanquedoc in France; Tuscany, Umbria and Campania in Italy and Sonoma, Paso Robles, Napa and (our new favorite) Suisun Valley in California