10 Best Barberas from the 6th Annual Barbera Festival
The 6th annual celebration of one of the world’s best-loved grapes, Barbera, took place at the home of Barbera in Amador County, Terra d’Oro/Montevina Winery, Saturday, June 11. It seems that every other year the weather gods smile upon this festival. This year, Barbera lovers were treated to a spectacular day blessed with perfect temperatures, balmy breezes and fancifully shaped clouds that threw welcome shadows on a thirsty crowd.
With over 80 Barbera producers from all over California, it was time to group them by region, and the organizers wisely did so, making it easier for fans to focus on wines from different places.
The biggest contingent of all was the Barbera brigade from Amador County (34 wineries), led by Amador Cellars of Plymouth, who took Best Barbera in California for their 2013 Barbera at the 2016 California State Fair, with Double Gold and 98 points.
Long known for its old vine Zins, the Sierra Foothills, which encompass Amador, El Dorado and Placer counties, boast 350 acres of Barbera out of the statewide total of around 6k acres. Over half of the Gold medals awarded to Barberas statewide went to Amador Foothills Barberas in 2015. And 2016 is shaping up in a similar fashion.
El Dorado and Placer counties featured beloved and well-known brands like Boeger, Miraflores, Lava Cap and Gold Hill, while Livermore and Lodi weighed in with seven brands, two of them new this year: Longevity and Rubino Estates, both from Livermore, joining Ehrenberg Cellars, Las Positas, Oak Farm, Macchia and St. Amant.
Napa, Sonoma, Lake County and Mendocino were grouped in the Northern California flank, while Paso Robles and Ventura comprised the Southern California contingent. The state was well represented and overall, the state of Barbera is sound and the sound is mostly harmonious.
10 Best Barberas from the 6th Annual Barbera Festival
2015 St. Amant Barbera Rosé, Lodi ($15) – Although it has a scary kitty label, this is a very appealing wine, with watermelon and strawberry candy flavors – beware, it goes down real easy, so you might want to pace yourself. Buy a case.
2013 Bella Luna, “Lot One,” San Benito County ($42)- The winery is in Paso Robles, but they source this bold, old world style Barbera from grower Ron Siletto in San Benito. Hedonistic on the nose, it’s rip-snorting stuff, with ripe concentrated fruit and huge acid. This is a wine of forthright focus and precision.
2013 Boeger “BarBeara,” El Dorado ($16) – From one of the original disciples of the grape, this is a “middle of the road Barbera” from Boeger, a name practically synonymous with Barbera. Most will like this wine, quite solidly “bearable” for the price. The label, featuring a gnarly grizzly baring his fangs, speaks to the massive nature of this wine, which is dosed up with Tempranillo and Petite Sirah. Huzzah!
2012 Graziano, Redwood Valley, Mendocino ($20) – Truly one of the most authentic producers of this varietal, Greg Graziano’s family has been farming grapes in the Ukiah area for three generations. This is lovely stuff with an old world balance, color (purple) and plum-packed pedigree. The red currant-laced 2011 is on sale for $14.25.
2013 Fiddletown Cellars ($24) – From one of the masters of Barbera, Joe Shebl of Renwood Winery, comes this solidly built beauty layered with great plum and blueberry fruit, generous acidity and a fine finish. Simply harmonious.
2012 Longevity, Livermore ($28) – The arresting aromas of ripe black fruit and spice hint at the bold, intense character that awaits, yet it is as agile on its feet as Muhammad Ali. This is a real winner from a newcomer to the grape. Drink up: it just might increase your longevity.
2012 Madrona Vineyards, El Dorado ($24) – One has to admire the fortitude and and commitment of Winegrower Paul Bush, who has shepherded vines of at least 27 varieties at his high altitude vineyards in the El Dorado hills of Camino. This Barbera is probably the most elegant example of anything tasted at this year’s event. It has magnificent finesse, beautiful balance, perfect red cranberry and blueberry pie fruit, and finishes poised and whistle-clean. The 2014 shows brighter, riper fruit, with a touch more softness.
2014 Prospect Cellars, Cooper Vineyards, Amador ($32) – From a great new producer with a very talented winemaker, Moises Acevedo Flores, who happens to be assistant winemaker at Renwood, one of the towering giants of Barbera in these parts, comes this very Bing cherry, vibrant and pleasing example of how Cooper fruit behaves with lots of new oak. It was named a “Back room” gold medal “Best Red” at the 2016 El Dorado Wine Competition. We’re awarding this new label “Best New Prospect” from Amador!
2013 Rubino Estates Riserva, Livermore ($28)– Super premium new French oak (75% new for 26 months) lends this wine a rich texture and deep, succulent cedar and leather edges. The vibrant core is jampacked with black cherry and boysenberry, showing why this is a Gold medal winner. A most impressively mouthfilling wine that will age nicely.
2013 and 2014 Seghesio, Alexander Valley ($38)– Although this family is known for Zinfandel, Ted Seghesio is extremely proud of his Italian heritage and delights in growing and making this varietal. Tasting the two vintages of this cherry blossom-scented charmer side by side was a great way to see how the wine develops with a bit of bottle age. In a word, magnificently.
BY: LAURA NESS, WINE JUDGE & WINE WRITER
Laura Ness, aka “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist and wine critic whose passion for wine was ignited by a visit to France, where she had the unmatched pleasure of tasting Sancerre in the medieval town of Sancerre – splendid!— and then a Saumur, after visiting the Chateau de Saumur in Chinon. The concept of terroir came alive in those incandescent moments. She regularly judges wine competitions and serves on the tasting panels of the Pinot, Cabernet and Chardonnay Shootouts. She was instrumental in helping define the unique sub-regions of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in concert with Appellation America. You can usually find her sipping and smiling in Mendocino, Livermore, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains and Paso Robles. Laura writes extensively for many industry and consumer publications, and has weekly wine columns in several Bay Area newspapers. She blogs, irreverently and sporadically, at myvinespace.com.