If we were to be honest with ourselves for just a moment, we’d readily admit that we live in the deep, enveloping cleavage of the bosom of great wine. Just barely peeking out over the plunging neckline of our beautiful valley, we can see some of the best vineyards in America staring back at us. And while Zinfandel, Cab, and Chardonnay get all the attention and all the praise, it is the simple Barbera that I seek out every time.
An Italian grape, Barbera is a foundational piece of many Italian table wines. Following suit, it’s been grown predominantly in the Central Valley as a blending grape in jug wines. (Shout out to my boy Carlo!) But in recent years, winemakers in Amador, El Dorado, and, to a lesser but by no means less successful extent, Paso Robles have taken the Barbera and turned it into an absolutely yummy single varietal that, in my mind, kicks the pants off of most zins, pinots, and cabs.
What does Barbera taste like? To be honest, it tastes like the cloudy mists of the firmament wrapped in bubble gum and dusted with cotton candy kisses. However, some have also described it as an inky dark, velvety wine with balanced berry sweetness and almost no tannins; it’s eminently drinkable and, like most Italian wines, very food friendly.Â Take your pick of descriptions. Wine, after all, is a subjective beverage.
Where do you find good Barbera? One place you’ll rarely find it is on a restaurant’s wine list. The Firehouse, for example, whose wine list runs over 80 pages, has only a handful of Barberas from the U.S. and Italy. On last check, Biba’s wine list had two. L Wine Lounge, whose wine list admittedly is about variety and quality over quantity, carries only one.Â Same with The Kitchen. Continue reading “Barbera: A Local Treasure That Needs To Be Treasured”