Tastes from the 2012 Barbera Festival

The 2012 Barbera Festival, held in early June at  Cooper Ranch in the Shenandoah Valley near Plymouth, CA, brought 1,700 wine aficionados together to taste Barbera from more than 80 wineries from Camarillo north to Kelseyville, with the majority of participants coming from the Sierra Foothills and Lodi.  This second annual Festival was sold out three months early!

Barbera is a lesser-known, and often overlooked, varietal of wine grape. The Barbera grape was first imported into California in 1884, and was used by the Italian Swiss Colony winery in its table wines. The first Barbera varietal (a wine with the name of the dominant grape on the label) was brought to market in 1954 by Louis Martini. Today in California, some 7,000 acres are planted in Barbera, and nearly 200 wineries make at least one style of the varietal.

Barbera originated in the Piemonte region of northern Italy. On the nose, Barbera is typically lush and juicy, with aromas of black fruits. Depending on the terroir and the winemaker, Barbera vintages can convey bright flavors of raspberry, spice, and tart cherry, or more supple notes of black cherry, blueberry, and vanilla.

Urban Legend "trio"
Marilee Shaffer, co-owner of Oakland’s Urban Legend Cellars noted that Barbera is a “Cinderella” of a grape that has been in large part relegated to use as a blending grape.  But when treated property, she said, “Barbera can really become the Belle of the Ball.” Urban Legend presented a trio of Barbera, including a refreshing 2010 Rosatto and 2009 red from Holland Landing vineyard, and a 2009 Amador Barbera.  The 2009 Amador Barbera is bright cherry and cassis on the nose, dark cherry and cola on the palate. 15.2 percent alcohol. $26. www.ulcellars.com

The 2010 Boa Vista Reserve Barbera, from Oakstone Winery in Fair Play delivered a surprisingly Zinfandel-like punch of black pepper, following plum and blackberry aromas. 14.7 percent alcohol. $28. www.oakstone-winery.com

Sherri Compton pours
Easton Wines.  Plymouth
(Amador County)
Plymouth-based Easton Wines plured a 2005-2007 vertical from the same four rows of Cooper Ranch fruit. The older vintage tasted plump and jammy, while the younger two were bright and full of spice. The Easton 2007 Shenandoah Valley Barbera is rich, balanced and juicy, with a pleasing spiciness. 14.5 percent alcohol. $24. www.eastonwines.com

The 2009 and 2009 Barbera from  Lodi’s D’art winery is made from grapes grown by Leland Noma .  Both vintages exhibit related-but-not-identical flavor characteristics. The D’art 2010 Lodi Barbera has bright cherry, earth and berry-like flavors, with a long finish. 15.4 percent alcohol. $24. www.dartwines.com

Other photos from the event:

Crystal Basin Winery, Placerville
(El Dorado County)- Jack Wohler pours

Margie Runquist of Jeff Runquist Winery,
Plymouth (Amador County)

Michael Havill of Bella Grace,
Plymouth (Amador County)

Tom & Thomas Dillian,
Dillian Wines (Amador County)

Peter Nowack
Barbara’s fellow blogger, Peter Nowack, is today’s guest columnist.  He is the wine lover behind the BungRCooper.com wine blog, and is founding partner of northern-California based WEmarketwine.

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