Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Nice Barbera

Last night I got a pleasant surprise when I had a Montevina Barbera along with my steak dinner. The surprise was that a inexpensive (under $10) wine was so good. I picked up the wine because it was a local wine (grown and bottled just 40 miles from my house) from the Amador County appellation in the Sierra foothills and second it was a Barbera; a wine I've only had a few times.

The gold rush in 1849 brought many fortune seekers into the Amador hills. Some found a different kind of treasure in the hills: land that favored grape growing. So many wineries were started that by the Civil War, this region of California had more wineries than any other in the state. When the gold ran out and finally prohibition hit, most of the wineries were shut down. They would remain dormant until the 1960’s when a new kind of explorer rediscovered the potential for the Amador hills to grow great wine, especially Zinfandel.

Montevina Winery has 400 acres of vineyard in Amador County, 80 percent of which is Zinfandel. Their grapes grow around 1,500-feet elevation in very thin, rocky soils (sandy clay loam and decomposed granite) with a heavy iron content. Montevina uses drip irrigation and controls the crop yield, which is low, at around four tons an acre. These conditions cause their wines to have concentrated flavors and dark color.

This is what I found with their Barbera. It had good flavor without being sweet. There was some nice spiciness, maybe it could even be considered peppery. The tannins contrasted with the cherry fruit flavor to make the wine interesting. The pepperiness went really well with the steak. At times the wine reminded me of a Zinfandel, but there was a different flavor from the jammy, peppery flavors I expect in a Zin.

This was a good wine for their entry level wine. Montevina makes higher end wines in a series called "Terra d'Oro". Their Barbera in that series is currently sold out at their online store, so I'll have to keep my eye out for it in stores. They also sell a Syrah, Sangiovese and Zinfandel I'd like to try.

Tasting Notes:

2005 Montevina Barbera

Color: Dark ruby red

Aroma: Cherries and yeast

Taste: Cherry and pepper, nice tannins

Finish: Cherry

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