|Dick Cooper welcomes guests to his landmark ranch|
Barbera is quite capable of yielding statement wines, as shown by the high honors it has taken at competitions in recent years. But as Saturday's exercise also showed, the grape deserves to be celebrated more for producing wines of exquisite equilibrium, smoothness and refreshment. For me, I realized as I tasted more and more of the wines, barbera's sweet point is when its aging regimen involves no more than 20 percent new oak barrels, regardless of whether they are American or French. Beyond that, the wood intrudes too much on the grape's inherently sunny fruit. But that's me. Plenty of other tasters welcomed the caress of vanilla and the toastiness of smoke that comes from new oak cooperage.
While Saturday's festival was a decidedly California event, with most of the participating 80 wineries from the Sierra foothills, Lake County and other North State wine regions, guests also were able to taste five wines from the northern Italian region of Piemonte, barbera's native land. Also on hand was Monica Pisciella, an Italian wine consultant who was representing the Piemontese vintners who had sent their wines to the festival. Near the end of Saturday's gathering, after she'd had an opportunity to taste some of California's takes on barbera, I asked her what she thought of them. "I was struck by the fact that California barbera is very fruity and that it has high drinkability," she said. "Today's California barberas are very fresh and fruity and easy to drink. You can open a bottle and the wine is ready to drink." In contrast, Italian barberas often are best if they are opened and allowed to breathe before they are consumed, she noted. "If you drink them immediately you don't enjoy them at their best," said Pisciella. "Italian barberas are leaner, a little bit more complex, and they need more time to be appreciated." Sure enough, people who revisited the Italian table and retasted the wines later in the afternoon found at least some of them to be more expressive.
|Art, crafts and food as well as wine greeted guests|
I don't know the date for next year's Barbera Festival, but as soon as it is announced, sign up. This year's festival sold out quickly, and tickets for next year's no doubt will be grabbed even faster. Throughout the day, Monica Pisciella tweeted to followers in Italy who were eager to learn more of the festival. "This is a great event, with a lot of people coming to discover the wine. In Italy, wine festivals are always smaller than this. This should be longer. It should last one week." Maybe next year.