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by Fred McMillin
for December 26, 2000

 

Acres and Acres of Errors?


Prologue

Sobon Family Vineyards 
In one two-year period, the California wine industry planted 10,000 acres of Barbera mostly in the sort of soils and microclimates designed to bring out the worst of the variety!

...Master of Wine Jancis Robinson's Vines, Grapes and Wines


The Rest of the Story

Barbera is the most widely-planted grape in Italy's best red-wine district, Piedmont (foot of the mountain). Instead of so much Central Valley planting, maybe California should have planted more Barbera at the foot of the mountains, the Sierra Foothills, that is.

But wait. Listen to British authority Stephen Brook. "A handful of growers and producers in the Sierra Foothills are taking Barbera seriously."

One of them is the Sobon family, who turned out...


Our Wine of the Day

1998 Barbera, Sobon Family Vineyards,
Amador County, Sierra Foothills
Composition—100% Barbera
Aging—14 months in French and American oak
Winemaking—Fermented in separate lots and blended later.
The Barbera Potential—Let's see what the experts tell us to expect from Barbera when it is planted in the right soils and microclimates: James Laube, Wine Spectator: I suspect Barbera has a promising future with its bright, crisp berry flavors.
Gaiter and Brecher, Wall Street Journal: There are many wonderful things about Barbera. It tends to be plummy, fruity and pleasant. California is producing some quite good ones.
Jancis Robinson again: Barbera has thoroughbred potential. When planted in cooler areas so the grape's ripening is not hurried, Barbera can be genuinely thrilling, deep purple with monthfilling fruit.
No Hurry—The 1998 Sobon model had that desired long, slow ripening time. Would you believe, it was not harvested until November!
My Panel Sez—Dark berry, cherry, yet very drinkable. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Food Affinity—The Wall Street Journal says Barbera is spaghetti-friendly. Let's expand that to include all hearty Italian dishes.
Contact—Shirley Sobon, (209) 245-4455, FX (209) 245-5156
Price—$15 range


Postscript—Go West, Young Man...er, Grape

The Malbec went west to Argentina, where it has achieved greater heights than in its Bordeaux-area home. The Petite Sirah went west from the Rhone to California, where it now produces reds far superior to the little that's still made in France. California Zinfandel is far superior to its European counterparts, such as Italy's Primitivo. Compared to the ordinary Barberas I tasted in Piedmont in the past, Barbera is going to be glad it came West, too.

 

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 
 


 
 

This page created December 2000

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