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Bonny Doon 2004 Recioto of Barbera (Monterey County) – 14.5% alcohol, 7.2% grams residual sugar, 500 ml bottle. The nose here is lovely – full of crushed raisins – despite the bottle being open for twenty-four hours. This probably explains the bit of fade to the palate and a perimeter that’s more enticing than the center, but the wine retains a certain crispness and edge, with apple-toned acidity. More remarkably, this lacks the persistent (and to me, a sensitive, often deal-breaking) flaw of recioto-styled wines: volatile acidity. If there’s any here, it’s below my threshold of detection…and that threshold is legendarily low. Nicely done. (9/08)


Easton 2002 Barbera (Shenandoah Valley) – 14.5%. Receding under a looming shark bite of coconut and vanilla, and though the neon red fruit holds for the moment, it’s not getting any better, and soon there’s going to be maraschino and heat left in its wake. So drink up. (12/08)


Easton 2002 Barbera (Shenandoah Valley) – 14.5%. Massive fruit, perhaps too dense for its structure, with a bit of nagging volatility and a brief, angry snarl at the end. I’m not sure where that’s coming from, but all doesn’t end well with this wine. And certainly, it’s unrecognizable if one’s lens is Piedmontese barbera, though it fits nicely into the dominant Sierra Foothills expression. Maybe it’s just a little bit too old? (10/08)

Cascina your chips

Giacomo Conterno 1998 Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia (Piedmont) – Barbed-wire acidity with its points through a forest of wild lingonberries and a sea of cranberries. This is barbera. (9/08)

Pian & suffering

[grapes]La Spinetta 2000 Barbera d’Asti “Ca’ di Pian” (Piedmont) – Dense blueberry with pretty good acidity, but the finish is goopy, flat-nosed, and awful. This is not barbera. (9/08)

The witch, Paul Gascoigne, and the poplar

[label]Martilde 2004 Oltrepò Pavese Barbera “la Strega e la Gazza e il Pioppo…” (Lombardy) – This is probably the most “difficult” barbera I’ve ever tasted, though not in a bad way; it’s simply ridiculously young, and impossible to get at through layers upon layers of puff-pastry tannin. There seems to be a core of intense, fierce fruit, and the acidity is considerable, but right now this is a wine of structure, length, and the promise of duration. (6/08)

Vajra infection

Vajra 2004 Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont) – Gorgeous, with far more mature aromatics of autumn leaves and freshly-baked fruit pies than the age of the wine would indicate. Structurally, it’s quite youthful, perfectly melding precise acidity and impeccably placed fruit and tannin, and based on the palate it should go a number of years. The question, however, becomes: is the wait worth it when it tastes this good now? (5/08)

Rive gauche

Araldica “Il Cascinone” 2004 Barbera d’Asti “Rive” (Piedmont) – Smooth caramel, soft red fruit, freshly-finished wood desk, and furniture polish. Finishes like burnt sugar. (2/07)

Sunbeams & Mounbè

Bellotti “Cascina degli Ulivi” 2005 Barbera “Mounbè” (Piedmont) – Soft but still somewhat wild, with huge red fruit married to shocking acidity. Long, gorgeous, and intense. A stunning throwback to an almost-lost style of barbera, but breathtakingly of-the-moment as well. In other words, neither traditionalist nor modernist could fault this wine. Wow. (1/08)

Ba-ba-ba, ba-ba-bera

cascina ‘tavijn 2005 Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont) – Slightly medicinal, with big, fun acidity in the form of crisp apples fresh from the tree. It’s an acid that bites with the faintly bitter tang of underripeness. All red fruit on the finish. Old school! (1/08)