This Italian variety is used to make crisp, highly acidic, fruit forward wines most famously in the Piedmont region where it often takes a back seat to Nebbiolo. In the Piedmont, it is typically planted in locations not ideal for Nebbiolo. There are not many classic Old Word wines that are bettered by a New World counterpart, but this is arguably the case with Sierra Foothills Barbera, especially in Amador county where the sandy soils and the climate combine to make a nearly perfect version of the grape. The best versions are full of bright cherry flavor, refreshing acidity without being austere, and just enough tannins and alcohol to provide a structural backbone. Some Foothills producers make the mistake of over-oaking their Barbera, in our opinion, creating a flavor imbalance… but not the ones listed below.
FOOTHILLS WINO BARBERA OF THE YEAR
This amazing Barbera is remarkably complex while staying true to the varietal’s character. Winemaker Michael Long pays extra attention and uses some special tricks with his Barbera, and it shows. The wine is uncommonly intense and structured but without being over-extracted and without any of the unpleasantness that can arise when one tries to do too much with this grape. A sip takes you on a journey that includes both expected and pleasingly dissonant notes and ends with a literally mouth-watering finish that has your mouth begging for more. The wine is crisp and bright while also somehow being round and full. Teeming with life and ready to drink now, this Barbara should also be interesting with some age on it... not something you say too often about Barbera!
It is a huge surprise for a Barbera from outside Amador County to break in to our favorite list… and this one was very nearly our top pick! Sweet cherries highlight an intense nose with nicely integrated oak that takes nothing away from the fruit. This well balanced wine lingers long on the palate. Could Fair Play be ready to make some world-class Barberas or is this a one-off? Time will tell!
This is a quintessential Amador County Barbera from the godfather of Amador County Barbera. Cooper supplies dozens of wineries with Barbera grapes and the Cooper Clone of Barbera is the most successful clone of the variety in the Foothills, and they also make a delicious version themselves. This wine is highly complex with intense red and black fruit, herbs, and integrated spices.
Ripe red cherries and pomegranate dominate an intense nose in this well-crafted wine from an up-and-coming producer. You can experience this wine in their cave in the Shenandoah Valley or in their tasting room from a bygone era in Sutter Creek.
An intense nose of ripe red cherries with hints of black fruit, herbs, and subtle spices leads to an equally intense palate, full of refreshing acidity in this Old-World style Barbera. The wine is nicely balanced and the finish is long. This one might be the best food match on the list and is a great testament to this producer's rededication to making high-quality wines.