Quietly over the past decade Barbera has grown in popularity along with increased plantings in a number of regions around the state and especially the Sierra Foothills. From Tuolumne County to El Dorado County, Barbera vineyards have sourced by a number of local producers and have garnered a number of medals and critical acclaim over the past few years.
Barbera is an Italian grape and has its home in Piedmont in northwestern Italy. The grape type probably made it to California, along with a number of other grape types, as a result of the Gold Rush. It never really flourished like other red grape types, likely as a result of it being over cropped as it is a very aggressive vine with high yields. But more recently California growers have been pruning more aggressively while winemakers want the fruit picked at higher sugars. The result is Barbera loaded with distinctive ripe fruit flavors while retaining its classic cherry notes and bright acidity.
If you want to learn more about Barbera you are in luck, but will have to act quickly.
The fourth annual Barbera Festival takes place June 14 and tickets went on sale this past week. For the fourth year the event will take place at Copper Vineyards in Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley. Last year upwards of 1,800 tickets sold out within a week of the March 1 sale date. Over 80 wineries participated last year and the only wine permitted to be poured at the event is Barbera. Most wineries pour current vintages and new releases while a few provided barrels samples and a handful of Barbera Roses.
While Barbera is the top reason to attend, the spectacular walnut orchard setting is the perfect way to taste your way around without really feeling the impact of such a large gathering. If you are a Barbera fan, this is a “must go” tasting.
And if you are wondering why it is staged at Copper Vineyard, look no further than the site of the event being responsible for part of the growing interest. It was Henry Cooper, founder of the ranch who was convinced to plant Barbera grapes by noted Sacramento wine guru, Darrel Corti, in the 1970s. After struggling with Zinfandel years earlier, he took the suggestion and became the first in the foothills to plant it. Since then, his son Dick Cooper increased the acreage devoted to Barbera and eventually made the grapes available to other foothill and nearby region winemakers. Dick is often referred to as “The Godfather of Barbera.”
The event is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 14 at Cooper Vineyards in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. For tickets and more information about Barbera and the festival participants, visit their website at www.barberafestival.com.