Martin Ramirez planted Barbera clone 6 for me in this relatively new vineyard in Upper Ojai. 2014 was the first crop for the Barbera and it was obvious from the start that this varietal was a great match for this warm climate spot. The vines are planted on a gentle south-westerly slope of calcareous alluvial loam and are bathed in warm sunshine. It’s a different world entirely from the alpine foothills of Piedmonte, Italy, where the Barbera grape originates. But that’s a-okay as far as growing Barbera here, because this durable grape has a special radiance of its own in California.
Barbera is actually uniquely terrific for warm growing regions. Whereas most grapes have winemakers nervous about losing too much acidity near harvest, with Barbera you wait and wait for the pH to rise into a realm where the wine won’t tear the enamel off your teeth. Some people let the vine ripen into that realm (picking at 28 brix) and water the must back, others mix chalk into the wine to raise its pH, whereas we lean on the utility of whole-clusters to help temper the acidity.
Stems decrease acidity, so with a majority whole-cluster fermentation the peaks and valleys in this high-acid red aren’t so severe. There’s lots of carbonic effect, too, with that candied aromatic lift augmenting this varietal’s fruity character, while botanical aromatics from the stems complicate the fruit. Expect effusive dark cherry, pomegranate and blood orange flavors, with a fine gauze of herby stem tannins. There’s still plenty of enthralling twang, but in a smoother, more rolling way.