Wine reviews: Terra d'Oro 2009 Barbera and Terra d'Oro 2008 Sangiovese Amador County

ITerra d'Oro Sangiovese 2008 applaud the cojones that California winemakers are growing. Instead of blending in obscure red varietals that grow so extraordinarily well in this state (see Tempting Tempranillo), they slap grape names like Barbera and Sangiovese on labels now. In a society that generally wine shops by comfort zone, that’s pretty daring. You may have heard of Sangiovese — the grape found in all Italian Chiantis — but Barbera is one of those sleeper grapes wine geeks might know but all wine drinkers should cozy up to. Barbera is the third most planted grape in Italy, thriving in the Piedmont region of Italy. Amador County, with its dry, arid climate in summer and cold in winter, mimics the weather in Piedmont so the fruit’s success there makes sense. That, and a slew of Italian settled there during the Gold Rush so the vines have been thriving there a while now.

Terra d’Oro (formerly the Montevina Winery, by the way) means “Gold Country” in Italian and they’ve been growing and producing these Italian varieties since the 1970s. The 2009 Barbera has a LOT going on. Dusty, sexy and slightly earthy with concentrated black fruits like blackberry, plum, and black cherry. A dusting of Italian herbs, oaky vanilla, black licorice and wet tobacco complete the sip. Has silky, restrained tannins. But in all that, it’s not over the top with just fruit — acids shine through, making it a great companion with food. Simply delicious wine.

Winery website

Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Price: $18 – $20
Occasion: Tasted blind at a tasting, sample sent from winery
Availability: High end, independent wine shops and online on the winery website
Food pairing: Roasted leg of lamb, braised short ribs, or even grilled burgers made out of at chuck (lean beef won’t have enough fat to stand up to the wine)

Another Terra d’Oro “food wine” can be found in their 2008 Sangiovese. Juicy, dark, almost roasted fruits of plum and black cherry plus deliciously high acidity. A bit dirty and dusty — in a good way, like Chianti —  and offers up spices like cinnamon, clove and cocoa.  Soft tannins and a finish of bright cherry and lingering acidity. Nicely accomplished.

Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Price: $18 – $20
Occasion: Tasted blind at a tasting, sample sent from winery
Availability: High end, independent wine shops and online on the winery website
Food pairing: Italian food with red sauce like pasta and pizza, grilled pork tenderloin or this recipe for Poor Man’s Osso Bucco

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