Wine of the Month
Note: Create joy, one sip at a time.
Featured Wine: Vietti ‘Tre Vigne’ Barbera D’Asti D.O.C.G.
Grape Variety: 100% Barbera
Production Zone: Piedmonte, Italy
Vinification: Grapes are selected from three vineyards (Tre Vigne) in Agliano Terme, the hills surrounding Asti. First there is a cold maceration in stainless steel for three weeks. The wine is then moved to oak barrels for malolactic fermentation.
Aging: 14 months in a mix of Slavonian and French oak barrels
Color: Deep purplish red
Price: Around $20
Have you ever tried gardening in the mountains? And I don’t mean planting a grove of pine trees, the mountains have that down. I mean edibles; I mean tomatoes, basil, lettuce, peppers, eggplants and such. Well, I grew up with a family of gardeners and in Pittsburgh, we relied on the regular summer rains, the humidity, the hot nights and we were blessed with a bounty, year after year. So, I grew up thinking growing vegetables was easy; you just needed a compost pile, a patch of soil and some seeds. Then, I moved to Los Angeles, with my best friend, to teach, and before the first year ended, found myself alone in a big city.
I lived in a duplex, with no yard, but, located right next door were two abandoned properties; they had lots of space where I could let my dogs run around AND, lots of unclaimed earth. Even though I had grown up around gardening, I was still a novice, especially as Los Angeles was a whole new climate. I started slowly, first digging a hole in the ground and creating a compost pile. Then, slowly but surely, I began planting. It was my only outlet; I’d garden until late afternoon then open up a bottle of wine or a beer and admire my work, dirty fingernails, soil smudged across my face, sweaty and content. Los Angeles is a pretty great place to garden; you can grow edibles all year round.
Cut to many years later, being stuck in Flagstaff, AZ, opting to garden, to fill the time; what a fool I was, planting rows and rows of my coveted tomato, eggplant and pepper seeds, seeds directly from Italy, that produced all year long in L.A. What big dreams I had. Then, when I saw that they weren’t even sprouting, I bought small plants, which by fall, I believe had actually shrunk. I refused to give up, so a day before our first heavy frost, I transplanted tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and basil into mom’s greenhouse.
Well, almost overnight I had eggplants forming, blossoms on the peppers and tomatoes and I was feeling real pleased with myself. I looked out at the garden and saw a parsley plant, just hanging on and thought, why not?
I carefully trimmed back the parsley, dug it up and plopped it in the raised bed.
The next morning, all of my plants were covered with aphids…man was I bummed.
I immediately got out my book of organic potions and began concocting a blend to naturally treat the aphids. But in the meantime, the pepper blossoms were falling off, a tomato plant gave up and I was feeling foolish, again. Cut to a week later and the aphids are gone. One of the things this book recommends is to not just mix the natural pesticide, but to have an intention while making it, to write the intention on the bottle and to continue with this intention as you apply the brew. Shouldn’t we do that with everything?
I believe that is one of the reasons that wines made with the environment in mind, with biodiverse practices, with organic practices, taste better; besides all of the scientific proof that it has a positive impact on the wine, it just does. And Vietti’s Barbera D’Asti comes from such a past, five generations of winemakers, even now, yes, it is owned by an American company, but it is still run by original family members. And, with this wine in particular, they took a ‘common’ grape, not always a praised grape, more of a well-known and over used grape, and with this grape, and with their practices, created something quite beautiful.
As with most Italian reds, decanting is a must. But, unlike the Southern Italian reds, this wine is ready in a little over thirty minutes. It is only after it decants that you should begin your queries. The nose is full of earth, ripe black cherry, soft spices, the slightest lilac and toasty oak. When you take your first sip, you are greeted with a tarter cherry than expected by the nose, blackberry, generous oak, just a smidgen of earthiness and a little touch of creamy vanilla; as with most Barbera grape wines, it is minimally tannic. The finish is long; all cherry and acid.
There are a couple reasons I prefer this wine with food; I think if you appreciate oak and vanilla, you could sip this wine alone, there is enough fruit to compliment the acid finish; but, for me, and my preferences, food was a must. I planned a meal, specifically for this wine, before I even tasted it, just based on the grape and the vinification process. I decided to gamble all around and make a dish I had never prepared before (or even heard of) to pair with a wine I had never tried before, I am so crazy!!! Braised short ribs with cranberries, mashed potatoes, corn soufflé and asparagus are now best friends with Barbera D’Asti! It was a beautiful combination. It was our Thanksgiving/Day of Mourning/Celebrate Mother Earth/Last Thursday of November meal. The cranberry went along so well with the creaminess of the wine. The fatty short ribs needed the acidity that the wine gifted me. And, well, I think asparagus and mashed potatoes go well with everything. The corn soufflé just sort of added a little sweetness that paired well with the tart cherry. I was slightly worried the cranberry would clash with the wine, but it did no such thing.
All in all, even with my good intentions waning at times while trying a new recipe, it ended up marvelous. Throw in some clippings from a pine tree, pop on some Stevie Wonder (a holiday favorite around here) and you’ve got it made. My belly, much like my greenhouse garden, felt quite content.