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Sonoma County Gazette
Italian Wine

A Sonoma Taste of Italy

Feb 2, 2017
by John Haggard, Sophie's Cellars


It dawned on me that I’ve neglected to talk about barbera and, to a lesser extent, sangiovese. I thought it might be interesting to try something new and encourage people to step outside what might be their red varietal of choice. Sonoma County with its diverse climate and rich soils has the capability of producing most grapes grown on earth. Back in 1875, the famous horticulturist Luther Burbank referred to Sonoma County as “the chosen spot of all this earth as far as nature is concerned”. So, those of us lucky enough to live here, don’t have to fly to Italy to try locally grown barbera or sangiovese.

So, I decided to set out to taste Sonoma County grown and produced barbera and sangiovese. (Portalupi, a part of this tasting, while not growing the grapes locally, produces the wines locally). Each of the wines I reviewed have one commonality aside from them all being Italian varietals, and that is a bright acidic back-bone and all eminently crafted as to be paired with a variety of foods, Italian fare being top of the list. As I was tasting the wines, I thought of my Grandmother’s lasagna, although, spaghetti and meatballs or even a meatball sandwich and dishes such as eggplant parmigiana or trotters would be wonderful pairings. I tasted these wines over a period of several hours and up to 24 hours and the notes I’ve made reflect this.

Nancy Sweet (UC Davis) wrote a great article about how just before prohibition it was discovered that barbera can grow and thrive just about anywhere in Northern California. It can be a little “wonkish” and technical, but a great background on the varietal in California. (Visit

Seghesio Barbera Alexander Valley 2014 The distinctive nose of roast coffee and cacao chocolate. Soft tannins were well-balanced with the acidity. The palate provided bright raspberries, pomegranate, cedar and cigar box. Enjoy now through 2022.

Portalupi Barbera Shake Ridge Ranch Amadore County 2015 The nose had a distinctive vanilla and mixed berry compote with flavors that directly correlate from the nose to the palate: raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and plum as well as hints of beetroot. Enjoy now through 2021

Unti Barbera Dry Creek Valley 2015 With a floral nose of hibiscus, bright acid with flavors of red berries, raspberry, dried red cherry, notes of cranberry and firm racey acidities throughout the palate. Hints of cedar, tobacco round out the wine. Enjoy now through 2024

Preston of Dry Creek Barbera organic and biodynamic 2016 The nose of the wine has a beautiful floral bouquet. Firm tannins and bright acid comingle throughout the palate with tart raspberry and cherry. The 2016 being a new release will benefit from a few more months in the bottle or four two five years, allowing the sharp angular flavors of the acid to settle and all of the flavors to come together. Enjoy now through 2023

Unti Segromigno Dry Creek 85% sangiovese 15% montepulciano 2014 Dry cranberry, red cherry, distinct mineral flavors coat the palate as well as both green and black tea, bright acidity laced with subtle minerality and pommegranate. This red blend should be considered an entry level wine in the UNTI line up of red wines with a production level of 1.102 cases for the 2014 vintage. Enjoy now through 2020

Seghesio Sangiovese Alexander Valley 2014 Firm acid fill the palate with generous oak and flavors consisting of plum, cedar and citrus rind of both lemon and orange. Enjoy now through 2022.

A special thank you to Tony Sciullo of Seghesio, Carolyn Brandtof Portalupi, Ken Blair of Prestonfor making the Barbera available prior to public release, Alex Hill from Unit Vineyards for his introduction to not only the wines but Nancy Sweet’s article. For those without a reservation for Valentine’s, Seghesio is offering a valentine’s dinner in their private dining room and as of writing this article, there is still availability.


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