2006 Sierra Foothills Barbera
California: Sierra Foothills
What We Say
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Mission Codename: California’s Piedmont
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Seek out a Barbera from California’s ‘Piedmont’
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Gustavo Thrace
Wine Subject: 2006 Sierra Foothills Barbera
Winemaker: Gustavo Brambila
Barbera, made famous in Italy’s Piedmont also finds an exceptional home in California’s Sierra Foothills. The Sierra Foothills AVA centered around California’s gold-rush region. While the vineyards in the area are relatively young, most planted after 1970, the quality of the fruit from the AVA cannot be denied. The region is primarily known for exceptional Zinfandel, but the climate, aspect, soil, altitude and exposure are also very well suited to Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc on the white side and Cabernet Sauvignon and Barbera on the red side.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark garnet and deep ruby hues with a dark but clear core and pinkish garnet edges. Clusters of slow thin legs coat the side of the glass when swirled.
Smell – Youthful and fruit-forward with aromas of ripe blackberries and raspberries balanced against a backdrop of floral violets, a hint of licorice, spice and toasted oak.
Feel – Initially spicy but once this wine opens up, this dry full-bodied wine becomes smooth with bright acidity fine but firm tannins and a kick of minerality.
Taste – Bright, youthful and jammy ripe fruit including blackberries, raspberries and pomegranate with hints of licorice, a spicy touch of cinnamon and cloves and some toasted oak.
Finish – This wine finishes dry with fine tannins with long lingering flavors of fruit, oak and a touch of spice.
Conclusion – After tasting this wine, I know now why Thrace and Gustavo jumped on the fruit for this wine. Start with exceptional fruit, add an expert winemaker and hands-on but simple vinification, and the results speak for themselves. This Barbera is distinctly California in its nature but has also pays tribute to its Italian cousins with subtle notes that makes this wine just a joy to drink.
Sitting in the right seat of the Citation X screaming at flight level 460 westbound over the Rockies at 518 knots indicated, burning some serious kerosene. I had jumped a ride with fellow pilot and wine lover Agent J who had to quickly depart Europe back to the states. The back of the plane was full of samples that Agent Baco Noir had provided for analysis. It was good to be back state-side and I was looking forward to a few down days before hitting the trail again.
We were just about getting ready to pick up our approach clearances when an urgent came in over my spy communicator:
… DIVERT TO SACRAMENTO EXEC
… CAR WAITING FOR PICK UP
… HEAD 50 W TO SHINGLE SPRINGS
… TASTED GT BARBERA
… NEED VINEYARD DETAILS
… REPORT ASAP TO OPS WHEN COMPLETE
I knew GT BARBERA referred to the inaugural release of the 2006 Gustavo Thrace Sierra Foothills Barbera. Gustavo Brambila was a legendary winemaker and I couldn’t wait to see the vineyard and ultimately taste the wine.
Reluctantly, Agent J called in our new request with Center. But the temperature in the cockpit got very cold. If you know Agent J, you know not to make changes mid flight. Thankfully, within 40 minutes I’d be on the ground and away from Agent J’s wrath. As soon as I was out the door, Agent J was prepping to take off, and not wanting to anger her more, I just waived and blew her a kiss.
The ride up to towards the Shingle Springs region was uneventful. Once on the ground Agent Red had forwarded me the top secret coordinates of the vineyard to inspect. Given my experience with the Italian Piedmont, Ops wanted my impression of this vineyard which was in California’s Piedmont.
The fruit for this years vintage was just getting ready for harvest (The Barbera under analysis was from the 2006 vintage). I walk the vineyard; verified the vine training; took soil samples; checking the climate, orientation and aspect; it all checked out. This was perfect for Barbera. I couldn’t wait to taste the wine…
And once I did… Well, you know. Cheers!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The general location of the Sierra Foothills can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
“Finders-keepers” is what we thought when this fruit was first presented to us. It comes in from the Sierra Foothills where the long, cold nights mean an extended ‘hang time’ to ripen the fruit. Lots going on in this wine. It was bin-fermented and then left in the bins to extract everything we could before pressing out the wine into French barrels. Gustavo had never tasted a Barbera before this fruit came in and said he simply wanted to taste the fruit to decide which yeasts and barrels he wanted to use to showcase the fruit. The results are a rich, mellow wine. There are aromas of ripe plums, spices and raspberry. This is a great wine for braised dishes as well as hearty pasta dishes.
About The Winery:
GustavoThrace was founded in 1996 by partners Gustavo Brambila and Thrace Bromberger. This is now the 12th anniversary of the winery and it has been a true wonder to participate in the evolution from the decision to start a winery and make our own wines to becoming a nationally recognized and distributed brand of wine.
We started with 250 cases of wine in 1996 and in 2007 we harvested enough grapes to make over 3,000 cases under the GustavoThrace label. We specialize in tiny lots of only 200-300 cases of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah.
We also make a GustavoThrace wine called “The Third Bottle”, our fabulous, value table wines from the Napa Valley. We are currently producing about 7,000 cases of wine under that label.
The winery is located at the south end of Napa and our tasting room is GustavoThrace at McKinstry at 1021 McKinstry, right across from the new OxBow Center, in Napa.
About Thrace Bromberger and Gustavo Brambila:
Bromberger was born and raised in Redlands, California. After graduating from the University of Maryland, she obtained a Master of Science in Small Business Management and Marketing and then a Law degree from Pepperdine University. After practicing law in Los Angeles, she moved to Napa in 1984. As a partner, Thrace assists in the cellar as well as doing the National sales and marketing for the winery and runs the tasting room by Oxbow at 1021 McKinstry.
Gustavo Brambila was born in Jalisco, Mexico. In 1957 he moved to Rutherford, California where his father worked for Beaulieu Vineyards. It was there as a child that Gustavo first met Mike Grgich, who was then the enologist at Beaulieu. After graduating from St. Helena High School he attended the University of Oregon on a baseball scholarship. After transferring to the University of California at Davis he graduated with a degree in Fermentation Sciences. In 1976 he began his wine-making career at Chateau Montelena. In 1977 he joined Grgich Hills Cellar as it opened and made wines there for twenty-three years. As a partner, Gustavo is the winemaker as well as the general manager for GustavoThrace.
The statue on our label is known as the “winged victory of Samothrace”. She is Nike, the Greek Goddess of victory. She was found in 1863 on the island of Samothrace in Greece and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The City-state of Thrace is also the namesake of GUSTAVOTHRACE partner Thrace. We have chosen Nike for our label to represent the dreams and victories that we strive for in making these wines.