Winery/Vineyard: Hart Family Winery, Los Suenos Vineyard
Product/Varietal: 100% Barbera
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
Winemaker: Jim Hart
86.5/100 on Cellar Tracker.
How They Describe It
Barbera, the gutsy blue-collar grape of northern Italy’s mountainous Piedmont, has found an ideal home in the moderate climate and granitic soils of the Temecula Valley, producing a wine of high natural acidity that perfectly accompanies zesty Italian cuisine. Our Barbera displays typical varietal high acidity, with a significant dollop of American oak in the finish.
How I Describe It
A common theme from Temecula’s top winemakers is an adherence to Old World winemaking styles. Rather than creating New World versions of these wines — as it common from some producers in more entrenched appellations — Temecula wines combine the local terroir‘s effects on the grapes, along with many of the varietals’ traditional characteristics. The appearance of the Hart 2017 Barbera aligns with this Old World legacy with medium color intensity and ruby red hues incorporating subtle hints of purple.
Blackberry, tart cherry, strawberry, and cranberry mix with eucalyptus and rose. Secondarily, oak and fermentation come out with bread dough, cloves, and cedar. Hints of stewed plum, white pepper, and wet stone round things out.
The palate on the Hart 2017 Barbera exemplifies what it means to combine an Old World varietal with Temecula terroir. A combination of red and black berries hits the tongue first, with blackberry, cherry, strawberry, and slightly dried plums. Black pepper and eucalyptus follow. Oak and fermentation are a tad more prominent on the tongue than on the nose, showing tree resin, cloves, charcoal, and bread dough. There’s a savory earthiness which indicates some maturity in the bottle.
This is a dry wine with high alcohol (14.1% ABV). High acid and medium tannin build to a medium-plus body — not quite as robust as a Syrah or Cabernet, but richer than most Grenaches or Sangioveses. Flavor intensity is medium-plus, as is the finish.
Why is This Wine Special?
The Hart family has been producing wine under the Hart Family Winery since 1980, making it one of the oldest wineries in the Temecula Valley AVA. It’s also one of the oldest family run wineries in the appellation. Over those 40 years, head winemaker Jim Hart has cemented his place as one of the top quality winemakers in the region. We’ve written about Hart Winery in the past. Simply put, you’ll be hard pressed to find a mediocre wine in their portfolio.
We’ve also written in the past about the Temecula Valley AVA’s highlands. Hart Winery often takes advantage of the cooler microclimates in La Cresta and De Luz. While the elevation difference between these hills and the valley floor is less than 1,000 feet, the topographical differences expose the highlands to more cooling sea breezes and fog — both essential for grape growing. Los Suenos Vineyard, where the grapes for the Hart 2017 Barbera were sourced, is in these highlands.
It’s worth noting you probably won’t taste or smell eucalyptus in a Barbera from the Italian Piedmont region. That’s a distinctly New World features, and likely unique only to wines which come from Southern California and Australia. Grapes are finicky, and the berries often reveal a lot about their surroundings. For instance, if the irrigation water is too salty, you’ll get salty grapes (seriously!). The same goes for eucalyptus trees’ caustic sap. While it might have exacerbated many recent California wildfires, eucalyptus oil also imparts distinct herbal notes in grapes which grow nearby. In the Hart 2017 Barbera, it adds to the wine’s charm, and contributes to what makes the it unique, special, and delicious.
When & How I Would Drink It
The Hart 2017 Barbera is a wine imploring to be paired with food. It’s an outstanding wine which doesn’t require an occasion to enjoy — perhaps why it’s considered by some to be a “wine of the people.” Something really interesting, though, is how versatile for pairing it is. The high acidity, the combination of red and black fruits, and the oak and spice mix cooperate well with both rich dishes like grilled red meat as well as lighter fare like herb-seasoned roast chicken or turkey. You can feel safe popping the cork with seasoned rice pilaf, braised greens, and even strong cheeses.
How to Get It
Bottle Price: $32 (discounts for wine club members)
Cases Produced: 421 cases
Have you tried the Hart 2017 Barbera? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.