Let me get this straight: No one in Canada grows Barbera. Except, in one tiny little corner of the Okanagan, where Sandhill, in their exquisite small lots program, churns out a miraculous red. So this begs the question, if one tiny plot of grapes can produce such an exquisite bottle, why are winemakers across the region bending over backwards to perfect Pinot which, more times than not, is shallow, pasty and all “miss” in Canada? Or, in the alternative, quite wonderful (witness the OK and overpriced Le Vieux Pin) but astronomically expensive?
Actually, I know the answer to that question. The answer is that winemaker’s tend to be pretty far removed from the people who love wine, the regular wine buyer and regular wine drinker. Rather, they are focussed on market share and accolades—from their peers, the tight-knit wine community, the “con-no-sirs” that use a point system, critics on high and plain old glory. That’s why there are so many movie metaphors on this blog. Winemakers tend towards “art” and “mass-market” plonk the same way Hollywood does. But once in a while a great movie comes along with not too much violence or sex, great performances, character and enough lasting value that you want to own it and watch it over again. That, my friends, is this Barbera. And all I can say is that despite the $30, and the fact that I was hard pressed to ever see a decent published review (one running theme on reviews of this particular Small Lots wine is the word “medium” as if to implicitly let you know it’s not the “hot” or “trendy” wine), this is a sturdy, practical red that goes with everything from tapas to pizza to red meats, from Tuesday night to Thanksgiving, and to date has never failed to disappoint. We still have several bottles left, but the VQA stores have, at least temporarily, run out.
Update: March 2012. This review was based on the 2007 vintage which we loved. The most recent available, 2009, is still good, we still like it a lot, but at $30 we don’t like it as much or, in the case of our pocket books, enough.
Price: $30 at VQA stores or direct from Sandhill.
Market Liquidity: It’s a monetary indulgence. Think Tom and Donna’s Parks & Recreation “treat yourself” day and it’s easier to bear.