by Fred McMillin
for May 21, 1997

Barbera with Backbone

Prologue: "I use the Barbera production method developed by my grandfather some 45 years ago. Petite Sirah and Zinfandel grapes are fermented and their juice is drained off. The Barbera is then fermented over the skins of Petite Sirah and Zinfandel." Winemaker Michael Martini, grandson of the late Louis M. Martini.

The Rest of the Story: Louis M. Martini was born exactly 110 years ago on the Italian Riviera. Fifteen years later he and his father were in San Francisco, selling fish and making wine. Louis learned his lessons well. He abandoned fishing and in 1940 burst on the scene with a sensational array of dry table wines...possibly Napa Valley's best at the time. The Barbera was typical of his creative winemaking, adding some backbone to the medium-bodied Italian grape with skins of more sturdy reds. So, try Michael's 1993 model; it's peppery and vigorous, just like his grandfather.

1993 Barbera, Lake County
Louis Martini Winery
St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA
Phone: (707) 963-2736

Category: Recommended, particularly with robust Italian dishes

Postscript: Louis' California winemaking got off to a very shaky start. His first vintage was resting in a San Francisco vat when the sky fell in. The year was 1906 and the earthquake destroyed the wine.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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