2007 Cabernet Franc
Pride Mountain Vineyards
Suggested Retail: $60
“Cabernet Franc is vinified on its own in the wines of Chinon from France's Loire Valley. It's also included in blended red wines from Bordeaux. Though less familiar to American consumers than its cousin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc is becoming a more popular option for California winemakers.
“Pride Mountain is in the Mayacamas Mountain Range. It is situated at 2,000-feet elevation on Spring Mountain and includes property in both Napa and Sonoma Counties. Though the current release of this winery's Cabernet Franc is the 2012 vintage, our pick this week is the 2007. We can't imagine a younger version of this variety being any more vibrant. This is a powerful wine, bigger and bolder than that any any of its Gallic cousins. Each vintage of Pride's Cabernet Franc bottlings contains slightly different blends. The 2007 includes 14% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. There are gobs of fruit here. We thought the flavors reminiscent of dark cherries, blueberries and blackberries. It's not entirely fruit driven, as there are some subtleties, to include a little chocolate/mocha in the aroma.”
Food Affinity: “Would require something equally bold. Beef dishes come to mind. Grilled, coffee-rubbed rib eyes. Standing rib roast with garlic mashed potatoes.”
Stone Brewing Co.
Style: American strong ale
Serving Style: 22-ounce bottles and draft
Availability: Selected markets in the western U.S.
Appearance: “Color is the rich, dark tones of autumn.”
Aroma: “Sweet mix of malts with a smokey undertone.”
Taste: “Full-bodied. Malty.”
Food Affinity: “Would challenge the spiciest food you can put before it."
Reviewed by Michael Mallett
by Dan Clarke
Feeling that California offered great educational prospects for their four sons, Angelo and Santa Bariani relocated their family from Lombardy to California in 1989. After a year they bought a house with a little acreage southeast of downtown Sacramento. Sebastian, youngest of of Angleo and Santa's four sons, says that the first fall the family spent in their new home they noticed that trees on the property were producing olives—an apparently unexpected development. His mother urged that they take advantage of the situation, so Angelo built their first crusher and press. They produced 125 gallons of olive oil that first year—enough for an Italian family's own use, but not really a commercial quantity. In 1993 there was a bit more production and they began to sell some oil at farmers markets. “And by 1994 we basically figured it was going to be our business,” Sebastian explained.
Soon they purchased an adjacent 11-acre parcel and planted Manzanillo olive trees to complement the Missions on their home ranch. Their oil was well received and the business showed steady, if not spectacular, progress. In 1997 they bought 130-acres near Zamora in Yolo County, where they planted both Missions and Manzanillos. The family completed the planting of another 50-acre orchard on a recently acquired parcel just before the harvest of 2014 was to begin.
Eldest son Luigi, now 49, lives in Germany, but returns each fall to help with the harvest. Angelo and Santa are working full time in the family business, as are their sons Enrico, Emanuele and Sebastian.
Coming from a culture steeped in olive oil—at least figuratively, if not literally—the Barianis considered planting Italian varieties, but Sebastian says, “We're in California. It didn't make sense to plant Italian varieties.” The Mission is the olive originally brought to California by the Franciscan missionaries in the 18th Century. Manzanillos also have a Spanish origin, but came to California via Mexico, according to Sebastian, who believes “the Manzanillo gives a different flavor here than when grown in Spain.”
Sebastian said that most Bariani olive oil, which is bottled with a white label, is made from a mixture of “green” and “black”olives.” The company also produces a limited quantity, green label bottling of oil made from not-quite-ripe (green) olives picked early in the season. Such olives yield less oil, but provide a more intense, grassy flavor appropriate for use on salads or drizzled on vegetables or bruschetta.
Might giving some of his oil a “reserve” designation as is sometimes done with wine be a way to accommodate customers eager to pay more for what they perceive as higher quality, we asked? “The quality of the white and green labels is the same, the only difference is the flavor profile,” Sebastian Bariani responded. “Every bottle is the best we can produce—every bottle is a reserve bottle.”
As Americans develop their taste for olive oil, it's inevitable that some will reach for more knowledge. This has given rise to the “oleologist,” a title eschewed by Bariani “By no means are we experts, despite being in business for 24 years and continuing to return to Italy for many classes,” he said. “The learning curve is so big. You don't stop learning. You have to be humble cause there's always somebody better than you. When you keep that in mind you strive to do the best you can . . . and that's when you make progress.” Sebastian recently asked people in Italy if they have oleologists these days and reports, “They just laughed and said no one would call themselves that.”
What about curing table olives? Would that be a way to expand the business? “We keep talking about it, but not yet,” Bariani responded. “Every year we have a project. This year it is to cure olives and make an olive pâté. This would be made just from olives and different from a tapenade.” (Editor's note: A tapenade may include capers and anchovies and even sun-dried tomatoes and spices in addition to crushed olives.)
Serendipity brought another aspect to the Bariani family business a couple of years ago. “Olive trees are self-pollinating, but we added some bees to help this process,” Sebastian related. “We found we got a bigger crop. And we found we had some honey, also.” Their bottled honey is now sold at farmers markets and at local retailers such as Corti Brothers and Whole Foods, as well as through the internet. They've also begun to make a skin lotion using just three ingredients: water, olive oil and beeswax. “It's as natural as we can make it,” said the youngest of the Bariani brothers.
Family businesses tend to mean round-the-clock involvement and can produce more stresses than the nine-to-five world. “We're always talking and arguing, but we never fight,” said Sebastian. “We have very high expectations of each other. We give ourselves two weeks vacation a year. I haven't taken mine this year. My brother Emanuele took one weekend. We don't complain because our work is our vacation. When I'm in the orchard it's amazing . . . I love my trees. My parents went to Italy for two weeks to celebrate their 50th anniversary, but wanted to come home after a couple of days.”
There isn't a lot of structure in the Bariani family business. There are no formal job descriptions and no titles, but a lot of work seems to get done. “We don't have a schedule or a calendar. We don't have meetings,” said Sebastian. “I go to the farm and just see what needs doing and I do it. There's no schedule so it's never boring, it's exciting.”
Editor's note: More information about the Bariani family olive oils can be found at https://www.barianioliveoil.com/
Dry White Wine of Koropi
Suggested Retail: 8 Euros (about $10)
“This week's selection is a wine the publisher enjoyed when attending Kerasma, an international food, wine and spirits conference in Greece in 2006. Unfortunately, no tasting notes from the visit to the winery could be found. His recollection is that the five or six wines tasted that day were all pretty good and modestly-priced. The winery's website indicates the current release of this wine, the 2013 vintage, is made from Savatiano (80%) and Roditis (20%), grapes unknown in the United States. The winery describes it as showing, 'Summerfruit on the nose, nectarines and apricot. Rich concentration of fruit on the palate. Pineapple throughout to intense lemon on the finish.' This description sounds about like what he remembers of this wine, but after all these years, how could he be sure?
“He returned to California with a bottle of the 2005 Ambelones, probably planning to pour it at some Greek dinner he hoped to have. Such a meal never came off and it wasn't until this week that he remembered this wine. So he took the bottle to a gathering of pals who were going to be doing some heavy snacking while watching game three of the World Series. Most cast a very dubious eye at this unfamiliar and quite old white wine. Besides, Bob (the host) had opened several nice bottles of red. The cork crumbled when the corkscrew went into the Ambelones—not a promising beginning. A glass was poured. The color was more-or-less a golden shade—surely darker than when the wine was young, but at least it wasn't brown. No off odors were detected, but there wasn't much aroma at all. Time can rob a wine of its youth in various ways. Certainly this wine had changed, but it didn't really seem oxidized or spoiled in any way. What aroma and flavor remained did seem to have some of that nectarine character. There seemed a little Riesling-like minerality, too. The 2005 Ambelones might not have been the best wine tasted this week, but it was the most interesting experience. George Vassiliou's wines are not distributed in the U.S. so revisiting that taste of a current release anytime soon is unlikely. The publisher's friend Phil was asked to read the notes from the back label. Though of Greek ancestry, this apparently was beyond his powers. He did taste the Ambelones, though, and said it really wasn't too bad. In fact, he was seen pouring himself a second glass later in the evening.”
Food Affinity: “The winery recommends pairing with fresh salmon or sea urchin.”