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Dan Barwick is back on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger. Harry Duke is also in the KSRO studio today. Dan Barwick is a busy winemaker who produces wine for two well-known wineries, Trecini Winery and Paradise Ridge Winery. Today he is here to talk about Trecini Winery.
Before tasting the Trecini wines that Dan Barwick has brought, Dan Berger has another cellar dweller, a 2008 Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay, a bottle that was lost and hidden at the bottom of a box in the cellar. He thought it would be dead but both Dans find it wonderful. The flavors are mature, the acids have held up nicely. They are still making beautiful wine there, but this is amazing, how it has held up. Steve’s getting it on the third taste. Harry declares, “I’m out. It’s not leaping to me as anything special.”
After that, they taste Dan Barwick’s Trecini Sauvignon Blanc. There is David, Cathy and John Vicini, the patriarch. Dan Barwick has been making wine for them for 20 years, and Sauvignon Blanc is their biggest production. Dan Berger says that Sauvignon Blanc is their claim to fame. They have several different vineyards, which Dan Barwick describes, in the Alexander Valley. Dan Berger tasts a bit of lemon and Cynar, which is an Italian artichoke liqueur. Dan thinks it would be perfect with a little bit of age, it expands the herbal components. It would ideally accompany shellfish.
Dan Berger says that the Trecini wines are cleaning up at competitions, and that Trecini is under the radar because they’re mostly available locally. There is a small Trecini tasting room in downtown Santa Rosa. 684 7th St., corner of Humbold St, in downtown Santa Rosa.
Dan Barwick grew up in England and came to a harvest in Sonoma County in 1991 with the intention of learning about wine. He spent the next 19 years working in cellars throughout Sonoma County and asking a laot of questions. In 1995 he met Sonia Byck, part of a Byck family that owns Paradise Ridge. They married and went to wineries in the southern hemisphere on their honeymoon. He says he learned a lot by taking great winemakers to lunch. He has taken some courses at UC Davis which he calls an extraordinary bastion of information. Dan Barwick says that among all the facts you need to know, pay attention to pH. Dan Berger adds, it starts in the vineyard. If you’re careful, beginning before harvest, it will carry you all the way to the bottle.
Next they have a vineyard designate Vicini Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from 2019. It is very smooth and easy to drink. Trecini wines specifically aim for a slightly lower alcohol so that if you compare a glass of 12.5% alcohol wine to another at 15%, too much alcohol covers the great flavors.
Next they taste a 2018 Trecini Merlot, which triggers the memory of the movie Sideways and how Dan Berger inadvertently influenced that script. At the time, Dan was writing for the Los Angeles Times and had a frequent byline in LA. When the screenwriter contacted Dan for some information about wine, he misunderstood what Dan was telling him, and that is how the famous line about Merlot got into the movie. It’s a story that’s always good for a laugh or two. It’s fresh and vibrant, tannins are low, and all you have to do is capture that in the vineyard, says Dan Barwick. It’s still young, so vibrant and fruity, but already shows some of that dried black olive component. The idea is to capture the varietal character, which this does. It gives you something more than just fruit.
Dan Barwick says, “part of having that balance is picking your fruit early enough with a low enough level of sugar. You have all those dried herbs in Merlot, but if the fruit gets riper, these flavors disappear. All of these flavors … are the medium-rares of the ripening level of any grape, really, and I troll in capturing those characteristics of the fruit.”
Dan Berger remembers the 1980s when people didn’t want “green” and they were burning off varietal characteristics. Fatness, hugeness and no varietal character were in fashion for a short time. But enough is enough. (Merlot plantings in California went from 8,000 in 1992 to 58,000 acres in 1997, and 90% of it was planted in the wrong places and the product was substandard.) This Merlot has the richness, but the dried herb component, which is essential to Merlot, is what makes it great. Dan Berger suggests that any red meat cooked with herbs can go with this Merlot and its dried herb flavor notes. But the food doesn’t have to be exotic or rarefied, this would go great with a burger too, or a hunk of cheese. In contrast with the 80s style, the cooler climate Merlot like this Trecini, is a great example of the best expression of the varietal. The slightly lower alcohol also means that the party and conversation won’t drag because everyone won’t get too drunk.