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Dan Barwick, winemaker, is back on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger, with Harry Duke also in the studio. Dan Barwick is here to talk about being the winemaker at Trecini Winery, and more. Dan Barwick has been on California Wine Country before, most recently this episode of July 21 2021, and also this episode of July 29, 2022.
First, we have two bottles from Dan Berger’s cellar. First, a Gary Farrell Chardonnay from 2005. It was a really good vintage in Sonoma County. Theresa Heredia who is the winemaker at Gary Farrell has done a fabulous job making these Chardonnays. It is big and rich, full malolactic fermentation, almost oily. “This wine is pretty big.” But it is 17 years old! Only Dan “Lay It Down” Berger keeps Chardonnays this long. The other style, steely and bright, the opposite of this, has been more popular lately. Some people don’t prefer it because the fruit is behind the oak flavors. It’s going to work with lobster served with drawn butter. Dan Barwick says it has a good backbone of acidity, to have lasted this long. Dan Berger also has two bottles left of Iron Horse 2005 Chardonnay, which has no malolactic fermentation, and the two make a great contrast.
ML converts malic acid to lactic acid. Malic acid “apples” lactic “milk” the acids convert to a buttery flavor and the acids become more lush and oily. If you want that style, it’s easy to do.
Trecini Winery is owned by the Vicini family, who started the winery in 1999. There are three of them, so Trecini is an abbreviation of Tre Amici, which means three friends in Italian. They started making a RR Sauvignon Blanc, they also have a Chardonnay. They also have an Italian line, including a Vermentino and Dan Barwick has brought a couple of bottles of that.
Trecini Winery sources Sauvignon Blanc from vineyards that Dan calls mature, which are at least 15 years old, so the vines and their character are more established. They also make Russian River Pinot Noir. Dan describes the process as harvesting while there is still good acidity, keeping the oak under control and letting the wine express itself.
Their tasting room is easy to reach in Santa Rosa. It’s at the corner of 7th and Humboldt.
Dan Barwick brought an Italian Vermentino from Sardinia. Dan Barwick says it is well balanced. It is a white grape native to Italy, almost all in Tuscany, Liguria and Sardinia.
Bottle Barn has lots of Trecini wines. Dan Berger mentions especially their Rosé is also very good. Bottle Barn also has this Vermentino.
The wine is fresh and fruit-forward. This has a more lemony component in the mid-palette, so it would go with delicate seafood dishes. It is almost completely dry, but not totally, so you get some of the richness they built into this wine.
The plan is for Dan Barwick to go to Italy to work with the vineyard to make the wine even better. The label even includes some food pairing ideas, indicating shellfish, seafood and sushi. Dan Berger mentions that a lot of salmon and tuna is in sushi and sashimi, so the strong acidity in this wine makes a good pairing.
Dan Barwick tells the very interesting story of his pathway to becoming a winemaker today, which includes working as a butcher in Harrod’s in London in the ‘70s, then he got moved to the wine department. He took a 6-week training course and he had to organize it and he learned about wine there. He got the job because he was the only one on the staff who knew French. Harrod’s is not an easy place to get a job, says Dan Berger. Then he got promoted to take a two-year course to become a manager in various departments. After that he took a long trip to California for about a year and a half. One evening he came to Tahoe City and entered a bar, where he saw a childhood friend sitting at the bar. He stayed there for a year, working in a restaurant called Sunnyside, as a prep cook then a line cook. In 1991 he got into the wineselling business, then worked a harvest in California in Sonoma County. He took some extension courses at UC Davis but he learned most of what he does from the Santa Rosa Junior College, which is one of the best programs in the country. He studied Viticulture with the “infamous” Rich Thomas. He was an influential teacher and Dan Berger remembers he hated Pinot Noir. That’s understandable because the PN back then wasn’t great the way it is today.
Dan Berger says that Rich Thomas agrees that the Pinot Noirs of today are “drinkable” and that things get better with time.
Dan Barwick says that without a well-developed palette he could not be making wine. Even as a child, he would be able to tell the milk was off a day before anyone else.
Dan Berger has poured his second cellar wine. This is an Italian red variety, a Barbera, which is lower in tanins and higher in acidity. This is from Bill Easton in the Sierra foothills. He also makes other Rhone wines, Syrah and Grenache, etc. Dan Berger and Steve Jaxon love it. It has huge flavor and without strong tannins. The flavors are gorgeous. Fortunately it has been aged at 55 degrees, which is ideal.
Barbera is one of the most popular red wines in Italy, far more than Chianti. -ed.)