The past two weeks have featured several major races in Northern Italy. Milan San Remo is one of the biggest single day classics on the pro racer's calendar. What makes the race unique is the distance. Milan San Remo is the longest race of the season at 298 km. The Pogio and Cipressa are well known climbs that come near the finish of the race. Even though these hills are given special reverence, they rarely make a substantial difference in the outcome of the race.
This year was somewhat different. There was a crash near the base of the Cipressa that caught out the eventual winner, Arnaud Demare, the first Frenchman to win La Classicissima in 21 years. The issue at hand is the question: Did he, or Didn't he? There is a controversy surrounding how Demare was able to reconnect with the lead group after being caught behind the crash on the Cipressa. His race data suggests that Demare recorded the fastest time up the Cipressa. Sprinters aren't known for their hill climbing capabilities. They are known for occasionally getting a favorable tow up a hill by their team car. We may never know the truth. Unfortunately, this could leave a dark shadow over Demare's victory.
This week's challenge salutes the first of the Spring Classic Monuments with a matchup that features Washington Barbera taking on Piemonte.
2013 Hard Row to Hoe Barbera vs. 2013 Etorre Germano Barbera d'Alba
Tale of the Tape
2013 Hard Row to Hoe Barbera
100% Barbera from the Veranda Beach Vineyard in Oroville WA
Aged for 14 months in all neutral oak barrels.
Provided as a sample by the winery. Available at retail for $28 / bottle.
2013 Etorre Germano Barbera d'Alba
100% Barbera from estate vineyards planted in 1999.
Fermented and aged in stainless steel.
Purchased at Esquin for $19.99.
Round 1. First Opening
Watch out below, because here comes Hard Row! The Washington State Luchador struts into the ring with undeniable swagger. The nose is sultry with smoky and funky pomegranate and candle wax. The palate features cranberry, pomegranate and mineral tinged white pepper with a dry tannin driven finish backed up with a deceptive counter attack of acidity.
The Barbera d'Alba steps up with a fresh and lively assault that features a nose with muted fruit characteristics and a livelier palate featuring bright red berries, cranberry tartness and a dry bramble infused finish with a deft touch of acidity.
Hard Row dominates the first round to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
Round 2. One hour after opening
The Hard Row Luchador is building strength in round 2 with a nose that shows dark smoky currants and light cracked pepper. The palate is dark and mysterious with black fruit, olives and white pepper followed by a tart slightly smoky paprika finish.
The Etorre Germano is also stepping up its game in round 2. The nose is showing notes of blueberries, dried figs and plums. The palate is backing up the nose with similar characteristics of blueberry, plums and a tart finish.
The Italian Challenger is getting more aggressive, but it isn't enough to knock down the Hard Row Barbera Brawler. The Washington Barbera is out to a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.
Round 3. One day after opening
The Barbera d'Alba challenger is getting lively with a nose featuring bing cherry, light menthol spice and rose petals. The palate is showing off with bing cherries, menthol spice, herbal dried flowers and a touch of tobacco with good acidity on the finish.
The Piemonte Barbera d'Alba mounted a solid attack, but it was too little too late to knock off the tough Barbera from Hard Row to Hoe. Washington takes the match with a dominating 3-0 victory.
Wrap up and overall observations
The cool climate characteristics of the Veranda Beach vineyard come through in spades for the Hard Row to Hoe Barbera. This Italian inspired wine is showing plenty of savory character backed up by solid acidity.
The Etorre Germano makes good use of stainless steel and lets more of the Barbera fruit character shine through.
Both of these wines show unique character and are worthy of pursuing if you can find them.