With our bottle of Hunter Hill Barbera in hand, we head to Center Street Grill for dinner. I often take my own wine to restaurants—especially if I have one I really want to try—and pay the corkage fee. Center Street Grill is a restaurant we visit on a regular basis. I lived in Greece for 13 years, so I particularly love the Mediterranean-influenced food prepared by owner Danny Voutos. Voutos is of Greek descent, so he grew up appreciating olive oil-based cuisine, and flavoring food with fresh herbs and spices.
Hunter Hill’s 2010 Barbera has a certain “earthiness” that I always love in this vartietal. Barbera, an Italian grape from the Piedmonte region, is not always the most sought-after wine, so it’s generally reasonably priced. And this one from Hunter Hill—made from grapes grown in Silvaspoons Vineyards, Lodi—is a pretty good deal at $20.
Exuding black cherry, currant and plum flavors with oaky tannins, this bold and delicious Barbera has a wonderful fresh fruit intensity, acidity and depth. It pairs really well with poultry and meat—and would be perfect with a plate of spaghetti Bolognese.
Christine and Vann Slatter, owners of Hunter Hill, say that this is the first Italian varietal they have produced—and they are “very proud of it.” It’s also in recognition of an Italian grandfather who arrived in Soquel from Piedmonte 100 years ago to start a new life in America.
My husband loves Center Street Grill’s baby back ribs—very often served as a special on Thursdays—and I would say he was in hog heaven that evening with a glass or two of Barbera and a hefty portion of ribs. My order of fresh salmon marinated in olive oil—served with fresh green beans and Yukon Gold mashed potatoes—also paired well with the Barbera, even though it’s not a wine that is usually associated with fish. The salmon at this restaurant is always so fresh and well prepared that I had to have it.
Bebop, a really talented local group of young musicians, now plays every Thursday at Center Street Grill, and new “mixologist” Mark Thompson is shaking up some fine cocktails. Thompson used to be head bartender at one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, so he knows his stuff.
Hunter Hill Vineyard & Winery, 7099 Glen Haven Road, Soquel, 465-9294. Hunterhillwines.com. Center Street Grill, 1001 Center Street, Santa Cruz, 423-4745. Thecenterstreetgrill.com.
Surf City Wine University
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