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06.02.10

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Phaedra
LUXE LABELS: The La Vita label is always a work of art. This year it's a scene from a Goya.

In Vino Vita

After a century in winemaking, Bargetto knows its grapes

By Christina Waters


JOHN BARGETTO is pouring me the very first public taste of La Vita, his Soquel-based winery's annual signature vintage. "This year it's a unique blend of three Italian varietals," he says. Filled with a blend of dolcetto, nebbiolo and refosco from the 2006 vintage, the voluptuous wine was aged for three years in oak and then another year in the bottle before its official coming-out last week at the annual benefit party. (The special La Vita bottling always benefits a local nonprofit; this year's beneficiary will be the CASA advocates for foster children.)

"Each year the wine gets richer and more complex," Bargetto says. And every year the label bears a different artwork image. This year Spanish painter Francisco Goya's pastoral scene of a grape harvest graces the label. "We've always done this as an artist's series," he continues. "Caravaggio was on the first La Vita, and last year we had a Vivaldi score on the label. Our Juan Gris image proved to be an award-winner."

Bargetto is tireless in his quest to refine the winery's image as well as its wines. It's no surprise to me that the historic black-and-white photographs documenting the Italian family's winemaking fortunes in California were John Bargetto's choice. "It helps to tell our story."

The biggest change for the current generation of Bargettos operating the landmark winery is the estate Regan vineyard. Planted to pinot noir, merlot, chardonnay and small blocs of Italian varietals, it sprawls across 40 acres overlooking the Monterey Bay. Since 1997, this vineyard has supplied the La Vita bottling.

Building consensus on the special release can be a huge diplomatic venture, Bargetto admits. "I work to build consensus, bringing in the family to help make the decision of which wine will be selected as the La Vita. There are often eight of us in the lab," he laughs. "So the making of the wine and the choice of blend is a process that take place over time."

The winery director pours another taste, this time of the 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve from Regan Vineyard, a distinctive creation of almost 96 percent Pommard clone aged in French oak. "It really expresses itself," he says, "but it's no fruit bomb." I agree. I'm equally impressed with a pour of 2007 Reserve Chardonnay, a wine I don't always associate with Bargetto. Loaded with mineral depth, it shows off the estate's Mt. Eden clone fruit.

John Bargetto is clearly pleased with the winery's increasingly upscale estate-driven profile. "We currently have eight Santa Cruz Mountain wines in release," he says, adding that that's more than any other local winery. All of this provides a dramatic slice of regional terroir for visitors to the winery's appealing tasting room overlooking Soquel Creek.

"Balance," Bargetto repeats, as I take my last sip of the new La Vita. "That's what we looked for. The dolcetto supplies fruit, the nebbiolo tannins and the refosco, spice." And the flavor—clearly something that will only deepen with cellar time—is already full. La Vita already lives up to its name.


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