I was with my parents in Long Beach on a random Sunday afternoon. Off of work, and enjoying a productive day of errands with a promise of eating a big Italian meal that my father labored over for a few days,I had plans to serve a bottle of 2005 Conterno Barbera d’ Alba that had been aging undisturbed, blanketed by a healthy amount of dust. Although I had not paid attention to the vintage charts, I was certain that the wine had aged gracefully and would be decent match with the Italian dinner plan.

We went about our routine family style, achieving more quickly by delegating duties as to be more efficient in the aisles of Grocery stores and pharmacies, cutting our time like pit crew in NASCAR.

We got home, walked our dog together as the sun set on the shores of Long Beach and the heat from the day subsided… our hunger pangs mounting.

Prepping the bottle of Barbera, opening and decanting it half an hour before serving, it was time to put the finishing touches on the cuisine; our little dog stared with rapt attention like she was about to be served from the table too. Show time.

Capellini noodles were dressed in a fresh tomato sauce (eggplant and beef based with a big kick of peppers yielding a slow and controlled burn) were all prodded to the side to make room for more items; hot Italian sausage (without the casings), andloaded with spices and fennel seeds, were placed on each plate, along with garlic baguette and a side salad. It was big and seemed to be calling out for a good red wine.

The collective whiff of the Barbera gave off some complex notes; holding the cherry fragrances ransom was a bouquet of coffee and cigar box esters. The wine was showing maturity by downplaying the fruit and expressing earthier and secondary flavors. Sipping the Barbera cemented my olfactory impressions; it was smooth with round tannins that showed structure and a fair amount of natural acidity that made me salivate.

It was a very good match for the food; the spice seemed to play nicely with the wine and as the night wore on and we plated seconds the wine changed for the better, opening more and digging deeper into its bag of tricks. I cannot wait to pop open some older Barolos by Conterno in the future. Those wines will not make this countdown but I would love to play with the age concept down the road.

Meanwhile, back on Route #191 things were looking good and I was happy to have driven a little closer to 500 with a nicely structured bottle of Barbera d’Alba. As for the family, they assisted in finishing the bottle, a rare feat at our table, but a tip of the cap to the wine. Maybe a Super Tuscan would have been better (?) match on paper but I was fairly pleased with this combination, and content to get to try another wine from one of my favorite Italian producers.