B[ring] Y[our] O[wn] B[arbera]

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In the aftermath of recent posts here at Wine Time on corkage and tipping etiquette, Lucio's BYOB and Grill seemed like an ideal destination for a working dinner with a colleague -- a demilitarized zone, as it were. After all, it has "BYOB" in the name of the venue.

Not knowing what to expect in terms of its cuisine beyond the fact that a "grill" was in play, I reached for a bottle of 2009 Barbera del Monferrato (Piedmont, Italy) by Scarpetta, a label owned by Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey (above), one of the most beloved figures in the U.S. wine industry and probably the coolest dude on the fine wine scene today.

Bobby spends a lot of time in Texas, where he leads study groups for our state's many aspiring Master Sommeliers, and while his bottlings of [Tocai] Friuliano, Pinot Grigio and sparkling rosé from Franconia (all raised in Friuli, Italy) have been in our market for some time now, his new Barbera arrived only recently. (I picked up the Barbera for less than $20 at the Houston Wine Merchant.)

With zinging acidity and barely any tannin, Barbera is perhaps northern Italy's favorite food-friendly wine. And it's a wine that is commonly chilled during summertime in Italy -- perfect for last night's sultry weather.

Unlike most of the premium Barbera that we see in Texas, Bobby's isn't sourced from Langa (the Langhe Hills of Piedmont, where the variety plays a supporting role to the Nebbiolo of Barolo and Barbaresco) but rather Monferrato, the grape's true homeland and often unsung hero. Barbera from this appellation tends to have a rich earthiness that holds the grape's bright fruit in check. I loved the way it cut through the fattiness of the excellent spinach dip while still having the oomph to stand up to the seared tuna and horseradish mashed potatoes.

Corkage is a more-than-reasonable $5 at Lucio's, and as the venue's name suggests, BYOB is encouraged and every table in the house had brought its own wine.

Earlier this year, the management launched a compact wine list but the spirit is still BYOB. In other words, unlike a restaurant where corkage is allowed but not encouraged and where patrons should feel obliged to order a bottle of comparable value and to tip commensurately with what they would have otherwise spent on wine, the staff is happy to open as many bottles as you like without you ordering anything from its nascent list.

For the record, our server -- in uniform -- was awesome and highly knowledgeable about the menu. He even fileted my colleague's beautiful whole branzino (an Italianate word for sea bass, by the way, unfortunately spelled "bronzini" on the menu) and I tipped generously.

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