The Charbono shows a rare combination for a California red of thorough ripeness and bright tangy acidity. The beautiful deep, opaque ruby color provides a visual clue to the ripeness, which shows again in aromas of mixed berry fruit jam and vanilla. The full mid palate is framed with lively acidity that gives way to velvety soft tannin in the finish. This is a very versatile food wine!
Charbono is one of the lost grape varieties – almost. Recent reports indicate
there are only about 70 acres of this variety in existence, half of this
in Napa county. The original cuttings were imported to Calistoga in the
Napa Valley from the Savoie region in the French Alps in about 1880. Its
original name was Doux Noir, or “soft black,” later called Charbonneau
(carbon water). Subsequently, Charbono was wiped out in Europe by the
Phylloxera root louse infestation.
Some believed it to be the Italian grape variety Dolcetto but this was
proven not to be the case through genetic testing. After repeal of Prohibition
in the U.S., Charbono was used by Inglenook for blending with
their new Cask Cabernet wines and small amounts were bottled as varietal
wine. I tasted the 1968 Inglenook Charbono from cask in 1969 and
was inspired to become a winemaker with that taste.