Today I thought it would be fun to have a Temecula / Napa Valley taste off, just for some friendly competition. But of course Cabernet and Chardonnay were far too easy a choice, so to keep things interesting I decided to see how each region performed when tasked with producing the much more obscure, Charbono.
The grape is rare in California, with only around 80 acres planted in the entire state, and it is virtually unknown in the rest of the world. Although it does have some name recognition in Argentina, where it is called Bonarda. The long sunny days and cool nights of both Napa and the Temecula Valley offer the grape just the conditions it needs to reach deep, dense, and almost jammy ripeness, while maintaining an elevating level of acidity. Somewhat of a stylistic combination of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, this is an awesome varietal to match with hearty meals from the grill or just a cool winter evening.
Wine #1: Summers Estate Wines 2007 Napa Valley Charbono
Our first wine comes from the self proclaimed “Charbono King” producer, Summers Estate Winery. With 2,000 cases produced annually, Summers is committed to being the standard in Californian Charbono. As such, this estate bottled vintage sources its fruit solely from a single vineyard (Villa Andriana). With so few other producers making Charbono, this wine is the example that all others can be judged by.
The aroma shows tones of chocolate and caramel, with a subtle English toffee nuttiness. In addition to its sinister dark appearance, this wine even smells inky, with dense tones of black currants and volcanic stone mingling throughout it. The sheer density of this wine leads to it being somewhat closed and compressed at this age, but what does show through leads me to believe that this wine would really open up with at least five more years of age.
The palate is clean, clear and fresh. Blackberry, black currant, and dark raspberries open at first, with a streak of fresh acidity that makes me think of very dark, ripe blood oranges. Its dusty tannins bring to mind subtle hints of cacao powder, while a plummy, almost black table grape-like flavor provides the base for the palate. This is a reserved wine, with a medium body, that comes across very condensed and compacted. There is quite a bit going on here and it drinks pleasantly now, but I can tell that there is a ton of complexity tightly wound up in here that needs some years of bottle age to begin to show. This would be an interesting bottle to lay down for five years.
Worth Trying. 88 points.
Wine #2: Mount Palomar 2005 Temecula Valley Charbono
Our second wine comes from our friends at Mount Palomar Winery in Temecula. Featured in the very first Temecula Tuesday article for their Cortese, they have also made their way into two other reviews for their Cinsaut, and their Riesling. What I like about Mount Palomar, and consequently why I keep writing about their wines, is that they are not afraid to try making wines that people may not expect. Always willing to venture into unchartered territory, Mount Palomar delivers again with their estate produced Charbono.
Sweet and rich, the aroma of this wine is filled with tones of delicately spiced plum and berry reduction sauce. Pie filling and melted red licorice open up with a spin in the glass, and further investigation reveals notes of tobacco, a delicately creamy aroma, and a dark stone minerality.
This wine opens slightly tart, with plum and dried berry tones showing intially. A very slightly smoky component wafts in, tasting almost grilled, with chocolate, volcanic stone, and fine cigars all appearing on the mid palate. This wine has incredible richness, firm acidity, and a wonderful smoothness, all giving way to a lasting finish that displays an evolving array of the flavors found on the main palate. This is a very solid example of Charbono and at an age that is drinking very well right now.
Worth Trying. 89 points.
Please Leave a Comment:
The Grapevine: Have you ever had a Charbono or Bonarda? What were your thoughts?