2021 Charbono

Wine Notes

2021 CharbonoVintage:

Mendocino County

Truly a unique and remarkable heirloom variety, Charbono’s birthplace is the Savoie in the foothills of the Alps where it is known as Douce Noir (Sweet Black). It was cited in an official letter dated November 24, 1803, as the main variety in the department. Charbono was also known as Corbeau Noir (Black Raven) and in the Jura foothills it was called Charbonneau. It migrated to the Piemonte in northern Italy and became confused with Barbera and Dolcetto. Italian immigrants took it to Argentina where it became known as Bonarda and today there are over 45,000 planted acres. Italian immigrants also brought it to California where it became known as Charbono (Charbonneau). Originally called Barbera at Inglenook and Pinot Noir at Parducci, it was in the late 1930’s that Dr. Harold Olmo, a brilliant ampelographer, and geneticist at UC Davis, found both plantings to be Charbono. Inglenook first bottled Charbono as a varietal in 1941, and along with Beaulieu and Parducci formed The Charbono Society in the late 1940’s and hosted several elaborate dinners celebrating its long-term aging ability. In 1999 Dr. Carole Meredith used DNA profiling to determine Charbono, Douce Noir, Corbeau Noir and Bonarda were all genetically identical, truly an historic moment! In California, like Argentina, Charbono gravitated to more warm districts as it is a very late ripening variety and is burdened with Leaf Roll Virus. In the early 1980’s there were 100 acres planted in California and in 2021, there were only about 75 acres. Napa Valley’s Calistoga, where it is 10° warmer than mid-valley, is the epicenter where currently there are about 10-12 producers.

The vineyard, located in warm Calpella, Mendocino County, is owned and farmed by tenacious high school sweethearts Eddie and Frankie Graziano now for over 30 years. Eddie’s grandfather, Vincent, planted the first “virus free” vines in the 1940’s. Eddie added another block in 1974. Today the ranch is certified organic by CCOF.

Vintage Notes:
The winter of 2021 yielded about 26” of rain in Calpella, plenty for dry-farmed grapes. Spring weather was good, resulting in a “normal” fruit set/crop. Summer weather was essentially warm with a few heat spikes. There was no rain at harvest, thus ending the season on a very positive note.

Fermentation & Aging:
The grapes were crushed on September 17th, midseason. The Brix was 24.0°, acid was 6.4g/liter and 3.81 pH; all good numbers. Fermentation was about 10 days; using pigéage 3-4 times/day to submerge the cap. Pressing was gentle using a basket press. The wine was aged for 16 months in tight-grain French oak barrels, 25% new. The wine was lovingly bottled on February 14, 2023.