Charbono is a black-skinned varietal found almost exclusively in Napa Valley. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Inglenook Winery in Napa was a major producer of Charbono. After Inglenook, much of the acreage of Charbono slowly disappeared. There are only about 80 acres of Charbono in all of California and the acreage is continuing to shrink, with over half this acreage in Napa Valley.
Professor Carole Meredith of UC Davis has determined via DNA testing that Charbono of California is the French variety of Corbeau, associated with the Savoie region of France. One of the synonyms of Corbeau is Charbonneau. It is also believe that Charbono/Corbeau is the same as some Argentine Bonardas, but not all.
Only a few winemakers continue to produce Charbono, mostly in Napa Valley. One of best is Shypoke, the label name for wines made by Gary Heitz from his family vineyard. The Shypoke story starts back in 1904, when Michael Heitz emigrated from the Alsace region of Germany, and took interest in a 50 acre plot in Calistoga. He planted several varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and a little known variety, Charbono. With prohibition the M. Heitz Winery turned to growing walnuts, pears and prunes but he did insist on keeping his prized Charbono. With then end of prohibition Michael’s son Fred started to turn the property back to vineyards. In 2001 Michael’s great-grandson Peter Heitz became winemaker of Shypoke on the original Heitz land. Shypoke is the folk name of the Blue Heron that nest in the river along the ranch. Peter Heitz utilizes sustainable farming practices to share the outstanding fruit in its purest form. The estate is also a proud member of Slow Food’s Ark of Taste.
The Shypoke 2006 Napa Valley Charbono is a vibrant, inky colored wine with aromas of black cherry, plum and pomegranate. The same dark fruits explode on the nose with chocolate, sage and tar notes. It finishes with ripe round tannins. This is a good food wine that would pair with smoked duck, hearty stews or smoked meats. There were 630 cases produced and the price is $35.00.
Sit back and enjoy 100 years of tradition and history with the Shypoke 2006 Charbono.