I like the underdog grapes and Charbono definitely fits the bill. If you’re looking for it in Napa Valley you’ll have to seriously crane your neck as their are only around 50 acres. Out of 43,000+ of vineyard acres in the region.
What is the Charbono in Napa Valley?
Some say it’s Bonarda, which today you’ll find primarily in Argentina. I’ve also read (via Jancis Robinson in “Vines, Grapes, and Wines”) that Charbono’s true identity is a French grape, Corbeau.
Regardless, how does it taste?
The 2012 J. McClelland Charbono (a sample bottle sent my way) comes from a nearly 100-year-old dry-farmed vineyard and, flavor-wise, is very grape-y and sappy. Not sappy like how I feel after drinking a couple glasses of rosé and watching “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” late at night. (BTW, was surprised by how much I enjoyed that movie.) But sappy like maple syrup. Just not sweet. At all.
If you could tap into a grape vine via spigot and have grape juice come out that you could turn into a wine, it would be Charbono. (Specifically, the J. McClelland.) Note: this is not an accurate description of the viticultural process.
It coats your palate like a paint roller going to work on a wall. But as operated by a skilled professional rather than some dolt.
Though an expansive wine, it is not overwhelming. The J. McClelland is unapologetically rich as well as imbued with a sense of grape-tasting fun. Seek out Charbono!