Near Extinct Cult Wine Emerges in San Diego
In a state where Chardonnay, Cabernet and Zinfandel are kings, the nearly extinct Charbono is taking center stage in San Diego at Gianni Buonomo Vintners in the coastal community of Ocean Beach. With fewer than 70 total acres planted to this rarity, Charbono is truly a cult wine.
It’s an obscure varietal that is unknown to most and revered only by a fortunate few. Once a darling of the Napa Valley, Charbono was the go-to wine at the venerable Inglenook in the 1940s through the 1960s. A Charbono Society was even formed for enthusiasts of this rare and underappreciated grape. Annual black tie affairs were held for members to snatch-up the few, precious cases. Inglenook produced Charbono from the late 1800s until the vineyard and estate were sold in 1998 to Francis Ford Coppola.
Charbono demands the same growing conditions as Cabernet Sauvignon. Thus, when popular tastes turned more toward Cabernet Sauvignon, it replaced Charbono in the vineyard. In Napa, Cabernet means cash and consequently Charbono was jettisoned. Today, only about 17 wineries, all in California, do small productions of Charbono. Gianni Buonomo Vintners in San Diego is one of them.
One of the things that makes Charbono so interesting is the story of how it got to California. Cuttings were brought to Napa as Barbera in the late 1800s. But, it wasn’t 1938 that UC Davis geneticist Dr. Harold Olmo determined that the Barbera that was winning all the awards for Inglenook was actually Charbono. Originally from the Savoie region of France, it is also known as Corbeau, Douce Noir and Charbonneau. The Argentinians know it as Bonarda.
Due to its scarcity, you’ll be hard pressed to find it in liquor stores or wine shops. Being such an excellent, food-friendly wine, restauranteurs have no problem getting adventurous diners to give it a try. “We’re thrilled to be showcasing Gianni Buonomo Charbono at our annual Heart of Spring Dinner. Charbono’s a perfect compliment to so many of our dishes,” says Randy Smerik of the award-winning Solare Ristorante Italiano in San Diego.
In fact, the 2014 Gianni Buonomo Charbono is quite special. Deep ruby in color it delivers a bold, rustic and dusty essence of ripe black cherry with a delicate sweetness of lightly toasted oak. An enduring, silky-soft finish promises to please anyone who loves a glass of well-made red. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted,” exclaimed San Diego ophthalmologist and wine fanatic, Chris Gualtieri. “Once you taste it, you won’t want to drink anything else. It’s that amazing!”
Gianni Buonomo Vintners sources Charbono grapes from El Dorado County CA near Placerville and brings them to Ocean Beach in San Diego to vinify, barrel age, bottle and sell in the tasting room.
What: Charbono Fest
When: Saturday, April 29, 2017
…… 6:00PM to 9:00PM
Where: Gianni Buonomo Vintners
….. . 4836 Newport Ave.
….. . San Diego CA 92167
Tickets go on sale Saturday, April 15.