Douce Noir, also known Charbono in America and Bonarda in Argentina, is a red grape variety that has historically been grown in the Savoy region of the French-Italian border but is now more widely planted in Argentina. The earliest mention of the grape dates from when Etruscans (of ancient Italy) first planted Bonarda some 3,000 years ago in the Padania Region of Northern Italy.
Brian Babcock’s Wheelhouse Vineyard is in the Suisun Valley, a stone’s throw from the eastern edge of the Napa Valley, where the hot days lead to cool nights. This is perfect for a varietal like Charbono. Once the most grown varietal in Napa, it is now cultivated in minuscule quantities in Calistoga and just outside the Napa Valley by growers like the Babcock’s. Starting with hand sorting and punch downs, we did 40% whole cluster fermentation before aging in French barrels for 10 months.
When asked to characterize our Charbono, I describe it as Cabernet meets Pinot. It is a mouthful of wine without the big tannins. It has aromas of black fruits, red fruits, and currants that lead to a fruit driven, vibrant palate. Our 2021 Charbono is a full-bodied wine with rich layers of dark fruits, chocolate, graphite, and a natural acidity that ends in a long finish with super fine tannins. A beautifully balanced wine; it can be paired with a wide variety of food.
Appellation: 100% Suisun Valley
Alcohol Content: 12.9%
Barrel Description: French Oak; 30% new, 70% neutral
Cellar Potential: 5-8 years
Winemaker: Paul Johnson