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Schrader Tofanelli Vineyard Old Vine Charbono 2003
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960's, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those is the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
As far as vineyard area in Argentina, Bonarda comes in second to Malbec. However, DNA profiling shows that what the Argentine people have named as Bonarda, is actually identical to California’s Charbono—and Charbono is actually a grape called Douce Noire from Savoie, a mountainous wine region in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes of eastern France. The Argentine wine called Bonarda is typically linear, somewhat complex and loaded with black fruit. California Charbono is beautifully concentrated in a deep magenta color and presents lively and juicy red fruit, spice and a pleasant grip in the finish.
In Italy, in Lombardy’s Oltrepò Pavese and Emilia Romagna’s Colli Piacentini zones, the grape called Bonarda is not Bonarda at all but instead, Croatina. In Novara, Bonarda Novarese, used to ease the tannins of Spanna (Nebbiolo), is actually Uva Rara. The wines labeled as Bonarda from Oltrepò Pavese are spicy, medium to light bodied and full of both red and black fruit.
Bonarda Piemontese is an aromatic variety that covered 30% of the region before phylloxera. Today it grows sporadically in Piedmont, mainly near Govone. Bonarda Piemontese is actually Bonarda.