Summers Estate Charbono 2011
Jim Summers purchased a 28-acre vineyard in Knights Valley in 1987. At that time it was mostly Merlot grapes with some Muscat Canelli. The first production of Summers Ranch Merlot was the 1992 vintage, and we increased the yield to reach a maximum of 2000 cases.
In 1996 we expanded our vineyard holdings to include 25 acres at the corner of Highway 128 and Tubbs Lane. This Napa Valley property carries the name Summers Estate Wines, with the vineyard designation of Villa Andriana Vineyard, named after our daughter. The property has been completely transformed to recognize its full potential. With a winery/tasting room, entertainment center, bocce ball court, picnic area and 22+ acres of vines (Zinfandel, Charbono, and Cabernet Sauvignon) we think it a perfect balance of pleasure and productivity.
Creating red-wine from grapes grown on small acreages in both Napa Valley and Knights Valley is the passion of Beth and Jim Summers. The signature, "unique" wine offered by Summers is Charbono. The name is thought to be an early Italian immigrant version of Charbonneau, a French varietal. Some strongly believe that this variety is a close relative to the Dolcetto variety, widely grown in northern Italy. The vine bears very large berries that are used to make a very dark red wine that, when subjected to extended skin contact during fermentation, is full of fruit flavor and low in tannins.
One of Napa Valley’s oldest wine growing subregions but last to gain appellation status, Calistoga occupies the northernmost section of the valley. Beginning at the foot of Mount St. Helena, its vineyards stretch over steep canyons and roll out onto the valley floor. The soils in Calistoga are volcanic, which means they are heavy in minerals, low in organic matter and allow good drainage for vine roots, creating less green growth and more concentration of flavor within the grape berries.
Summer days are very hot but most nights cool down with moist ocean breezes sneaking in over the Mayacamas Mountains or from Knights Valley to its northwest.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the area’s star variety with Zinfandel coming in a strong second, though the latter commands far less price per tonnage so continues to be outshined by Cabernet in vineyard acreage, save for some important exceptions.
Bonarda is a name given to a handful of distinct grape varieties, mainly growing in Italy and in Argentina. In Lombardy’s Oltrepò Pavese and Emilia Romagna’s Colli Piacentini zones, the grape called Bonarda is actually Croatina. In Novara, Bonarda Novarese, often blended with Spanna (Nebbiolo), is actually Uva Rara. DNA profiling shows that most of the Bonarda in Argentina is actually identical to California’s Charbono—and Charbono is actually the Douce Noire grape from Savoie. Somm Secret—Bonarda Piemontese, an aromatic variety, is the only true Bonarda. Before phylloxera, it covered 30% of Piedmontese vineyard acreage.