Wine Last Sold on: February 20, 2010
Charter Oak Winery
2007 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel
|Vineyard:||Monte Rosso Vineyard|
|Region:||California: Sonoma Valley|
|Total Allocation:||Extremely Limited!|
|Wine Spies:||Top Secret|
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The Winery Says:
About This Wine:
From vineyards planted during President Grover Cleveland’s first term in the 1880s, this wine offers luscious blackberry and wild raspberry with loads of exotic spices and indigenous bramble, and is elegant in style with a smooth blackberry satin finish. This is a bold Zinfandel of massive proportions. Yields were approximately 1.5 tons per acre. Aged exclusively in French oak Burgundy barrels. Big, black & balanced. Only 325 cases produced.
About The Winery:
How it began My earliest memories of my grandfather Guido Ragghianti were in the fields and vineyards surrounding his home in St. Helena on Charter Oak Avenue picking and crushing grapes. My first memory of wine was seeing crushed grapes in a large, wooden fermentation tank. I was mesmerized by the color, smell, and taste of the crushed grapes. I distinctively remember putting my fingers in the grape must a licking the luscious grape juice from my fingers. It seemed as if I had spent hours doing this on one particular afternoon and as I reflect back, I was lucky that the juice had not yet fermented – otherwise I would have been one little sick Italian boy!
I also remember receiving sweet wine from my grandfather when I was just age 4. The only present I would receive would be a bottle of sweet wine which had a white string around the top. On my birthday, I was offered a sip, and the bottle would mysteriously disappear once my grandfather left our house. As a young child, even at the age of four or five, my grandfather would always allow me to drink wine at the table which was diluted with water. This is referred to as Aqua Con Vino (water with wine).
My grandfather also made grappa from grapes grown on his property in St. Helena on Charter Oak Avenue. He would also dry out the Italian prunes in the hot St. Helena sun, which were also grown on the property as well as grapes and soak them in the grappa. Again, at an early age, I was exposed to brandied prunes and brandied grapes. I remember when I was 8 years old going to a restaurant and seeing prunes on the menu. I quickly ordered the prunes when the waitress came to our table. I was very disappointed when I tasted the prunes since they did not taste anything like the brandied prunes that I would devour at my grandfather’s table.
My grandfather drank wine every day of his life, but only with meals. He would never drink unless he was eating lunch or dinner. He would always admonish me never to drink unless I was eating. Of course, my grandfather never spoke English, so all of my training was in Italian. Alto Mangia, Beve.
My grandfather as well as my grandmother, Matilda Ragghianti, were both excellent chefs. The table was always full of food and there was always five to seven vegetables, three to four different meat dishes, at least two pasta dishes, fruit, cheeses, a variety of wines, and, of course, grappa, at the end of a meal. As a young boy, I helped my grandfather make wine by assisting in the picking and crushing of grapes.
However, it wasn’t until 1986 when I had lost my job at a securities firm and was living off a 6-month severance that I had learned the winemaking process from start to finish. Coincidentally, in the harvest of 1986, my grandfather died a peaceful death at age 98. From the vintage of 1986, I fell in love with wine as well as the winemaking process.
I was fortunate to inherit all of my grandfather’s winemaking tools and equipment, including a 100-year old basket press, home-made punch-down tools, which my mother (Lola Ragghiantti Fanucci) says are at least 100-years old, as well as barrels, funnels, a hand-grape crusher, 5-gallon containers, 1-gallon glass jugs, siphon hoses, wooden bungs and an assortment of other tools and equipment.
The wine was fermented in an old chicken coop in the back of my grandfather’s property on Charter Oak Avenue. Underneath his house was an old European wine cellar, where the wine was barrel-aged. In the early ‘20s and thereafter, he bartered wine from his basement.
How Charter Oak is still made today Charter Oak wine is unfined and unfiltered. The grapes are fermented on natural yeast. I use tools crafted by my grandfather (Nonno in Italian) to punch down the cap three times a day. I work the must into a foaming lather. No one makes wine quite this way. We believe the secret to our success is the natural fermentation and the punch down of the cap with hand-made wooden tools, which is done religiously over and over. There is nothing quite as beautiful than to see the sun shining down on the purple grape juice as it bubbles to the top. I live for this and it nourishes my soul.
After three to four weeks in the fermentation tank, it is time to separate the skin from the juice. This is all done by hand by utilizing the 100-year old basket press. The wine is then bucketed into barrels. This is certainly not the most efficient way of making wine but follows my grandfather’s winemaking tradition. The wine is in the truest sense handcrafted. We guarantee that you can taste the difference in every bottle of our wine in comparison to mass-produced wines.
The Charter Oak Team Grows! One of my close friends in Napa Valley, Jim White, has helped me make Charter Oak wines for the past five vintages. Selflessly and with passion, Jim has helped pick and crush the fruit, rack and bottle the wines and, upon their release, has also greatly helped to sell it .
Jim, who was formerly a foreign correspondent in Africa for many years, returned to North America where he has been a professional food and wine writer for 30 years. Jim has applied his considerable palate and marketing skills to bring to market more than 10,000 foods and beverages. He consults to many of the largest Fortune 500 food and beverage companies.
When Jim sold his interest in another Napa Valley wine business in 2008, I asked him if we might formalize our own relationship—I told him I’d be proud to have him as my partner in Charter Oak. He’d been acting like one for the past five years—he might as well be one. Welcome aboard, Giacomo!
Salute! – Robert M. Fanucci
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The Wine Spies Say:
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s wine delivers! If you love great Zinfandel, please rush to purchase today’s extraordinary example.
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Mission Codename: Red Mountain Heritage
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Operatives have been clamoring for a big, juicy and delicious Sonoma Valley Zinfandel, worthy of their exacting tastes. Send Agent Red into the field to secure an ample cache of the best Zinfandel he can find
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Charter Oak
Wine Subject: 2007 Monte Rosso Vineyard Sonoma Valley Zinfandel
Winemaker: Robert M. Fanucci
Winery Backgrounder: Zinfandel is related to the Italian Primitivo grape, tracing its origin to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kastelanski. Zinfandel is one of the most versatile varietals with the ability to make wines, both rich to fruity, dark to light, and dry to sweet. Dry Creek Valley_ Zinfandels, which are characterized by their big, extracted flavors, are gaining in popularity with our Operatives. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Beautiful and almost glowing, reminding me of bright red cherry Jell-O – with a soft hint of violet. At the very outer edges of the wine, a soft pink hue is barely discernible. This wine shows off long, skinny legs the start high up the glass
Smell – Lush and softly earthy, with great fruit and warm spice, the wine leads with blackberry, raspberry and cranberry. After a few deep inhalations, dusty bramble, mixed spice, soft cedar and black pepper emerge
Feel – Soft and light-weight on entry, then quickly grippy as lush tannins spread across the palate, adding a sweet and tart dryness that is followed by peppery spice
Taste – Sweet and lush, with sweet and tart red fruits of raspberry and cranberry. These are accompanied by cassis, blackberry, soft mixed spices and black cracked pepper
Finish – This wine finishes smooth, aptly dry and ultra-long showing off a great balance among its fruit, spice and earthy characteristics
Conclusion – We love it when we are introduced to new wineries by our in the field Operatives. today’s very special wine came to us by way of Agent M2, a deep-cover Operative that works at another prestigious winery in the region. M2 insisted that we infiltrate Charter Oak, paying particular attention to their Monte Rosso Zinfandel. She had never led us astray in the past, so we rushed to procure an allotment of today’s brilliant Zin. I loved the delicious depth and complexity of the wine. From its lush and juicy flavors, to the supple texture and on to its smooth finish, this food friendly wine is also a perfect solo-sipper for those that really love great Zinfandel.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Robert Fanucci
WINE EDUCATION: Learned from my Grandfather Guido Ragghianti from a young age and from harvest, fermenting, pressing in 100+ year old basket press, racking the summer of 1986 in which in died in December of that year at the age of 98. He was still picking grapes at age 98 and fermenting, second press, rolling 60 gallon barrels and drinking close bottle of wine a day or has he would say a gallon every 8 days. I also to allot of chemistry classes and UC Davis to add to may art of winemaking skills learned from my Grandfather.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: 1986 to present. Homemade wine until Charter Oak’s first commercial vintage in 1988.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Try to be as natural as possible and interfere as little as possible. We are mere stewards of the wine. God makes the wine. Industrial/commercial wineries use way too many chemicals every step of the wine making process. We use natural yeast fermentation, punch down the cap with old world redwood bats which are over 100 years old, second press by hand in 100+ year old basket press, let the wine go through malolactic fermentation without chemical additives.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: Enjoy wine often with friends and family and always with food. Wine drunk with food is one of the greatest blessing in life.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: June 2000 (1998) Vintage.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Robert. We are thrilled to be showing your Zinfandel today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
ROBERT FANUCCI: Thanks, Agent Red!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
ROBERT: When I was no older than 4 years old my Grandfather Guido Ragghianti would give be a bottle of sweet wine for my birthday which always had a string around the neck of the bottle. Shortly thereafter, he would give me a brandied prune soaked in home made grappa. He dried the prunes from Italian prune trees on his vinegary in St. Helena. I was very disappointed as a young boy when I ordered prunes in a restaurant thinking that the prunes would taste like my Grandfather’s. I have never since ordered prunes in a restaurant. At a very young age my Grandfather would serve me wine with water with a hearty Italian meal around the table. There were always several roasts, 6 or 7 vegetables, one or two different types of pastas, cheese, polenta with fungi, etc.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
ROBERT: My Grandfather Guido Ragghianti from a young boy until I was a young man at 30 when he died at age 98..
RED: Who do you make wine for?
ROBERT: Since my Grandfather drank wine everyday with his afternoon meal which he started cooking early in the morning around 5:00 a.m. we made wine for our selves to be consumed with our meals. I remember bringing a very expensive Cabernet to one of our Italian meals in St. Helena which upset my grandfather to know end and he had me through it out since he claimed it was vinegar. It was a 1982 Pine Ridge Cabernet.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
ROBERT: From vineyards planted during President Grover Cleveland’s first term in the 1880s, this wine offers luscious blackberry and wild raspberry with loads of exotic spices and indigenous bramble, and is elegant in style with a smooth blackberry satin finish. This is a bold Zinfandel of massive proportions. Yields were approximately 1.5 tons per acre. Aged exclusively in French oak Burgundy barrels. Big, black & balanced. Only 325 cases produced.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
ROBERT: Pork, chicken or roast beef with olive oil, garlic, sage, roasted potatoes and pasta and/or polenta with wild mushrooms.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Sonoma Valley so special?
ROBERT: The excellent soils, cool nights and warm days.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
ROBERT: Blending and racking the wine to obtain the perfectly balanced wine with a smooth and satin finish with excellent and robust distinctive flavor.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
ROBERT: Drink the wine with food and do not be afraid to drink the wine young as well as every year while the wines ages to experience the full rainbow or spectrum of how a wine matures over the years.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
ROBERT: May you drink wine all the days of your life with family and friends around the dinner table with home cooked extraordinary meals. May wine contribute to a long, healthy and happy life. Salute’
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!