[Image: Bunch of Grapes]
Today's Wine Tasting Note

© Copyright 1998 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Two California reds
Ca' del Solo Charbono

Another whimsical label from always-whimsical Randall Grahm's Bonny Doon. Image from the winery's website.

Combining my notes for the past couple of nights, we've enjoyed a sort of vinous flip-flop: A relatively expensive wine made from Charbono, a grape that more often turns up in inexpensive bottles; and a relatively modest wine made from Cabernet, a grape that often makes wines that sell for more.

The Charbono is from "Ca' del Solo," the line of Italian-style wines made by Randall Grahm's Bonny Doon, and the second of the line that I've enjoyed recently. (See also my notes from Jan. 17 on the Ca' del Solo Refosco.) The Cabernet is from Liberty School, a second label of the well-reputed Caymus; and like its pricier sibling, it's quite heavy on the oak.

Following are my notes on both:

Bonny Doon "Ca' del Solo" 1996 California Charbono "La Farfalla" ($15.99)
Inky dark ruby color. Black fruit, mixed berries and vanilla aromas lead into a ripe, juicy fruit flavor structured over tart acidity. A simple, pleasant wine, actually 89 percent Charbono and 11 percent Barbera, according to the winery's website.

Here, just for fun, is a sample of Grahm's off-the-wall humor from the wine's back label:

It is a rare moment that I feel a natural kinship with Jerry Lee Lewis, however, if ever there was a vitaceous poster child for the Ugly Duckling Variety Foundation or one that needed and deserved a spazmoidal champion, it is this one. Charbono is not so much misunderstood as utterly anonymous. Charbono and dolcetto may be one and the same, yet only when traveling with Piedmontese papers does the wine receive any respect. This melodious but powerful wine seems to possess several more quanta of that phenomena which make wine more vinous than your average merlotcentric bottling. Perhaps charbono has an inferiority complex, and being a sucker for any cÚpage which is in need of therapy, be that psycho, oxygenative, or otherwise, drove me to coddle and engender this fine single varietal. Violets, anise, cola and the ubiquitous raspberry are yours for a song and a few words of encouragement.

FOOD MATCH: A dark, winey pasta sauce made with chicken breast meat simmered in an herbal tomato sauce and Zinfandel.

Liberty School 1995 Paso Robles Central Coast Cabernet ($10.99)
Dark garnet color. Mint and weedy dill aromas over black fruit, appetizing but focused more on oak than fruit. Flavors similar, black fruit and dark chocolate. Fairly one-dimensional and oaky, but the elements come together quite well in a good quaff that's not an unreasonable value. (Jan. 19, 1998)

FOOD MATCH: A simple stir-fry of beef tenderloin and watercress with onions and black-bean sauce worked very well.

All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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