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Tony's Wine Corner

Summer 2004

Charbono, an almost unheard of Italian/Franch varietal, is rapidly becoming the hottest artisanal grape variety.  Derived from the Latin "Carbonarius" meaning "maker of wood coal", Charbono probably received it's name from the very dark color of the wine.  Usually full bodied and tannic, Charbono is similar to a cross between a Syrah and Sangiovese.  Cultivated on only 100 acres in California and made by no more than six producers in the state, the majority of the grapes are grown in the Northern part of Napa Valley and Mendocino, as the hotter drier climate further from the ocean benefits these grapes.

On my visits to Napa in the last three or four years, I've noticed that producers such as Robert Foley, Vince Tofanelli. Fife and Chameleon, have gotten very good at handcrafting this interesting wine.  In addition to the old adage "practice makes perfect", new winemaking techniques such as cold maceration and extended fermentation allow for extracting fuller, darker yet softer, rounder flavors.  Charbono is a great wine to pair with salty, mountain cheeses from France and Italy.  From France, I recommend Abondance, a cows milk cheese from the French Pyrenees.  Of the Italian cheeses,  be sure to try Piave, a sweeter, nuttier version of Parmesan Reggiano from Trentino; Testun Barricato, a very seasonal, very rare cheese aged in wine must of the Nebbiola grape from Piedmonte; and a Pecorino Staginato from Tuscany.

Tony's Wine Pick:
Chameleon (2001) from Napa Valley ($20).  This Charbono has a very intense black purple color with aromas of blackberry and black plum.  A very rich and hearty wine, it is excellent with full flavored cheese, grilled meat, and robust stews.

From Tony's Kitchen:

Pork Roast Stuffed with Rosemary, Garlic and Parmesan.
Select the freshest, most nicely colored pork roast from a reputable butcher.  Cut slits in the meat and insert sprigs of fresh rosemary, slivers of garlic and chunks of Parmesan cheese.  Roast on a spit over your barbecue grill.  When the cheese begins to melt, the roast is done.  Serve with Rapini seasoned with garlic, white wine and the best olive oil along with a Tomato Salad - the very best tomatoes you can find seasoned with sea salt, fresh crushed pepper, olive oil and sherry or wine vinegar.  For dessert, treat your guests to homemade or storebought Lemon Ice.

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