Charter Oak, in St. Helena, takes pride in being the "most original, old-world," winery of some 500 wineries in Napa Valley.
The reason to visit: See how early wine pioneers lived and made wine in Napa Valley -- and taste wines which hearken back to those simpler times. The wines made at Charter Oak are silken, elegant, and balanced, words not customarily used to describe Zinfandel or Petite Sirah. Charter Oak also makes an elegant, modestly priced Cabernet Sauvignon, whose grapes come from the peak of Mt. Veeder.
Charter Oak is a family winery; Rob and Layla Fanucci work on the property, and son David Fanucci, who is at viticultural school, helps make the wine. Winery partner Jim White brings business and wine-making experience to the enterprise.
As well, Layla, who is an that internationally renowned artist, has turned the first floor of the winery into a living art gallery; unlike other wineries in Napa Valley where there are vast collections of important art, Charter Oak is the only one where you can sip your wine and actually talk to the artist who painted the evocative oil paintings on the walls. (Go to Layla’s web site in advance of visiting Charter Oak to see how she treats her subject themes, cities of the world and wine. Go to www.laylafanucci.com.)
Rob Fanucci: "My grandparents lived on this property and my grandfather planted vines here when he landed from Luca, Italy. My earliest memories of Guido Ragghianti, my
grandfather (nonno, in Italian), are of him picking and crushing grapes in the vineyard surrounding our home. My first memory of wine: seeing crushed grapes in large, wooden fermentation tanks, behind our home. I was mesmerized by the color, smell, and taste of the crushed grapes. I distinctively remember putting my fingers in the grape must and licking the luscious juice from my fingers. I spent hours doing this one harvest and, as I reflect, was lucky that the juice had not yet fermented – otherwise I would have been one dizzy, sick Italian boy!"
Charter Oak wines are unfined and unfiltered. All grapes -- Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon -- are fermented on natural yeast. Wooden tools crafted -- and used -- by Rob's grandfather Guido are used to punch down the cap on fermenting wines three times a day for the duration of fermentation.
No one makes wine quite this way any more. We press out the fermented juice in Guido's 85-year-old wooden, basket press. We believe this may explain why our wines are silken and so beautifully textured. For sure, our elementary winemaking techniques -- natural fermentation, and the punch-down of the cap with hand-made wooden tools -- are some of the secrets of our success. There is nothing quite as beautiful as being outdoors, out behind our home, punching down the grape cap, watching the sun shine down on the bubbling, purple juice. I live for this annual experience, which nourishes my soul."
Charter Oak wines are NOT industrial, or commercial wines; they are lovingly made, traditional, handcrafted wines.
100 Year Old Wine Press