When a winery is fun and has some unique touches, it is often worth spending some time there. When the wines are top notch in addition, the “often” becomes “always.” Charter Oak, located on a very small property in an otherwise residential type neighborhood in St. Helena, is just such a place. As far as we can discover, their wine making technique is engaged in by no other winery in Napa.
Owned by lawyer Roberto and artist Layla Fanucci, the wines are fermented in small batches and then punched down by hand with redwood bats that were made by Rob’s grandfather Guido Ragghianti. The wine ferments on natural yeast and is hand pressed in a 100 year old wooden basket press used by that Guido for all those many harvests. You cannot extract as much juice from the grapes using a hand press as you can with a high-tech machine used by most wineries today, so at Charter Oak they might get about 135 gallons of wine per ton of grapes as opposed to 180. Thus, Charter Oak’s wine is obviously different than most – some say smoother.
2007 Monte-Rosso Old Vine Vineyard ($42): A luscious Zin with raspberries throughout.
2007 Old Vine Petite Sirah ($42): This is supposed to big and dark, and it is. The chocolate-cherry on the finish is a treat.
2006 Mount Veeder Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon ($60): Another entry from Mt. Veeder, which is the home of some superior Cabs. Emeril called it one of his favorite “cults.”
Note: The entire production at Charter Oak is under 700 cases, so if you care to try these wonderful wines (and get a tour of a truly one of a kind property), you should hurry.