Charter Oak Zinfandel Sonoma Valley Monte Rosso Vineyard 2007

Winemaker's Notes:

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.<br/><br/> About The Winery: <strong>How it began</strong> 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!<br/><br/> 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).<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> <strong>How Charter Oak is still made today</strong> 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.<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> <strong>The Charter Oak Team Grows!</strong> 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 .<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> 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!<br/><br/> Salute! – <em>Robert M. Fanucci</em><br/><br/>

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Charter Oak Winery:
Charter Oak: The Next Cult Zin? (By Jim White, founder, ilovenapa.com) If you buy enough wine, we throw in a will!" jokes the exuberant, 47-year-old lawyer-by-day, winemaker-by-night, Rob Fanucci, hinting that if you buy a few cases of his family wine, he'll throw in some discounted legal services. Which, of course, isn't true. But Fanucci's a colorful speaker. Fanucci is sitting in his... Read more
Charter Oak: The Next Cult Zin? (By Jim White, founder, ilovenapa.com) If you buy enough wine, we throw in a will!" jokes the exuberant, 47-year-old lawyer-by-day, winemaker-by-night, Rob Fanucci, hinting that if you buy a few cases of his family wine, he'll throw in some discounted legal services. Which, of course, isn't true. But Fanucci's a colorful speaker. Fanucci is sitting in his law office in St. Helena. From this vantage point, he consults to many high profile Napa Valley wineries. And it is from some of them that he gets gorgeous, ripe, black fruit to make sumptuous, elegant, age-worthy Zinfandels under his Charter Oak label. Fanucci's family history is the kind of material that books are written about. And after tasting his wines, it's obvious that his future that will be covered in print, too - though in wine journals. Charter Oak wines are destined for high demand. Fanucci's Italian-born grandfather, Guido Ragghianti, a one-time chef in the Italian army, turned up in San Francisco with two brothers in the early 1920s to pursue a career in woodworking. The brothers made friends with another immigrant family, the Guidis, and en masse, they moved north to the sleepy, pastoral town of St. Helena, Napa Valley, much closer to the lifestyle they'd known back home in Lucca. The brothers bought a one-acre plot, built a small cabin and Guido planted mostly white grapes for grappa. During his last harvest, granddaddy Guido passed his knowledge and secrets on to the young and impressionable Fanucci, who says, "from that moment onward, I knew that I wanted to make wine." After Guido died in 1986, Fanucci replanted the St. Helena patch 'o brown with Primativo, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. The vineyard is on Charter Oak Street, just beyond Tra Vigne restaurant. At crush each fall, Fanucci honors Guido by using the handmade punch down tool that his grandfather shaped to push down the cap of berries and seeds that rise to the top of his open-air fermenters. The wines that Fanucci makes are unfined, unfiltered, and, until now, unfamous. But once word gets out about these extraordinary wines, they will only be two of these three. Think Turley. Think Martinelli Jackass Vineyard. Think Biale in the same breath because Fanucci's Charter Oak Zinfandels can keep up. Even better, they're not as hot or alcoholic. Fanucci says of his Napa Valley Zinfandel, "It's a Zin that a Cabernet Sauvignon drinker would like." Until this year, Fanucci has made two core wines Ñ a Zinfandel from the famed Monte Rosso vineyard owned by Martini (now Gallo) in Sonoma, and a Napa Valley Zin that is a blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah from vines on the Charter Oak estate blended with old-vine fruit from Calistoga. Going forward, it appears Rob will no longer have access to the Monte Rosso fruit. Never mind; the grapes he is picking in Napa Valley are from equally legendary vineyards. All Fanucci's wines are made with naturally occurring yeasts Ñ whatever's in the air of the 100-year-old farmyard. As it happens, the place is a living junkyard of memory; granddad Guido's rusting old green Ford pickup truck sits in the middle of the yard as a salute to the now fallen wine idol. Fanucci's wines are - in contemporary buzzwords - "made in a non-interventionist style." In Fanucci's case what this really means is "primitive." Fanucci's winemaking efforts look more like those of a Middle Age (think era, not Rob!) alchemist trying to coax gold out of a stone. Friends come to pick and crush during harvest; over the course of several weeks, the fermenting wine is punched down by hand. There are no machines, no big pipes, tubes, or conveyor belts. Fermented wine is moved about the farmyard in small, five-gallon pails. It's pressed in Guido's original, near-100-year-old basket press, which sits in a leaning, wood-slatted, abandoned chicken coop. It gently squeezes the fermented juice, separating must from what will be future lust. The wine is then aged in a combination of new/used oak barrels that are stored in a rickety-staired, low-ceilinged, limestone cellar. (I've now banged my head so many times on the low-ceiling beams that I can't even remember to duck the next time I reenter the cellar because I've already lost too many brain cells from whacking my head on the beams.) Fanucci's wife, Layla, who teaches guitar and who has, until now, only been in touch with her musical brain, recently decided to get in touch with the "other artist inside." So she took up painting in oils. Fully self-taught, Layla has produced a dozen canvasses this year. One that hangs in the couple's dining room portrays Rob, the winemaker, in his cellar. And it's accurate right down to the often-undone shoelace in one of his shoes. (Anyone interested in seeing more of Layla's art can reach her at 707-963-2298 and arrange a showing.) But back to Charter Oak wine. Ambrosial stuff. I rated the 2000 Napa Valley Zinfandel 92 points. The 2000 Charter Oak Monte Rosso is a no-fail, 93 pointer (descriptions of both below). And if you are a Fanucci Fan of the Future, mark your calendars for the release of the 2001s. Displaying ethereal levels of chocolate and cocoa on the end palate, I rated a barrel sample a smokin' 96 points and scribbled this note in the margin of my notepad page: "Best Zin I've had all year." We'll see what aging and bottling do to the wine, but, at present, Fanucci is on his way to the Pantheon of Wine Pleasure. Read less

External Reviews for Charter Oak Zinfandel Sonoma Valley Monte Rosso Vineyard

External Review
Source: Premier Wine & Spirits
07/11/2011

From the world-famous Monte Rosso Vineyard, widely regarded as the best spot for growing Zinfandel in all of California. Beautiful and elegant, not your average California fruit bomb - restrained enough even to be paired with tuna or salmon! Only 325 cases of this wine were made, from grapes harvested off 100+ year old vines and aged exclusively in French oak barrels. Deep blackberry, currant, anise and toasted espresso notes are prominent, with great structure and balance. Fans of high end Cabernets, Bordeaux and Brunellos should definitely check this one out. Well worth the price!


External Review
Source: Premier Wine & Spirits
07/11/2011

From the elite Monte Rosso Vineyard, which produces some of the most sought after Zinfandel grapes in the state. Charter Oak is brimming with briary red and black berries, dark cherries and a perfume of ripe strawberry. But this is by no means a "fruity" wine. Charter Oak has deftly balanced intensity of fruit with the structure of a high-end Cabernet. Bright pinkish rim with a dark core; the wine is somewhat restrained in its youthful state. The texture of the wine shows perfect balance - no heat, just fresh berries that build and build on the lush palate. Beautiful to drink now but I would love to taste it again in a year or two.


External Review
Source: Premium Wine & Spirits
01/03/2012

From the elite Monte Rosso Vineyard, which produces some of the most sought after Zinfandel grapes in the state. Charter Oak is brimming with briary red and black berries, dark cherries and a perfume of ripe strawberry. But this is by no means a ldquo;fruityrdquo; wine. Charter Oak has deftly balanced intensity of fruit with the structure of a high-end Cabernet. Bright pinkish rim with a dark core; the wine is somewhat restrained in its youthful state. The texture of the wine shows perfect balance mdash; no heat, just fresh berries that build and build on the lush palate. Beautiful to drink now but I would love to taste it again in a year or two.


External Review
Source: Premium Wine & Spirits
01/03/2012

From the world-famous Monte Rosso Vineyard, widely regarded as the best spot for growing Zinfandel in all of California. Beautiful and elegant, not your average California fruit bomb mdash; restrained enough even to be paired with tuna or salmon! Only 325 cases of this wine were made, from grapes harvested off 100+ year old vines and aged exclusively in French oak barrels. Deep blackberry, currant, anise and toasted espresso notes are prominent, with great structure and balance. Fans of high end Cabernets, Bordeaux and Brunellos should definitely check this one out. Well worth the price!


External Review
Source: Prestige Wine & Spirits
02/14/2013

From the world-famous Monte Rosso Vineyard widely regarded as the best spot for growing Zinfandel in all of California. Beautiful and elegant not your average California fruit bomb — restrained enough even to be paired with tuna or salmon! Only 325 cases of this wine were made from grapes harvested off 100+ year old vines and aged exclusively in French oak barrels. Deep blackberry currant anise and toasted espresso notes are prominent with great structure and balance. Fans of high end Cabernets Bordeaux and Brunellos should definitely check this one out. Well worth the price!



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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.<br/><br/> About The Winery: <strong>How it began</strong> 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!<br/><br/> 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).<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> <strong>How Charter Oak is still made today</strong> 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.<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> <strong>The Charter Oak Team Grows!</strong> 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 .<br/><br/> 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.<br/><br/> 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!<br/><br/> Salute! – <em>Robert M. Fanucci</em><br/><br/>

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