Inglenook and Charbono Revisited


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Joe Becerra

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We recently celebrated the 40th wedding anniversary of friends with a dinner party. One of the guests, a wine collector, brought a 40-year-old bottle of Inglenook Charbono to celebrate the affair.

The bottle of 1968 Inglenook Charbono was decanted and allowed to sit one hour. After tasting the Charbono, we agreed that the wine was still fruity but maybe a little flat but that was okay because it was the thought that counted. What a great way to toast our friends with a wine from this famous Napa Valley winery made the same year as our friends were married. The bottle of wine also stimulated much conversation about the great days of Inglenook and the Charbono wine varietal.

Inglenook was one of the great Napa Valley wineries of the early years, producing legendary wines particularly Cabernet Sauvignon. Inglenook was sold in 1969 to the Heublein Corporation and that began the eventual demise of the premium wines of Inglenook. Thanks to Francis Ford Coppola and his “Godfather” movies, the famed Gustave Niebaum Inglenook property was rescued. Today visitors come and gaze and tour this incredible beauty that Coppola has renamed Rubicon Estate.

As far as Charbono, the variety is alive and well in the Napa Valley. There are only 80 acres of Charbono in California with half of those located near Calistoga. The Charbono grape is likely to be Italian in origin. As far we know there are only three wineries in the Napa Valley making a Charbono: Summers Estate Wines, August Briggs Winery and On the Edge Winery. We tasted the Summers Charbono wine and it is a lovely food-friendly wine. The alcohol content is just a tad higher than the 1968 Inglenook, 13.2 vs. 12%. The Summers Estate Charbono is soft and elegant and a reminder of the past.

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.

14 thoughts on “Inglenook and Charbono Revisited”

  1. I have seen at least three different grape varieties that growers call Charbono. If you can trace the lineage back to John Daniel, then you’ve got the right one. Most growers can’t.

    Actually the demise of Inglenook started in 1964 when it was purchased by United Vintners the marketing arm of Allied Grape Growers from John Daniel. In 1969 Allied merged with Heublein with an exchange of stock, Inglenook was part of that merger. Allied was a cooperative of grape growers who had a hodgepodge of growers some great, some not so great.

    After 1964, the grapes from these six dozen new growers expanded the grape supply by ten fold and the original small block at Inglenook was “supplemented” with Charbono from a couple vineyards in Calistoga and a couple elsewhere as well as being blended down with other grape varieties. (remember the rule then was 51%) To get a real taste of Inglenook Charbono you have to go back into the late 50’s…especially a string of three great ones ’58, ’59, and ’60.

  2. There are actually close to 20 wineries producing Charbono in California now, most of which are in Napa Valley. Summers is the largest producer.

  3. Had the pleasure of drinking 1991 Inglenook Charbono purchased from winebid.com for 15.00 this past week. It had a pretty garnet color that was clear with a rose rim and no sediment. The first few minutes were of dried spice cabinet with dried earth tones. But the wine was opening quite nicely and quickly with fresh dark berry and as my friend Eric said tastes of a bush, woody but not oaky, fresh leaves and berries. We drank it over an hour the acidity was lively with subtle tea-like tannins on the back of the mouth the fruit was very youthful it caught us off guard, we all felt that our last glass was our favorite.

  4. I have an Estate Bottled Napa Valley Pinot Noir 1969 Rutherford California.

    What do I do with it?

    Save it, drink it?

    Thanks for your time and consideration.


  5. My friend Mike tried to trade 3 bottles of the 1968 Charbono to Rubicon. They did not want it because the wine was made after the original Inglenook was sold in 1964.
    You should drink the Pinot Noir. I hope it is awesome. Let us know.

  6. You shouldn’t have let the wine “breath” at all that is why it was flat. Old wines don’t need air the oxidize too fast

  7. Thanks for the suggestion. I know that there is much controversy about breathing wine and decanting wine. Too bad I don’t have another bottle of this wine to try again.

  8. I have a small vineyard in central New Mexico and would like to purchase some charbono grapes for planting. Do you might happen to know where I can buy some plants for spring planting in 2011.


    • I know that the Guglielmo Family Winery in Morgan Hill. CA buys Charbono grapes from a nearby farm. I suggest you call and talk to one of the Guglielmo Brothers and find out the name of the farm.

  9. Charbono or Carbeau(French) Barbera(Italian) are the same DNA makeup
    and Argentina grows and produces extensive Barbera wines. True California produces
    the only known Charbono in the USA/World but it is just a technicality because it’s
    produced under it’s other named grapes Barbera.

    • I think you mean Bonarda instead of Barbera. I was recently in Italy in Piedmonte. I tasted many different Barbera wines.

  10. I have a bottle of Inglenook Charbono dated 1937. Does anyone have an Idea of worth or what to do with it?

    • Sorry for the delay in replying to your comment. I would check with K&L Wines in San Francisco. They might know or call Inglenook directly and ask if they will make a trade in wine.


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