Grapelive: Wine of the Day April 29, 2021

2020 Pax Wines, Charbono, Lushsinger Vineyard, Lake County.
The fresh new Luchsinger Vineyard Charbono is vividly electric purple and tangy on the palate, made with 100% whole cluster and indigenous yeasts, it is a semi carbonic easy drinking red wine that shows a fun mix of bright blackberry, açaí and tart plum fruits and crunchy savory elements, mineral tones, floral detail, wild herbs and zesty acidity. This Glou Glou (quaffable) low alcohol Charbono was aged for just 5 months in large, well seasoned, French 500L puncheons to allow for a bit of leesy texture, but to preserve all of the vibrantl youthful form, it is like a California Cru Beaujolais and fans of Valdiguie will love this stuff that clocks in at about 12% natural alcohol, it is best enjoyed with a slight chill and simple foods. As the winery notes, Charbono, as it is known as in California is also known as Bonarda in Argentina, and thought to be originally from northern Italy, plus Douce Noire in France’s high alpine region of Savoie. This rare varietal has been here since at least just before WWII and was once highly planted in Napa Valley, and Pax says Charbono has a storied place in the history of California wine with styles over the years that have ranged from medium-bodied and snappy, as his version is done to richly extracted, almost Zinfandel like, and aged in flashy new oak barrels, as done by Toffanelli, one of the last to make in Napa from old vines in the Calistoga area. My first experience with Charbono came about by ancient, when I grabbed a bottle of Turley Charbono (ages ago now) thinking it was one of their Zins, and wow, I had to get more and went on a Charbono finding mission, finding a disappointing amount of options, but tasty ones, like Summers, at the time in the remote area between Napa and Knights Valley, so I was glad when Pax turned his talents to this remarkable grape a few years ago.

Pax Wines was founded back in 2000 by Pax and Pamela Mahle, this small California winery made a name for themselves with a stellar lineup of truly profound Syrah bottlings and helped start a wave of modern Rhone wines along side Copain, Big Basin and Drew to name a few and inspired many young winemakers, now Pax focuses on Syrah (still) and Gamay Noir from cool, coastal sites, as well as a selection of esoteric varieties, like this Charbono, Trousseau, Trousseau Gris and the Mission grape that showcase, as he puts it, the great diversity of California wine. From the vineyard to the cellar, Pax has become a proponent of natural wines and uses a holistic style of winemaking. This, Pax adds, means that all the fruit is grown using organic, sustainable, or biodynamic methods and no unnatural additions are applied in the winery, which all adds up to transparency and purity in the wines, which are more raw, much less polished than mainstream wines and they filled with their own personality, as his latest set of releases shows. This Pax Charbono is one of the first 2020 red California wines I’ve tried, and while nervous about smoke taint, this one shows no ill effects and is enjoyable I wish I had bought a lot more, and I’m really excited to try the rest of new wines, especially a brand new single varietal Freisa, the rare Piedmonte grape that smells and tastes of fresh picked strawberries and made famous in recent years by G.D. Vajra, who make one of the most impactful examples I’ve ever tried. After tasting Jolie-Laide’s version, I look forward to comparing it to Pax’s and of course I am equally geared up to try the latest Syrah and Gamay offerings as well, in these last few vintages there is so much to be thrilled about from this Sebastopol based winery and it is a great time to stock up, and or join Pax’s wine club, as they get first shot at these, moon phase label, value priced rarities!
($28 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive