At the opening celebration of the new Santa Clara Wine Trail in August, one of the wineries we visited was Fortino. This is where I first tasted their intriguing estate-grown Charbono—a varietal that is one of the rarest in California, with only 80 acres grown statewide.
Charbono is a grape variety from the Savoie region of France, and it’s also grown extensively in Argentina – where it’s known as Bonarda. Now, thanks to California’s varying climates, it’s grown in this state, too. Wine made from this grape tends to be bold and powerful, with a full-bodied palate and intricate flavors. There’s nothing wimpy about Charbono.
Fortino’s three acres in San Martin produce a delicious inky-dark Charbono with earthy herbal flavors of roasted plum, red cherry and clove. Fortino’s 2010 Charbono ($40) is excitingly different, well structured, with an enticing broody essence.
Established in 1970 by Ernest and Maria Fortino, the land that Ernest farmed reminded him of his hometown of Calabria, Italy. Eventually, in 1995, the winery was passed on to Maria and Ernest’s son, Gino, and daughter, Teri. Gino now has about 50 acres to oversee, half of which is still dry-farmed to produce flavor-intense grapes.
The tasting room is a lovely experience, and Fortino Winery is a beautiful spot to hold a function—weddings, private parties and corporate events are held regularly on their property.
Fortino Winery, 4525 Hecker Pass Hwy., Gilroy, (408) 842-3305. Fortinowinery.com.
Gifts of Wine for the Holidays
Many of our local wineries do festive packaging or have special gift packs for Christmas. Bonny Doon Vineyard, for example, has a Holiday Pack ($80) – a trio of red wines specially selected to pair with heartier winter cuisine; or a Fireside two-pack for $44. Visit bonnycoonvineyard.com.
Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Company
If you don’t know which local wine to try next, or you want to ship out a gift, the Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Company—run by Shannon Flynn, former director of operations for the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association—makes it easy. Flynn says to contact her to choose “any wines that are available on the website store.” She has also partnered up with Garlic Festival Foods to offer gift packs for food and wine lovers. Wines are hand-selected by professionals in the Santa Cruz Mountains wine industry, and it’s an opportunity to try some new ones. For more information visit wineclubsantacruzmountains.com or email [email protected]