was founded by the husband wife team of Bob and Louise Dye with their first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon released in 2004. The Dye’s had been visiting the Napa Valley since the 1980′s and about 10 years ago took the plunge and moved to St. Helena. When you are already interested in wine and take further steps to immerse yourself into the wine industry you will soon find yourselves on a slippery slope. Both Bob and Louise have become very involved in the Napa wine industry not only with their own label but also with Appellation St. Helena.
Bob is the president of Appellation St. Helena (the appellation dates back to 1875 when it was originally called the St. Helena Viticultural Society). This is the largest appellation in the Napa Valley, by winery numbers. As expected all Charnu’s grapes are sourced from within this appellation. Their focus is on producing a premium Cabernet Sauvignon made from 100% varietal fruit from two vineyards just south of the town of St. Helena. These vineyards have been locked up in long term contracts and they source from the same vineyard blocks each year.
Mark Porembski has been their winemaker since day 1. Mark’s background is not in wine – rather he was an English major but remembers becoming interested in wine in college. While studying in Dallas he incidentally met two guys from St. Helena. There are those winemakers who have truly followed their passion and thrown caution to the wind. Take Mark for instance; after college he packed everything into his car and drove out to the Napa Valley without even lining up a job. Fortunately he arrived during harvest when seasonal jobs are easier to find and as it were, he found a job the day he arrived. Internships at notable Napa wineries including Far Niente, Araujo and El Molino followed.
As Bob says “you are not going to mistake our wine for a Bordeaux”, but at the same time his wine shows some restraint. He and Louise enjoy wines that go well with food and those are the types of wines they try to produce. Charnu wines are typically released 3 years after harvest, 2 years in the cellar and 1 year of age in the bottle. The 2006 vintage was a cooler year than say 2005. According to Bob its not as showy as their 2005 vintage. Decanting is recommended.
Surprisingly the wine clocks in at just over 15% alcohol but if we had to guess the alcohol content we would have said in the low 14′s. The bouquet shows notes of black cherry, sweet liqueur with a hint of mocha and shows more black fruit characteristics than red fruit. The wine has a soft mouth feel but certainly packs a nice concentration of flavor. The finish is super long and as the wine expresses itself an almost earthy component shows towards the finish. The tannins are delicate, soft and interwoven well with the finishing flavors.
Charnu makes a tiny bit of a Sauvignon Blanc called “Cuvee Blanc”; this is blended with Semillon. Their first vintage was 2009; this wine is very floral on the nose with honeysuckle and notes of ripe pear. The mid palate is well rounded with a lengthy somewhat citrus and spicy finish.
Naming a wine can always be difficult – do you name it after yourself and if so chances are another producer is already using it. The Dye’s decided on the name Charnu for a variety of reasons. The name is is a French term which means “full bodied”. The icon for the label comes from a 6000 year old Egyptian goddess; this icon certainly ties in well with the name’s meaning. In addition, according to ancient Egyptians, the son of this Egyptian goddess was the first to teach men how to plant grapes.
Currently production is very limited and the wine is only available direct through their mailing list and website. The Dye’s have a small cave at their home for short term wine storage as well as offering select tasting for serious wine enthusiasts or wine club members. For more information visit: www.charnuwinery.com
NOTE: This review has been archived.
REASON: Decided to stop making wine commercially.