Carbone Wine Cellar
Virginia Tornari Ferrogiaro's sister Catarina married Antonio Carbone who with his brothers Nicola and Lorenzo were the first Italian immigrants to settle in Napa in 1863. The Carbones established "The Italian Gardens, " the first Italian commercial vegetable garden in Napa and Contra Costa counties. In 1870, they purchased a 125-acre Coombsville Road ranch and in1886 built Antonio Carbone Wine Cellar, producing wine until Prohibition with 40 acres of vineyards on site. The original stone winery still stands today, meticulously restored to its original glory by Annie Favia and Andy Erickson and now home to Favia Wines.
Why Coombsville is Napa Valley’s Rising Star
Wine Spectator - March 21, 2018
By Virginie Boone
Most people have no idea where Coombsville is located, even though it’s hidden in plain sight just a stone’s throw from the city of Napa, California.
An appellation since 2011, it’s quietly become the darling of small, up-and-coming producers, as well as buyers that desire something new from Napa. Coombsville has a distinct neighborhood feel populated by small, family-owned wineries with adventurous spirits. It’s more farmland than grape land. Among its rolling hills, time seems to slow down.
“Coombsville, for me, has a lot of soul, some grit, a rich history and there are quite a few people toiling away here out of the spotlight of the main part of the valley,” says winemaker Andy Erickson. “Many people come to visit Napa Valley and don’t even know that this little corner is here.”
“There is starting to be some attention paid, so we’ll see what that means for the future. I think it will only make people work harder and do better in Coombsville.”
Erickson and his viticulturist wife, Annie Favia, have put down stakes here to raise their family and make wine from the old Carbone Ranch. It’s the former home of three Italian-immigrant brothers who planted grapes more than a century ago (reportedly Zinfandel, Mataro and Burger), along with other fruits and vegetables in the hills of what is now Coombsville. Arriving in the 1870s, they’re considered to be among the earliest Italians to settle in the Napa Valley.
Antonio Carbone’s stone cellar and upstairs residence, built in 1886, still stands. It’s a relic of Antonio Carbone Winery and Italian Gardens, once a 125-acre property. It’s now home to Erickson and his family, though with a much smaller, 6½-acre footprint. They grow enough vegetables to supply local restaurants, and they manage fistfuls of olive, fruit and walnut trees. Favia soon plans to launch an herbal tea company, too.
From a tiny crushpad in the back of the stone cellar, they make Favia Wines. The grapes are sourced from throughout Coombsville and the wider Napa Valley and Sierra Foothills. Their barrels rest below their home.
East of the city of Napa, Coombsville is ringed by a west-facing, horseshoe-shaped caldera that rises nearly 2,000 feet toward the Vaca Range, the result of an ancient collapsed volcano. Grapevines love these rocky, volcanic soils that drain easily into compressed ash, which stores moisture.
Coombsville’s climate, the coolest in the Napa Valley after Carneros, is as important as its geology and soils. Influenced by nearby San Pablo Bay and the greater San Francisco Bay Area, early morning fog settles easily and burns off later in the day.
Mellow, cooling winds often hit in the early afternoon. During prime growing season, temperatures are often 10°F lower than much of the rest of Napa Valley. The appellation also tends to get fewer heat spikes. These conditions help grapes to retain acidity and ward off dehydration.
Only about 1,400 acres are planted to grapes, less than 13% of Coombsville’s total acreage. The area is more about rural homesteads than built-in hospitality and showy palaces.