In 1990 we were preparing the southernmost half of Hammer Olsen's pasture for a vineyard which we initially had planned to plant entirely to Pinot Noir. It's a gently sloping field with Pinole gravelly loam soil, but when we actually cultivated the soil in the lower corner of the field we discovered it contained a lot of clay. Our fondest association with clay based soils occurred in France one summer when we were visiting a young winemaker who had once interned at Navarro. We recalled slipping, sliding and giggling down a rain-soaked clay hillside vineyard in Beaumes-de-Venise; the rain made the clay surface slippery or perhaps it was how much delicious Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise we had consumed at lunch. We knew that Muscat was also grown in Alsace, so in a moment of brilliance, or perhaps foolhardiness, we decided to plant Muscat in this clay-laced block. The wine grapes that have been most successful in Anderson Valley are varieties the French have classified as époque 1 (early) ripening. We managed to overlook the fact that Muscat à petits grains blanc is an époque 2 ripener, consequently Muscat grapes ripen very late in our maritime climate, accentuating the effect of vintage.
The morning tastings are always fun when we're blending Muscat.
Bins of Muscat Blanc. There are over 200 distinct grapevine varieties grown in many wine regions named Muscat or Muscat-something. The grapes grown at Navarro are Muscat à petits grains blanc, an aromatic small-berried variety that has been cultivated around the Mediterranean for centuries. The first mention of this variety was in 1304, in Italy, under the Latin name Muscatellus.
Summer and fall were cool in Anderson Valley in 2011, so when the grapes were physiologically ripe, they had lower sugars than usual, but with balanced acidity. The wine's low alcohol, bone-dry finish and orange-like flavors make it a perfect match for grilled springtime veggies or a bowl of spicy jambalaya. Silver Medal winner.
Simon, our sixteen year old dachshund, prefers to daydream.