If you chance upon a bottle of Navarro Chardonnay in a restaurant, it probably is this bottling which we label as Mendocino Chardonnay. It's a well-made, award-winning wine, priced below twenty bucks, produced from top tier Mendocino vineyards, but there's more to the story. Navarro's Mendocino Chardonnay pairs beautifully with most food dishes. It is a blend of Chardonnay produced two ways: half with a secondary fermentation and half without. This second fermentation converts malic acid into lactic acid, softening the wine and adding buttery richness. Forgoing malolactic fermentation on half the wine keeps the acidity high and the buttery tones subtle, so the wine has a crisp finish and a fruit-driven structure. The wine was aged in seasoned French barrels and ovals so that oak flavors, like the buttery element, are delicate and understated but not simple.
Navarro's Tasting Room Chardonnay field a few months after replanting in spring 2011. Eighteen month earlier we had contracted with a nursery to produce 15,000 Chardonnay plants grafted onto rootstocks that weren't susceptible to phylloxera, a root louse. We protect young vines from rabbit and rodent damage by enclosing them in reusable grow tubes.
Jim Klein drawing a Chardonnay sample. We age our Mendocino Chardonnay in seasoned oak barrels and puncheons so that the wines can quietly age on the lees without picking up heavy oak flavors.
The grapes were grown in three distinct Mendocino appellations; the Potter Valley fruit has a ripe stone-fruit quality, the Ukiah Valley fruit tastes of spring herbs and apples, and the Anderson Valley fruit, three quarters of the total bottling, has citrus-pear flavors. Rather than fermenting in stainless steel tanks, then filtering a wine squeaky clean, we aged the wine sur lie in oak, so that the wine clarified naturally with a round, polished texture. Spicy Asian pear and citrus flavors are topped off with a bright, lemon-verbena finish. Gold Medal winner. Best of Class.
Blending trials to craft this Chardonnay took over a week since there were numerous components to judge.