By late September 2006 the nighttime temperatures were steadily dipping to about 40 °F. Cold nights are tolerable for a while but at some point a vine seems to decide that the season is over and shuts down. In our climate Muscat can display berry shrivel: clusters stop accumulating sugar after they begin to color and the fruit tastes sour with little flavor. Usually it's easy to spot because the clusters turn flaccid and the berries appear withered so we simply don't pick them. In 2006 there were two levels of berry shrivel: sour fruit that obviously had no sugar and another level where the grapes weren't wrinkled but they weren't as sweet as desired. Since the affected clusters in the latter category didn't display visual signs of a problem, Navarro's picking crew had to test each vine cluster by cluster. It was a long, acerbic day which gives us a tummy ache just thinking about it. Sour clusters were removed and thrown on the ground; the vineyard floor was littered with almost half our anticipated crop. The remaining sweet, fragrant fruit was harvested the next morning and cold-pressed.
Pre-Release members touring Navarro's Muscat vineyard. The vines are trained high and can be weeded in the summer by babydoll sheep rather than by tractors or herbicides.
Two mature sheep; the miniature babydoll on the left is a full grown ram not a lamb. Philo is often waterlogged from December through March so winter vineyard grazing of sheep is unwise because it causes soil compaction. Sarah has been breeding and expanding a flock of babydoll sheep which are less than 24 inches high at the shoulder; their size allows them to weed under the vines during the dry season saving Navarro lots of tractor fuel. As we replant or modify our vineyards we are designing the trellis systems tall enough to be miniature sheep compatible.
The free-run juice was fermented and aged in seasoned oak casks; we finished it dry but made sure that the exhilarating florals linger. Try it with curry and your tummy will hum. Gold Medal winner. Best of Class.
This is why you can't put full size sheep in a vineyard when the vines are growing. This vineyard was scheduled to be removed so we let sheep munch away.