By the turn of the twentieth century Zinfandel was considered California's finest red wine and occupied some of the choicest North Coast vineyard sites. During the 1970's, thanks to the popularity of "white" Zinfandel, plantings surged in the hot Central Valley where vines can produce huge crops. One of Zinfandel's viticultural drawbacks is uneven ripening and berry size. By the time a Zin cluster is fully ripe, many of the smaller berries have turned into raisins. This is accentuated in hot climates and is one of the reasons why the variety produces better wine in more moderate weather. The '90's produced a proliferation of Zinfandel plantings, gleaned from heritage vine cuttings, in cooler viticultural areas. This resurgence in the popularity of Zinfandel destined some bottlings to acquire cult-like status and prices. Currently Zin acreage exceeds Merlot; furthermore Zin plantings represent 66% of the volume of California's most popular grape, Cabernet Sauvignon.
We've modified Navarro's de-stemmer to eject raisins when we harvest Zinfandel. The free run juice of red wine soaks out sugar from the raisins which increases the Brix and can inadvertently push the potential alcohol up by as much as 2%.
Jim and Orin at Lovers Lane Vineyards. These vines are seventy years old and the average age of the vines producing this wine is well over fifty.
The oldest vineyards in Mendocino have traditionally occupied some of the best chilly sites so it's no surprise that the vineyards that produce Navarro's Zinfandel are some of the most sought after in the county. The grapes were fermented in open top fermentors and we punched down, just like the old timers, to keep the tannins supple. The fruit from these old vines tastes of blackberry and cassis, backed up by spice and vanilla from aging ten months in French oak barrels. Gold Medal winner.
Much of the flavor in red wine comes from grape skins. Since skins float to the top during fermentation, winemakers want to mix them back in. This can be accomplished with pumps; we prefer to keep the tannins soft and the wines supple by pushing down by hand, submerging the grape skins.