We fill our ponds during the winter storms, storing water for Navarro's spring frost protection and summer irrigation. This is our entire supply of agricultural water and once we've used it we're out of luck until the rains return. We frost protect by sprinkling water which protects the vines down to 26°F. Nineteen days of frost protection in the spring of 2008 left little water in our ponds for irrigation. We minimized water use but by mid-September we ran out completely. Harvest was a month away for Chardonnay but with a very light crop and enough ground moisture, the vines could easily ripen their fruit. Then beginning on October 9, we suffered three nights of hard frost in our lower fields. With no water for frost protection, the vines lost their leaves and we had no choice but to harvest. Actually, only two upper hillside sections of our favorite Hammer Olsen field were unharmed by the frost.
Our vines typically bud out in early spring leaving March, April and even May when early morning frosts can wipe out our entire crop. Sprinkling water on the vines can protect the young shoots and flowers down to 26°F. However, once ice forms on the vine, the sprinkling must continue until after the sun comes up and has melted all the ice. It takes several hours to melt foot long icicles.
Première Reserve Chardonnay is both fermented and aged in French oak barrels. The oak planks are air-aged, then cut into staves and bent into shape to form a barrel. For Chardonnay we prefer barrels where the oak has been air-aged three years prior to use; these barrels impart less resinous woody flavors and give gentle suggestions of coconut and spice.
Another small block of the early ripening Dijon clones also hung on to its leaves. These lots were exceptionally ripe and flavorful as one might expect from a light crop in a cool year. The aromas display a seductive orange blossom element with hints of hazelnut and buttered toast. The flavors are a refined mix of Asian pear and Key lime layered with spicy French oak. We have less than half our normal production so this beauty will sell out early. Gold Medal winner. Best of Class.