The oak we use to age wine comes in various sizes: a barrel is sixty gallons, a puncheon is about twice as large and an oval is often over a thousand gallons. The smaller and newer the container, the more oak flavors dominate but even large oak containers affect the wine in other ways. Most years we ferment Sauvignon Blanc in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks near 50°F to retain the grape's distinctive aromatics and flavors of passion fruit, lime and melon. After fermentation our usual routine is to rack the wine off the yeast into seasoned puncheons; aging in oak allows the wine to clarify naturally after several months, avoiding heavy filtration which would diminish the wine. Because there were fewer grapes in 2010 to harvest than in a typical year, large French oak ovals, affectionately named 19, 21 and 22, were available to ferment and age our largest lot of Sauvignon Blanc. That meant we could skip the stainless tanks altogether since Navarro's ovals are each fitted with a stainless steel cooling panel which enables the wine to be fermented precisely as cold as the winemaker decides.
Navarro's Sauvignon Blanc is one of the more popular wines in our tasting room.
Navarro's newest planting of Sauvignon Blanc in Boonville was planted in May 2009. We have been making Sauvignon Blanc from Boonville grapes for years and these estate grown vines will eventually yield a small crop in 2013. We selected Boonville because the summer daytime temperatures are a bit warmer than Philo.
The advantage of fermenting in an oak oval is that we can leave the wine untouched, on the yeast, for six months adding baked bread and toasty notes to the Sauvignon fruit, while accentuating an appealing plump mouth-feel. We selected a blend of 66% oval fermented and aged wine and 34% of the puncheon aged lot. The wine displays ripe honeydew and tropical flavors with a touch of lemon thyme plus a squeeze of lime. We like it with a creamy risotto with tarragon chicken and chanterelles or New England clam chowder. Gold Medal winner. Best of Class.
Dave checks out his clipboard with the winemaker's work orders. The decision to ferment in a barrel, a puncheon or an oval is critical.