1999 was a late season with brisk, sunny days and cold nights; the Chardonnay grapes inched towards ripeness. Our ponds were empty so we were trucking in water to maintain enough drip irrigation to keep the leaves producing sugars. By mid October the Chardonnay grapes in our Tasting room field had perfect specs for sparkling wine but were not ripe enough for making a full-bodied still wine. We were agonizing whether the costly task of trucking in water was a sensible economic decision when the field was subjected to a hard frost. That afternoon we assessed the damage. The fruit was sound but the leaves were frost-bitten and would soon fall off meaning no more photosynthesis would occur and therefore no more ripening. We arranged to begin harvest the next day at first light, and we woke to yet another hard frost. The grapes arrived at the winery extremely cold which enabled us to whole-cluster press the grapes and capture the free run juice without any astringency from the skins.
Harvesting Chardonnay on a frosty morning, October 21, 1999. Half of the frosted field was made into sparkling wine and the other half was de-stemmed, pressed and fermented in barrels to produce a Chablis-style still wine. Next time we're frosted we will make everything into a delicious sparking wine!
Navarro's sparkling wine was produced using classic champagne winemaking techniques. The frosty clusters were pressed whole and only the cuvée, limited to 122 gallons per ton, was used to produce as fine a wine as possible. The première and deuxième taille (pressings), normally a quarter of the yield, were discarded since they lack refinement and limit the potential for longevity.
We had a smaller field that was above the frost line but it was also late with low sugars. We harvested this field on October 30 when the grapes finally were ripe and pale gold in color. The two lots were blended and bottled in the spring of 2000 and was disgorged after five and a half years on the yeast. It is drier than previous efforts and is rich and creamy with warm aromas of fresh baked bread. Get a frosty ice bucket ready for a holiday celebration. Silver Medal winner.