At Navarro we prefer to fuss in the vineyard rather than the winery. During the growing season we thin, sucker, shoot position and perform a myriad of other tasks before harvest so that the wine doesn't need much processing in the winery. Winemaking textbooks usually suggest adding sulfur dioxide to freshly picked grapes. Diligence in the vineyard assures that our winery only receives ripe, unblemished fruit so for two decades Navarro hasn't added SO2 to unfermented grapes. With Cab, we wait a few days for the destemmed grapes' enzymes to soften the skins. By then, naturally occurring wild yeasts have begun the fermentation and a little cultured yeast is added to insure completion. At near dryness, we press once lightly to a large cask.
A few days later the wine is racked off heavy lees to sixty gallon French oak barrels. Malolactic fermentation is slow in winter and doesn't finish until spring, so we keep the yeast suspended in the wine by occasional stirring to prevent oxidation. Only after waiting all winter for the secondary fermentation to complete, do we again rack and add a tiny amount of SO2. Over the next 15 months the wine is racked two more times and given a light filtration before bottling. We store the bottles three more years in our cool cellars until the complex flavors of dried cherries, eucalyptus, chipotles and dark chocolate are ready to reveal the unblemished grapes we crushed 54 months earlier. Gold Medal winner.
We destem Cabernet grapes into an open topped fermentor and keep the skins in contact with the juice by punching down the cap twice a day. The primary fermentation is complete within a few weeks. The juice is then drained from the tank and the pomace shoveled into 3/4 ton bins. We use a forklift to raise the bins and slowly dump the contents into a press letting gravity do most of the work.