Zinfandel requires a toastier climate than Anderson Valley provides therefore we purchase Zin grapes from five growers located in Mendocino's warmer Russian River Valley. We've mentioned their names before: Pallini, Tollini, Young, Berry and Eaglepoint. Good growers all. We've sought out their well tended vineyards where the average age of vines is over 50 years. These old timers know how to farm and since each vineyard has its own personality Navarro has gotten to know each site intimately. Most years the inland grapes ripen in September but in 2005 the Russian River farmers had to bite their nails just like Anderson Valley growers. Each threatening storm set off anxiety attacks since the grapes for this chewy heritage wine didn't come off until mid October. Navarro doesn't buy Zinfandel grapes as if we were shopping at a big box store. Once we've found a great vineyard we try to make a mutually beneficial contract with the grower and purchase his or her grapes year after year. We've spent a lot of time trying to understand how the flavor of each site is enhanced.
Ted and Ed Berry compare hats and grape growing stories each harvest.
Heritage Zinfandel vineyards were usually planted without a trellis; it saved money and the farmer could easily cross-cultivate. The goblet shape of the vine itself provides the canopy structure.
We now avoid pumping the must and punch down manually to avoid harsh tannins. We have fiddled with the pressing regime to retain the core of ripe fruit and we have worked at finding barrels that complement the flavors of each vineyard location. The wine has concentrated flavors of blackberry, cassis and chocolate and just like old friends it improves year after year. Gold Medal winner.
We've developed our own winemaking regime to produce Zinfandel. We ferment in bins, punch down by hand and pour the fermented must into the press rather than using a pump which macerates the seeds and skins.