There are 2,477 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in Mendocino County, yet in the 30 years we've been producing Cabernet we've only identified a handful of vineyards that produce Cab up to Navarro's standards. The most obvious predictor of wine quality is the site which reflects the effects of climate and soil. Navarro only purchases if the site has potential for making good wine, but we haven't always been pleased with the results. It also requires the skill and diligence of a good grape-grower for a good site to yield good wine. This wine is a product of two special sites and two special growers: half came from Red Hill at Eaglepoint Vineyards which is managed by Casey Hartlip and half came from Rattlesnake Canyon at Berry Vineyards where Ed Berry keeps close tabs on the vines.
Ed Berry hiking his Rattlesnake Canyon Cabernet field. (below) Jim Klein and Casey Hartlip at Eaglepoint Vineyards, where we've purchased Cabernet since 1978. (right) Both of these vineyards are well tended so when we receive their grapes we don't have to add sulfur dioxide to kill yeast and other not-so-desirable organisms.
Both Casey and Ed understand they are not simply growing grapes but rather helping to craft a wine and consequently they make different viticultural decisions than many growers. For example they always thin heavy crops before véraison so all clusters are at the same level of ripeness at harvest. These growers work hard to grow evenly ripe, deliciously sweet fruit and at harvest both Casey and Ed take pride in personally driving their flatbed trucks over the hill to deliver their year's work. Who wouldn't be proud? Eaglepoint's distinctive character of cloves, black currants and cigar tobacco complement Berry's deep flavors of dried plums and leather. Silver Medal winner.
We let the de-stemmed grapes macerate for several days allowing the natural yeasts to start the fermentation. We then add some cultured yeast to assure that the wine ferments dry. The wine typically finishes both the primary and secondary fermentation in the barrel when the weather warms in the spring.