Chardonnay is one of the last grapes to ripen in Anderson Valley. The 2011 summer was cool and by the first of October, the Chardonnay was still underripe; the vines needed another week or so of sunshine. A series of storms was predicted and on October 3rd it began to rain. The weather cleared on the fourth day and with the daytime temperatures in the 70's, the Chardonnay continued to ripen. At first we weren't too nervous but another small storm was predicted and our anxiety understandably mounted. Should we pick it now when the Chardonnay was almost ripe, or let it hang through the storm to pick up a hair more ripeness? We decided to leave the fruit on the vine and pick it a few days after the storm.
In Navarro's morning staff tastings, when we are deciding on a specific blend, the wines are initially graded as identified lots. Subsequently they are tasted "blind"; no one knows which wine is in which glass. Our goal is to produce the most complex, true-to-variety and complete wine from the various vineyard and winery lots. If we have consensus on which is the best blend, the winning wine becomes the base wine for the next day's addition. The tastings continue until there is consensus that no further tinkering improves the wine.
Harvesting Hammer Olsen Chardonnay 2011. This vintage we had a "two-bin" harvest, placing sound fruit in the front bin, clusters with any rot in the rear bin. Navarro's crew takes pride in delivering the fruit exactly as the winemaker requests.
The downside of this decision was that we would lose a higher percentage of the crop to rot come rain or shine. The storm was short, with little precipitation and daytime temperatures quickly returned to the 70's; the Chardonnay continued to ripen and unfortunately the rot continued to spread. On the 12th we returned to the fields to begin harvesting Chardonnay. Since much of our anticipated harvest was lost to rot, we were able to pick our entire 2011 Chardonnay harvest in one and a half days. The vineyards that normally produce our Première Reserve Chardonnay were relegated to our less expensive Mendocino and Table Wine bottlings. This 2011 bottling is made from 100% Philo fruit; it is dry with very firm acidity and flavors suggesting pippin apple and lime; a perfect match for snapper or crab.