Navarro's staff tastes most weekday mornings; these are blind tastings where everyone is asked to rate the wines before their identity is disclosed. Usually we taste potential blends for Navarro wines but sometimes we taste other wines, to keep our palates attuned to other wine styles. Recently we tasted about a dozen 2010 California Pinot Noirs that had been reviewed and awarded huge scores. Some were delicious but, frankly, some had too much heavy oak and alcohol. We've been growing grapes in Philo for forty years and one of our goals is to produce wines which reveal when and where these grapes were grown. Navarro's 2011 Pinot marches to the beat of our own drum. We did age the wine in barrels, forty percent were new and another forty percent were barrels only used once before; so there are plenty of oak flavors in the wine. However, from years of experience, we select barrels whose flavors mirror the flavor profile of our grapes, rather than adding another layer of aggressive, smoky oak tones. We had a cool summer in 2011, similar to 2010, except that a series of storms in early October hastened the harvest and, unfortunately, reduced the amount of wine we could bottle.
We punch down these fermenters of Pinot Noir by hand several times each day to gently extract flavor from the skins.
Getting ready to spread large piles of compost. Each harvest we save all the grapes' skins, seeds and stems; with the addition of animal waste, from our sheep and llamas, we turn it into compost to fertilize Navarro's vines. Since we add all the spent yeast to the compost piles, we end up with some pretty well-behaved "wild" yeast in the vineyard; important with our low SO2 winemaking regime.
The grapes were harvested by hand and destemmed into fermenters, each tank holding about 1,200 pounds of fruit (above, left). After fermentation, the wine was racked to French oak barrels and aged eleven months. This cool vintage produced wines with bright red-fruit flavors, crisp acidity and delightfully modest alcohol. Gold Medal winner.