Navarro has two primary Chardonnay vineyards. The TR vineyard, directly in front of Navarro's tasting room, was originally planted in 1978, 725 vines per acre. The field was replanted in 2011, in five blocks, with combinations of two clones grafted on to two different rootstocks, 1,815 vines per acre. Eighteen years ago we began replanting sections of the Hammer Olsen field; these blocks are now fully mature and producing crops with excellent varietal flavors and verve. The combination of new clones from France, earlier-maturing rootstocks and denser plantings results in the new blocks ripening their fruit earlier than our original plantings, with riper flavors and balanced acidity. After cruddy weather in 2011 prevented us from producing our flagship Première Reserve Chardonnay, we were delighted with perfect ripening conditions in 2012.
During harvest, two sorters are assigned to each bin. When a picker dumps a bucket of grapes into the bin, it's the sorters' job to make sure that only ripe, juicy clusters are left in the bin. No leaves. No unripe fruit. No rot. The sorters are rightfully proud of the perfect fruit delivered to the winery.
Navarro's newest vineyards are trained to a tall trunk. The height allows us to graze babydoll sheep underneath the vines during the summer without them eating leaves or grapes. The vines provide shade, the sheep eat grapevine suckers and weeds and help fertilize the vines; sustainability in action! The hundred pound Great Pyrenees-Akbash dog lives with, and protects, the sheep.
The fruit was sourced entirely from Navarro's Hammer Olsen vineyard, since the TR field was not yet productive. The juice from each picking was fermented and aged sur lie for nine months in French oak barrels, 25% new. Our favorite Chardonnay barrel is produced by Billon Cooperage; for Navarro, they source tight grain wood from the Vosges forest then air dry it three years, resulting in subtle oak flavors suggesting coconut and Melba toast, which integrate seamlessly with Hammer Olsen's crisp apple-pear fruit. We've served it with scallop, prawn and mushroom risotto... yum. Gold Medal winner.