Some of Navarro's winery experiments are successful, while others fail, and frequently the results aren't immediately obvious. We remember one such event during the 1980 harvest. We had read an arresting German research paper where grapes were destemmed, pressed and the juice was successfully fermented without the use of any sulfur dioxide (SO2). We harvested, destemmed and pressed fruit from the West Hill, our best Gewürztraminer field. Holding our breath, and wondering if we were crazy for risking our best field, we didn't add sulfur dioxide to the grapes or to the juice.
All of Navarro's Gewürz is fermented in these French oak ovals without a prior addition of sulfur dioxide. The European Union has some of the world's most health-conscious winemaking laws and the rules pertaining to the presence of sulfur dioxide in organic and biodynamic wines are extremely stringent. We measured this wine at bottling; the total SO2 was well below the strict E.U. limits.
Harvesting Gewürz at night. Navarro's full-time vineyard crew moves to an adjusted daily schedule during harvest. We begin harvesting at 2 AM and typically pick until about 9 AM, when the fog burns off and the cold clusters begin to warm in the early morning sun.
We chilled the juice to 40°F and held it in a tank for three days so that any grape solids would fall to the bottom of the tank. (This is our normal procedure since clear juice ferments fruitier than juice with solids.) The clarified juice was then racked to a cask to ferment but the juice was now brown, the color of café au lait. Did we just ruin our best wine? That certainly panicked the crush crew. We dutifully added yeast and the fermentation became active on the third day. On the fifth day, we drew off a sample from the cask to measure the Brix (unfermented sugar) and to our amazement the juice was now a beautiful, pale straw color. The yeast created by the fermentation had precipitated out the browning. This "brown juice" regime, that we now use for all Navarro white wines, results in wines with greatly reduced SO2 and a silky, smooth texture. Fittingly, we bottle Gewürz in amber hock bottles. Straw gold in color with hints of lychee, rose-petals and a dry finish, it will light up dinner. Gold Medal winner.