We ferment and age Pinot Gris in large, seasoned oak ovals, similar to the ones traditionally used in Alsace. It was a decision we made after comparing Navarro wines fermented in stainless steel versus those produced in ovals over the last forty years. A stainless tank doesn't "breath," consequently the spent yeast need to be removed soon after fermentation or the wine will become stinky. Oak, in contrast, allows a little oxygen to enter via the wood pores, enabling winemakers to leave the wine on the spent yeast until springtime. Terpenes are a group of aromatic compounds that give Gewürz, Muscat, Riesling and Pinot Gris, their floral aromatics. Free terpenes are the ones you smell but grape juice contains a much higher proportion of bound terpenes, which are odorless. Bound terpenes can be converted to the aromatic free form enzymatically but, unfortunately, the pH of juice and wine is much too acidic for an enzymatic reaction to occur.
Removing lees from an oval. After fermentation in seasoned oak ovals, we allow the wine to rest on the lees (the spent yeast that was produced by the fermentation) which enriches the wine, improves the texture and helps prevent oxidation, decreasing the need for sulfur dioxide. When the juice went into the cooperage it was brown, but the yeast in the bucket precipitated out the brown, leaving a wine with a delightful pale straw color with greenish highlights.
Navarro's nighttime harvest regime is facilitated by moveable floodlights illuminating the area being picked, as well as each worker having a headlamp to provide more light in his picking zone. We time harvest so that the winery receives the fruit as cold as possible. Not only is wine quality improved by processing very cold fruit, but also the winery staff is more productive since they can start processing the grapes as soon as they arrive in the morning.
Although the winemaker adds only a few ounces of yeast to an oak oval at harvest, it multiplies into several buckets of yeast before the wine is dry (photo left.) It so happens that the inside of a yeast cell has a pH conducive to the conversion of bound terpenes into free ones. As the yeast break down in the springtime, the wine's floral aromas waft free. Magically, the yeast autolysis releases free terpenes at exactly the same time the vines are budding out, so the scent of spring permeates our cellars and fields. This wine will dazzle you with fresh nutty, fruity flavors with a smooth texture and a refreshing crisp finish. Gold Medal winner. Best of Class.