Phylloxera is a louse that feeds on a vine's roots, debilitating the vine; the only organic solution is to replant with resistant rootstocks. We sunk into a funk when we first discovered this lousy pest in Anderson Valley in 1993. Today, most of Navarro's fields have been replanted and have returned to full production. The combination of better clones, new rootstocks and solar-efficient trellises has raised wine quality, which is probably most noteworthy in our recent Première Reserve Chardonnay bottlings. In 1996 we terraced the hillside above our prized Hammer Olsen Chardonnay vineyard and planted four highly-regarded Burgundian Chardonnay clones, each one with slightly different characteristics. Beginning in 2000, we replanted two lower fields utilizing the three clones that have produced excellent wine in our chilly Philo vineyards.
Jose Solano is pruning a young Chardonnay vine and training it into a bilateral cordon. Cordon de Royat is a pruning system where permanent horizontal arms are established. Jose is tying down a cane which will develop into a permanent arm; he will next select and tie down another cane in the opposite direction from the trunk.
Assembling a barrel at Billon cooperage in Burgundy. The amount of time that oak staves are air dried before being turned into barrels determines the flavor profile the oak will bestow on the wine. From Navarro's Chardonnay barrel trials we've learned that barrels with staves that are air-dried for three years rather than two, produce toasty barrel flavors as opposed to woody flavors from greener wood. Billon barrels, fashioned out of three-year-aged, tight-grained oak, are the preferred match for our Première Reserve Chardonnay.
Not only have we planted different clones to build complexity, we've also replanted these fields utilizing five different rootstocks since rootstocks affect flavor as much as clonal selection. Each block was harvested and completed fermentation in French oak barrels, 25% new, then left on the lees for ten months to clarify naturally. Chardonnay's fresh pear and citrus core is enhanced with flavors created by Navarro's cellar regime: impressions of yeast, bacon, toast, buttered popcorn and freshly baked whole-wheat bread. Gold Medal winner.