Most of the grapes for this bottling came from Navarro's finest Chardonnay vineyard, which historically has been the centerpiece of our Première Reserve bottling. Navarro's Hammer Olson vineyard was planted in 1983 on AxR1 rootstock and within a decade became our favorite Chardonnay vineyard. In 1996, we decided to expand this field by continuing the planting up the hill, but around this time Californians discovered that AxR1 was susceptible to phylloxera, so our upper extension was planted using resistant rootstock. In 2008, we decided to replant the lower half of the old field with vines similarly grafted onto resistant rootstock. The entire field is now being harvested as three separate lots. In January 2014, after the wines had time to clarify in the barrel, we sampled the separate lots.
Hammer Olsen Chardonnay in mid-summer. Note the green, unripe grape clusters on the ground. Navarro's vineyard crew inspects every vine after the fruit has sized and, based upon the visual assessment of the canopy-to-fruit ratio, removes clusters that exceed what the vine can easily ripen.
Josephina Eligio pressure washing the cellar floor. Producing well-made white wines, without the use of chlorine for sanitizing, requires that the winery be kept very clean to prevent the spread of not-so-desirable yeasts or spoilage organisms.
The barreled wines surpassed expectations; we had more than enough excellent lots to select for our three Chardonnay bottlings. The Hammer Olsen lots were all barrel fermented with a second (malolactic) fermentation which added buttery elements. The wines from the two blocks, planted on resistant rootstock, were a bit more flavorful than the wine from vines on AxR1 and went into the Première Reserve cuvée. The butter-tinged wine from the old section of Hammer Olsen field was excluded from our fruit-forward Mendocino bottling for stylistic reasons. Navarro fans are the winners when a wine, grown on thirty year old vines, morphed into the base wine for perhaps our best Table Wine ever: zesty citrus, apple and butter flavors and priced to please. Gold Medal winner. Best of Class.