The weather in August 2014 was warm and by the first week in September the Gewürztraminer fields had ripe fruit, a week earlier than the prior year and three weeks earlier than "normal." A cool spell was predicted for a few days, followed by 100°F weather; we needed to harvest before the heat, to keep the aromatics intact and the acidity high. Navarro's full time employees normally handle our harvest needs but in 2014 every relative and friend was pressed into duty. Four tractors were needed; two hauled trailers with empty bins to receive the picker's grapes and two positioned the spotlights used for night harvesting.
Jim Klein, winemaker, inspecting bins of Gewürztraminer that were harvested at night when the grapes were cold. Clusters of Gewürz grown in full sun are yellow when ripe, whereas if the fruit of this finicky grape variety is grown in dappled sunlight, protected from the sun's heat, the ripe fruit is dark russet. We've found a positive correlation with Gewürztraminer's floral daphne-like aromatics and fruit with a russet color.
Eduardo Torales dumping a bucket of East Hill Gewürztraminer into a bin. The East Hill has always been one of our top fields for flavorful Gewürztraminer; it was replanted in 2000, again with Gewürz, but this time with better drainage, trellis and rootstocks. Today it remains one of our best fields.
A fifth driver transferred the bins from the picking-tractors to a truck-trailer, then delivered them, four at a time, to the winery. Six people preceded the harvesting crew by removing leaves to make the clusters visible. Nineteen pickers heroically harvested about a ton per person each night and four sorters, two at each bin, removed any leaves that had been inadvertently picked with the grapes. We were able to harvest our best Gewürz fields in a record four days thus avoiding any high temperatures when the fruit was ripe. Whew! After pressing and cold-settling, the juice from each block was transferred to refrigerated oak ovals to ferment for a month, then aged sur lie for another seven. A cuvée from eight vineyard blocks was selected in April 2015. Ironically, while we avoided heat during harvest, this dry, aromatic Gewürz is lovely to serve with spicy foods like curry, hot sausages or Pad Thai noodles. Gold Medal winner.