Winemaking is like cooking; everything you do, or don't do, affects the final product. Brettanomyces (Brett), a wine spoilage organism, is a genus of yeast that lives on the skins of fruit. At Navarro, we don't add sulfur dioxide to crushed grapes or juice, so we assume that these spoilage yeasts might migrate into the winery. Consequently we spend a lot of time keeping the winery sanitary and carefully monitoring each barrel of wine. Typically our red wines are sold after the wine has been in the bottle for a year or two. To have 50,000 bottles of good Pinot develop a Brett bloom in the bottle, making the wine unsavory and unsaleable, is a winemaker's nightmare. We prefer not to filter, as filtering diminishes richness of the wine, so each year, prior to bottling, we “plate out” the wine to measure the presence and quantity of potentially funky yeasts.
Bins of cold, night-harvested Pinot. “Good old Navarro is outdoing itself with the 2013 and 2014 Pinot Noirs. In this one, vivid black-cherry aromas, tangy but deep cherry and cranberry flavors, and a nice, firm and appropriately tannic texture add up to a concentrated and nicely proportioned wine. It has the flavor oomph to pair with something as big as a roast, and the tangy texture to dissolve the richest salmon. Editor's Choice 93 points” —Wine Enthusiast magazine
Chris Spazek cleaning barrels. After emptying a barrel, we clean it with a rotating jet of hot water; the temperature helps eliminate any unwanted microbes. The term Brettanomyces comes from the Greek for “British fungus” as it was causing spoilage in English ales around 1900. When Brettanomyces grows in wine it produces several compounds that can alter the palate and bouquet. Typical sensory descriptors are Band-Aids, barnyard, horse stable, sweaty saddle and rancidity. In large doses, none are appealing.
Usually we've limited our unfiltered bottling to a few hundred cases annually, keeping our potential losses to a minimum, but the 2014 Pinots, delicious right out of the barrel, appeared generally free of problem organisms so, keeping our fingers crossed, we bottled forty percent of 2014 Méthode à l'Ancienne Pinot unfiltered. The filtered version is more fruit forward, with bright cherry-raspberry aromas backed up with spice, vanilla and toast from aging in French oak barrels, 30% new, for almost a year. The unfiltered is more shy about showing off its potential; while young, we suggest decanting. Watch it unfold: full-bodied with layers of berries, currants, cinnamon and bacon for years to come. Gold Medal winner. Best of Class.