In the past few months, we've seen several wines being proudly promoted because they were produced from a single clone of a particular grape variety. Our philosophy at Navarro, especially when matching wine with food, is that complexity is more interesting than a singular flavor. Navarro's vineyards were planted with this in mind, with individual vineyard sites usually subdivided into several blocks, each with a unique combination of clones and rootstocks that slightly alter a grape variety's flavors and aromas. This bottling, for example, is from grapes grown in six different blocks from three vineyard sites. Seventy percent of the blend is produced from grapes of the highly celebrated Chardonnay clones ENTAV 95 and 548, with smaller amounts produced from ENTAV clones 76, 75 and 96, and FPS clone 17R.
Ted and Vincent Damy of Billon Cooperage in front of oak planks that will be shaped and bent into barrel staves. Our favorite barrels for Chardonnay are produced at Billon from oak planks that were air-dried for three years rather than the standard two. The extra aging tames the greener-oak flavors; wines stored in the longer-aged oak taste more nutty than woody.
Ulises Garcia stirring Chardonnay barrels. During and after primary and malolactic fermentations, we keep Chardonnay lees stirred up for several months. As the yeast autolyzes, mannoproteins and some polysaccharides are released into the wine adding roundness and richness to the mouthfeel.
The grapes were night-harvested then destemmed and pressed before the juice was racked to refrigerated stainless steel to achieve a cool and steady rate of fermentation. The wines were then racked mid-fermentation to sixty-gallon French oak barrels, one-quarter new, to complete both the primary and the secondary malolactic fermentation; the wines rested on the yeast lees for several months with gentle stirring to achieve a suave mouthfeel. A cuvée was selected from the individual lots in May, then bottled in June after nine months of barrel aging. Notes from Navarro's imaginative tasting panel: poached pear, red apple crisp, crème brûlée, toasted almond, mouth-filling. Gold Medal winner. Best of Class.