Our Muscat vines produced a bountiful crop in 2016. We decided to begin harvesting when the fruit was at an optimum ripeness level for our dry Muscat, and we would quit picking when we had enough grapes to produce sufficient wine for our normal sales requirements. We began harvesting grapes for our dry Muscat on September 23 and stopped on row sixteen, leaving about forty percent of the vines in the field unharvested for potential late harvest wine. We kept our fingers crossed that a nest of yellowjackets wouldn't find these aromatic morsels, as their poking and prodding sets up conditions for ugly rot to appear rather than the noble rot botrytis
A grape cluster with most berries shriveled by Botrytis cinerea (above). Botrytis beginning to spread in a grape cluster (below). An infected berry's skin first turns brown, then a grey mold appears on the surface. The fungus perforates the grape's skin, allowing water in the grape to evaporate, thereby concentrating the sugars, acids and flavors in the remaining juice.
Hugo Sr. is a tractor driver at Navarro. His son, Hugo Jr., worked as a harvest intern at Navarro in 2017. Hugo Jr. just graduated from Anderson Valley High and has been accepted in the highly selective Enology and Viticulture Program at the University of California, Davis.
We experimented on six vines by cutting the canes, shutting off the water supply to the grape clusters so that they could dehydrate. The French refer to this procedure as passerillage and the results are close to Italian passito wines. Unfortunately the Muscat leaves dehydrated quickly and the fruit was subsequently exposed to the hot sun; the juice tasted a little cooked. We weren't deterred by one (fortunately small) failed experiment. In mid-October, the vines still had a full canopy protecting the fruit from the sun; the berries had dehydrated with the help of some botrytis created by the daily fog, resulting in a wine with concentrated flavors and aromas. Grape acidity was also concentrated, predicting a long life for this sweetie. A thimbleful of this heady, exotic, succulent beauty is dessert unto itself. Gold Medal winner. Best of Show. 98 points.