For the last decade Zinfandel has served as the base wine for our house red and in this bottling it represents forty-one percent of the final blend. Grapes for Navarro's Mendocino and Old Vine Cuvée Zinfandel bottlings are grown on ancient goblet-trained vines that are tended by either Al Tollini or Ed Berry, the same growers that produce grapes for our Navarrouge. Fruit of such superior quality is rarely found in a house wine but using it enables Navarro to produce a toothsome bargain red, vintage after vintage. The next biggest portion, 15% of the blend, is Pinot Noir; because of the variety's gentle tannins and cherry-berry flavors, it marries well with the weightier Zin. The balance is from six small lots excess to our varietal bottlings: 12% Carignane, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Syrah, 6% Barbera, 5% Grenache and 3% Petite Sirah.
Each Navarro taster records his observations in a book for future examination ; Ted and Deborah have tasting notes for every morning tasting since 1981 and Jim since 1992. Sarah started a bit later; she was at the table wrapped in a Snugli baby-carrier in 1981.
Jim and Sarah evaluating different proposed blends for Navarrouge. Although this is Navarro's least expensive red wine, we spend a lot of time coming up with a winning blend. Any leftover wines that aren't blended into Navarrouge are sold off in bulk.
Just like the Zinfandel, these grapes are from ancient vines, also under the care of Tollini or Berry. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah portion of the wine are from the 2015 vintage as we barrel age these varieties for two years, rather than one, before we make our final blending decisions. This 13% addition from the 2015 vintage, in a wine we label as 2016, requires that we use the Mendocino County appellation rather than the Mendocino appellation that we usually use. Round and complex with briary blackberry flavors and a touch of black licorice and rosemary. Gold Medal winner.