Navarro's first harvest from estate-grown Pinot Noir grapes was four decades ago; after the first decade we had an inkling that world-class wines could be made in Anderson Valley. Our Pinot planting at the time was one vineyard block with a single clone on a single rootstock. We realized that we, and most California winemakers, knew little about the effect of specific clones, rootstocks or trellises on Pinot Noir wine quality. We decided to expand our grape source by planting eleven new Pinot Noir fields, and in an effort to understand Anderson Valley Pinot, these vineyards are further subdivided into 38 blocks, each featuring a different clone, rootstock or trellis. Some clones perform better than others to consistently produce top-quality wines, and we've learned which ones produce the best wine in Anderson Valley.
Navarro's crushpad at 3 AM. The vineyard crew began harvesting at 1 AM in order to provide the winery with cold fruit which encourages a slow fermentation. The winery crew has set up a line of bins that we will use for fermenting Pinot; each bin holds about three-quarters of a ton of destemmed Pinot Noir. Since our vineyard crew can harvest 15-20 tons a night, 20-30 empty bins are needed.
Navarro's vines are purchased as benchgrafts. The upper part is Chardonnay and the lower part is rootstock—Marino's top finger is on the graft union. Riparia Glorie is one rootstock we use; it was discovered in riparian areas, hence the name. Its roots tend to spread horizontally to capture water. Another rootstock we've used is Rupestris du Lot; it was discovered in the dry southwest plains and has a tap root that grows down to search out water. These two rootstocks are probably getting their nutrients from different soil strata. It's not surprising that wines produced from vines on diverse rootstocks taste differently.
When we discovered that rootstocks played a greater role in quality than clones, we were surprised, since there is little published about the effect of rootstock on wine quality. Trellis design also affects flavor as it determines how the grapes are exposed to the elements; grapes need filtered sunlight to achieve ripe flavors but tastes diminish when Pinot clusters are totally exposed to the heat of the mid-day sun. In some trellises we harvest the fruit from the north side of the vine and keep it separate from the fruit from the south side because, well—they taste different. This bottling is a cuvée selected from the best barrels of the eight best lots—roughly 10% of our Pinot harvest—aged 16 months in Burgundian barrels, 50% new. Gold Medal winner.