This is Navarro's 42nd year producing Pinot Noir wines and over the years we've developed and tested the results of more than one winemaking regime that we now use; the combination of these regimes defines Navarro's "style." We're not fans of 15% alcohol Pinots; their heaviness tires our palates. Weather and picking decisions can change on a dime; often we are trying to avoid excess sugar and alcohol from overripe fruit. Fortunately we can quickly jump into picking mode because, in part, Navarro's vineyard workers are full-time and benefited.
The grapes are harvested cold at night, and we can avoid adding sulfur dioxide to the destemmed fruit as we know our estate-grown grapes are sound and free of rot—another benefit of a full-time staff. We ferment grapes for our Méthode à l'Ancienne and Deep End Pinots in the small, three-quarter-ton fermentors pictured to the left. After destemming, the must temperature slowly rises and the omission of SO2 allows the wild yeast on the berries' skins to begin fermentation; after a few days, we add some cultured yeast to make sure the fermentation will fully complete. We punchdown by hand twice a day—no pumps to break seeds and add bitterness to the wine—then press the must when the alcohol reaches 12% to avoid bitter seed tannins. We also sell off the heavy press fractions; all of this to assure a suave mouthfeel. Lastly, since we sell and ship most of our wine to the end consumer, we are able to keep our prices moderate for such pampered Pinot. Gold Medal winner.
The family's third generation is learning how to punchdown Pinot. It seems like a lot of fun—except when you have 100 or more bins to punchdown twice a day. We were first exposed to this type of fermentation by a French student. We laughed at Daniel when he asked to make a lot of Pinot Noir the old-fashioned way—we had fancy pumps and refrigerated stainless steel tanks and he had only an old, recycled redwood water tank; we were certain there was no way his wine could equal ours. We lost contact with Daniel but after his wine was in barrel a few months, we had to admit that his tasted better. Please excuse us for laughing at you Daniel; your input permanently changed the way Navarro ferments Pinot Noir.