• 2016 Zinfandel
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We began purchasing Zinfandel grapes in 1991 from several vineyards to identify the fields that produced the best wine. We've gained experience and knowledge over these two decades, and we now limit our Zin grape purchases to two top-tier vineyards: Berry Vineyards and Tollini vineyards. Ed Berry's vines were planted about 70 years ago; Navarro's section is comprised of the hillside vines on the steepest slopes that produce the most concentrated flavors. Al Tollini has three primary Zinfandel vineyards and we purchase from his oldest vines—one field is almost 90 years old and the other vineyard might be considered a youngster in this group at over 50 years of age. Navarro's best single lot of Zinfandel wine has typically been labeled as Old Vine, however this bottling—55% Berry and 45% Tollini—was produced from grapes grown on vines with an average age of about 70 years; even this wine that we simply label as Mendocino Zinfandel could certainly qualify for old vine status! One of Navarro's winemaking goals is producing wines with a suave mouthfeel. The tannins from grape skins and oak barrels are perceived as astringent (good), while seed tannins are perceived as bitter (bad).

One of Al's head-trained, 86-year-old grapevines. [right] Luxuries like an expensive trellis with fruit wires were out of the question for the immigrant farmer, so the vine was trained into an upright trunk that needed no support. The lack of trellis limits production, but one can see that most of the fruit is in the shade in the middle of the day, which is highly desirable from a wine quality standpoint.

Removing the top from a temperature-controlled fermentor for the first punchdown of the day at 5 AM. [above] All of Navarro's Zinfandel is fermented in these "open-top" tanks with a five-ton capacity. Zinfandel ferments sluggishly and we occasionally have to nudge it along by heating the must, whereas Pinot Noir in these five-ton tanks ferments so quickly that we must restrain the fermentation by turning on the refrigeration.

Navarro's Zin regime calls for pressing the must when the alcohol reaches 12% to avoid extracting seed tannins. Perhaps we could have extracted more tannins and flavor by pressing later, or harder, but we were unwilling to sacrifice this wine's dreamy mouthfeel. Gold Medal winner and rated Best of Class in the 2018 California State Fair.

[above] Jim and Al Tollini discussing the upcoming pruning season. Al tends two Zinfandel fields for Navarro; the vines in the oldest block were planted in 1932.

  • Harvested: Sept. 17 to 20, 2016
  • Sugars at harvest: 26.5° Brix
  • Bottled: Aug. 15, 2017
  • Cases produced: 862
  • Alcohol: 14.7%
  • Titratable acidity: 6.2 g/L
  • pH: 3.75