In early summer, we make estimates of how much potential crop exists in each of Navarro's fields. Our estimate is a product of three calculations: the number of vines, the average number of clusters per vine and the average cluster weight. The number of vines is easy to calculate since we store that information in a spreadsheet. The average number of clusters per vine is determined by counting the clusters on twenty-five randomly selected vines in each block. In some years, the amount of clusters varies widely from vine to vine, so it's possible that the specific vines selected can skew the results in one direction or the other. Cluster weight, the average number of berries per cluster times the average berry weight at harvest, is probably the most difficult to estimate since the calculations are made when the berries are green and haven't sized up. It is especially tricky in a year with millerandage, a condition in which the clusters contain full-sized two-seeded berries with smaller one-seeded berries. To make a long story short, we underestimated the amount of crop in one of our favorite Chardonnay blocks, and consequently didn't thin the fruit to the normal four tons per acre for our Reserve wine.
Sarah counting the number of berries in a grape cluster. With 60 different vineyard blocks, that's a lot of sampling and counting.
Thinned Chardonnay grapes on the ground. When we suspect too heavy a crop, we thin the fruit on each vine while the berries are still green and hard.
You would think that a farmer would enjoy a bigger crop, but given our experience blending Chardonnay, we knew that the wine would be less intense than usual. As a result, this lot was declassified and we bottled about twenty-five percent less 2017 Première Reserve Chardonnay than we normally do, preserving the level of intensity normally found in our top-of-the-line Chardonnay. As one reviewer wrote about the 2015 Reserve, “At the price this one's a steal.”Gold Medal winner.