Navarro's Pinot Gris vineyard is located in the hills at an elevation of about 1,000 feet with a spectacular view of the valley floor. It's wild up in the hills, so each vineyard site is individually deer-fenced, leaving the forested areas and streams unobstructed in order that the many animals living here—bears, deer, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats and feral pigs—can roam freely over the surrounding 700 acres. We have a resident bear population that returns during every harvest to enjoy a diet of our neighbor's apples and Navarro's Pinot. Since the bears show a preference for Pinot, we wonder if they have a preference for a particular apple variety as well? Winemakers have to share the wildlife's habitat, especially during harvest, as we keep track of grape ripeness and quality issues. We use ATVs while inspecting our vineyards, and in 2017, Ted purchased a battery-powered model. The joy of an electric ATV is that there's no engine noise, making it easy to hear the birds and sneak up on deer. However, while inspecting the vineyards in September with this ATV, Ted came across these vines stripped of fruit and a chill went up his back—a bear, like a Heffalump, is an animal you don't want to sneak up on! Solution: sing loudly—and off-tune!
The perimeters of Navarro's upper vineyards are fenced, with solar-operated gates allowing access. Horizontal logs were installed to keep the gate posts vertical; bear claw marks seen on these logs reveal how these determined animals enter the vineyards. We now refer to these logs as “bear ladders.”
Ted and Dove in an electric ATV monitoring the vineyards. Since Dove refuses to wear a seat belt, we built and installed a stainless-steel door so that she wouldn't fall out.
The Gris vineyard is divided into two blocks, each featuring a different clone. The grapes were harvested, fermented and aged sur lie as separate lots in refrigerated oak ovals; after eight months of aging a cuvée was selected, then blended and bottled. Rich texture suggests hazelnuts or walnuts with restrained aromas of melon. Gold Medal winner. Best of Class.
Bear damage in Navarro's
Middle Ridge Pinot Gris. Most years during harvest, bears have a nighttime snack in Navarro's remote
Middle Ridge or
Marking Corral vineyards. Sucking off the berries without damaging the stems, one bear can clean out five to ten vines an evening. It's a contest: who will harvest Pinot first, the shy bears or Navarro's crew?