In mid-September of 2019, we left a block of Gewürztraminer unharvested with the hope that the grapes would rot before they were lost to birds or bears, and that the rot would be clean botrytis. Fortunately, we were able to drip-irrigate the vines; this helped maintain a full canopy which protected grape clusters from the birds. Bears go wherever bears want to go but the big bruisers prefer our most remote vineyards. Finally by mid-October, the leaves yellowed and slowly began to fall. We decided to harvest on the 23rd and were thrilled that botrytis had infected many of the clusters. These were our last grapes harvested which is always a relief as well as a festive occasion. The grapes were destemmed and allowed to macerate, releasing flavors and volatile esters from the skins.
Close-up of botrytis—the noble rot—in a Gewürztraminer cluster. When we started making wine in the 1970s, the textbooks said that botrytis didn't occur naturally in California, so at the destemming machine during harvest Ted would throw away any cluster with rot. During the 1979 harvest, a visiting German winemaker, Konrad Seppelt, scurried behind Ted and picked up the rotten clusters into a bucket. Konrad scolded Ted and said he would crush the grapes Ted threw away and throw away the fruit Ted crushed. To prove his point, he told Ted to eat some of the unappetizing, botrytised berries—they were delicious and the following vintage yielded Navarro's first late harvest wine.
At maturity these three Babydoll lambs will be less than 24 inches tall at the shoulder, making it impossible for them to reach the grapes and leaves on a high trellis. Our Babydoll flock currently has about 150 ewes that can graze in the vineyards all summer.
After pressing, the juice was cool-fermented in stainless steel to retain all the fruity aromas and flavors. Gewürztraminer's varietal perfume and exotic tropical fruit flavors are well suited for sweet wines and they shine in this bottling. However, this wine's sweetness is counterbalanced with ample acidity so that the finish is clean and crisp. A perfect pairing with ripe melon. Gold Medal winner.
A Gewürztraminer vine with ripe grapes, deleafed for harvesting.