In the past two decades we've tripled our estate Pinot Noir vineyards; we had hoped that when the vineyards came into full production we could offer a lower-priced Pinot which would be a good way to sell off our leftovers— sound wine that was excess to our higher-priced bottlings. Navarro's first low-priced Pinot Noir carried the Mendocino appellation rather than Anderson Valley as some of the wine was produced from inland fruit. Many new Anderson Valley Pinot vineyards were planted in the late 1990s and by 2006 we were purchasing Pinot grapes from several small local vineyards, but we were frequently disappointed by the inconsistent quality.
Ulises topping French oak barrels. Compared to European oak, American oak imparts much stronger flavors that would overpower Pinot Noir. Trees grown in our fertile soils produce wider growth rings which leads to greater extraction of pungent wood qualities. Navarro Pinot barrels are hand-made from tight-grained oak from the Allier forests in France.
Night harvesting Pinot Noir. Each bin has a sorter whose job it is to remove leaves or any substandard fruit that was accidentally picked.
To make life simpler, and the wine better, we signed a long-term contract to purchase Pinot exclusively from our neighbor Valley Foothills Vineyard—with a full-time vineyard-savvy manager. Valley Foothills Vineyard's Pinot represents about 30% of this bottling, combined with 18 different small Navarro lots—many of the same lots that comprise part of our Méthode à l'Ancienne cuvée. It's a complex blend of highly regarded fruit, including 44% ENTAV clone 667, 29% ENTAV clone 115 and 27% of three other clones: FPMS 4, ENTAV 113 and ENTAV114. All the grapes were fermented by hand—the old-fashioned way—then aged 11 months in French oak barrels, about 15% new. It is tough to find a Pinot Noir this good at this price. Pure red-cherry Pinot flavors, light oak-toast-vanilla, tamed tannins and modest alcohol; what's not to like?