Sales of rosé wines in the United States have soared in the last two decades and in France, sales of rosé wines now eclipse sales of white wines. We began making rosé wine from Grenache grapes in 2002 with the pink wines of Provence as our model. By 2009, we began producing a rosé from estate Pinot Noir grapes. We've slowly expanded production of Pinot Noir rosé as we've learned which vineyard blocks make the best rosé—they aren't necessarily the same fields that produce the best red wine. One example is the Chalone selection in our Hammer Olsen vineyard. It is a field selection from Chalone vineyards; the berries tend to be a little larger than the fruit from adjacent fields planted to clones FPS13 and ENTAV115 on the same rootstock.
Aerial view of Navarro's vineyard crew picking four rows of Pinot Noir in one pass. The tractor has a light tower for illumination and pulls two bins; each with a person to dump the buckets and another to make sure no leaves are mixed in with the fruit. When these bins are full, the tractor pulls ahead to deliver the grapes to the winery, and a similarly equipped tractor with empty bins takes the first tractor's place.
Navarro's 2019 winery crush crew. Harvest is the most time-critical part of winemaking, so all hands are on deck. Eight are permanent Navarro employees, and of the temporary workers, several return each year—including an Iraqi war veteran from Illinois, a schoolteacher from Colombia, South America and college students with a late semester start date. Crushing grapes is hard work but seems to be habit-forming.
The red wines we produced had a delicious core of cherry-like fruit but the wine was a little lacking in color. It wasn't the first field that we selected for rosé production but when we did, it was a solid hit year after year. Production outgrew what that block could produce and we've tested out many other blocks and found that while the adjacent FPS13 field has similar cherry-like flavors to the Chalone, the maceration time to achieve a rounded mouthfeel was less than the Chalone block, perhaps due to the smaller berry size. We've completed our 2019 cuvée with a 12% addition from a new block planted using clone ENTAV667 whose flavors integrate well with the fruit from the other two fields.