Talk about a weird year! In March 2020, all face-to-face communication was replaced by email, phone calls, Zooming, or shouting through masks six feet apart outdoors—all of which made blending trials and tasting decisions more difficult. In June we realized that our vines were carrying a light crop and we would have to allocate the reduced harvest to our various Pinot bottlings. Then in mid-August, forest fires broke out inland and we realized that we could be facing another year like 2008 when our entire red wine production was degraded by smoke. Vines absorb smoke through their leaves and store it in the stems, skins and seeds of the berries. In white winemaking the juice is quickly separated from the skins, so smoke-tainted berries aren't a problem, but in red winemaking the juice remains with the skins and seeds for over a week extracting color and flavors and—unfortunately—smoke. We were nervous that our grapes might be smoke-tainted, so as harvest neared we sent grape samples to a special laboratory to test for smoke precursors.
Morning fog in the Upper Marking Corral vineyard. The 2019 crop from this field was the base wine for our best red wine, the Deep End Pinot Noir. In 2020 we were concerned about smoke taint due to wildfires and decided that making a good rosé was a better option than making a smoky red wine.
Sarah tasting rosé in a morning Navarro staff tasting. Because of our concern over extracting smoke taint from the 2020 grapes, Sarah tasted the juice in the macerating grapes every 10 or 15 minutes and drained the juice off the skins immediately when any slight suggestion of smoke was detected. It worked!
Unfortunately zillions of other wineries were doing the same, so we wouldn't have any lab results until after our wine was made. We decided that making a smoke-free Rosé of Pinot or a Blanc de Noir was a better option than a smoke-tainted red Pinot. Consequently the fruit from eight fields—most previously harvested for top-quality red wine—was used in the production of this 2020 rosé. Bright strawberry-cherry flavors, refreshing acidity and hints of raspberry in an extended finish. Double Gold Medal-winner.