Skin contact is the process of allowing destemmed grape skins to macerate in the juice for a desired amount of time. At Navarro we generally avoid utilizing skin contact in white grape varieties; the skins contain flavor and aromatics but also phenolics that can add astringency to the juice. The astringency can be minimized by destemming cold grapes, but we've found that a little contact goes a long way and can quickly make the wine heavy and less elegant. Gewürztraminer is the only white varietal where we utilize skin contact to fashion a wine. A typical harvest scenario might be that we start picking when the first Gewürz grapes are 23.5° Brix and by the time we finish, the last grapes harvested are about 24.5° Brix.
Alfredo hooking up a hose to one of our older oak ovals—the more modern ovals have stainless steel manways rather than wood. We ferment and age Gewürztraminer sur lie in these casks; we have 33 ovals ranging in size from 250 to 1,500 gallons so that we can keep the juice from each vineyard block as separate wines.
Experienced taster required. Skin contact can build body in a white wine, but too much makes the wine heavy; tasting and assessing the juice several times an hour is required to produce an aromatic and elegant white wine.
We've learned that the best skin contact results for Gewürztraminer are with grapes harvested at the beginning of the ripeness curve when aromatics are selectively extracted; as the harvest progresses, the phenolics seem to be more quickly extracted, making the wine too heavy and astringent. The West Hill—44% of this bottling— was harvested first; the grapes were destemmed into two tanks then pressed after three and four hours respectively. Grapes from the East Hill and Valley Foothills Ridge—36% and 20% of this bottling, respectively—were harvested later and processed without extended skin contact time. The juices were cold settled then transferred to refrigerated French oak ovals as separate lots to ferment and age sur lie for seven months. An array of peach, lychee, citrus and honeysuckle aromas and flavors are embraced in a dry, spicy finish. Gold Medal winner. Best of Show. 97 points.