Harvest started late in 2006 and Chardonnay is one of the last varieties to ripen in Anderson Valley. By mid October the weather was sunny but the nights were cold causing the vines to shut down. Usually we pick a vineyard as a complete block but these fields had ripened unevenly. The vineyard crew used tape to mark off the sections of our estate Chardonnay vineyards with the most developed fruit. A few days later each of Navarro's fields were harvested as two lots: first the ripest sections and then the balance. The Dijon clones are a group of Chardonnay clones selected in France for top wine quality and in our climate they ripen a week or so earlier than the California clones we have traditionally grown.
Jim checking on Navarro's
Première Reserve Chardonnay which is fermented in 60 gallon French oak barrels; 1/3 each new, one year, and 2 years old. Wine ferments at warmer temps in barrels as compared to refrigerated casks, enabling the wine to easily complete malolactic fermentation, thus softening Anderson Valley's high natural acidity and adding buttered-toast flavors.
A cool, late season pushed the vines to their limit and the result was a mixture of vines whose fruit attained full ripeness and other vines where the crop was a bit under-ripe by Navarro's standards.
It's no surprise that the base wine for the Première Reserve comes from an 11 year old terraced planting of the Dijon clones at the top of our best Chardonnay field called Hammer Olsen, the name of the Finnish farmer who once cultivated hay in the field. Most of the balance comes from the ripe-selected sections of the Hammer Olsen block, planted 25 years ago to the California Robert Young field-selection. The wine has restrained alcohol, subtle apple-lemon fruit and a gentle layer of vanilla and buttered toast. Because of Navarro's stringent ripeness requirements we have less than usual to sell. Gold Medal winner. Best of Class.
We stir the barrels to keep the wine in contact with yeast that have sunk to the bottom. This keeps the wine fresh until all fermentations are complete and helps absorb tannins from the barrels.