Philo, Anderson Valley
have been growing grapes and making wine in the Anderson Valley (which
roughly east west, between the Sonoma Valley and the Pacific) since
1973, and a
second generation of the family is now involved in farming the
vineyards and winemaking. The estate covers some 910
acres in all, though only 90 acres are under vines: pinot noir,
chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris and muscat, grown on rootstocks that
the cool climate of Philo, where early morning fog and coastal ocean
breezes are common. They are only 10 miles from
the Pacific, so cool onshore breezes from the Humboldt current are the
norm, though they are on a climatic cusp, which makes the weather
unpredictable. Spring 2005 was, for example, very volatile:
it started wet and cold, then turned hot, then foggy, then there was
rain and hail, followed by another hot spell, and then by more drizzly
fog. Not surprisingly 2005 was one of the meanest
harvests, particularly for Gewürztraminer since 1995.
Navarro subscribes to sustainable farming, avoiding the use of insecticides and herbicides. The rows of vines are interspersed with flowering cover crops which attract beneficial insects and minimise soil erosion. Southdowns sheep graze the vineyards: they are too short to reach the grapes, but apparently love the weeds and suckers that grow at the base of the vines. In addition, there’s a moveable hen house, which follows the sheep: the chickens help distribute the sheep droppings. In addition to their own vines, they also buy in from neighbours whose farming techniques match the Navarro philosophy.
In the winery, Navarro use both modern and traditional winemaking techniques, using both French oak barriques and fûts, and temperature controlled stainless steel.
Over 90% of the production is sold direct to customers: indeed, they take pride in the fact that their bottles do not carry bar codes.
As well as wines, they also set aside some of their gewürztraminer and pinot noir to make non-alcoholic grape juice and some chardonnay to make a verjus.
Chardonnay Première Reserve,
Anderson Valley, Navarro Vineyards, 13.9%
3589 cases were made of the Première Reserve Chardonnay in 2004. This has peas and apricot on the very clean nose. Good palate: quite a rich, full mouthfeel, which follows through right into the finish and long after. Very Good/Very Good Indeed. 88/100
Chardonnay, Mendocino, Navarro Vineyards
This has much less fruit on the nose, and there’s almost a hint of eau de vie de poire. Quite crisp and open on the palate. Very Good. 86/100
2005 Chardonnay Table Wine, Mendocino, Navarro Vineyards
3439 cases were made. Very light, fresh nose. Gentle crisp, appley palate. Very Good. 87/100
Bottled (Dry), Anderson Valley Navarro Vineyards, 13.6%
1898 cases were produced. A full, musky perfumed rose petal nose. Very forward and delightful on the palate, but it’s completely dry. Very impressive. Very Good Indeed+. 93/100
Sauvignon Blanc, Cuvée 128,
Mendocino, Navarro Vineyards
Normally, Navarro ferment most of their sauvignon blanc in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, but in 2005 (because the gewurztraminer and pinot gris harvests were so limited – they lost 50% of the gewurz crop to frost) they decided to use temperature controlled oak casks. Another change in 2005 was that a higher proportion of the grapes (59%) came from a new French clone grown in Boonville on gravel soils. The remainder of the grapes come from Yorkville Vineyards, which has supplied sauvignon blanc and semillon since 1990. The 2005 contains 11% semillon from Yorkville Vineyards, and they made 1922 cases of it.
It has a crisp, fragrant nose with some green melon fruit. Crisp and clean on the palate, this is nothing like a Sancerre or New Zealand sauvignon blanc, thanks in part to the vinification method. But it is a very pleasant, food friendly wine. Very Good+. 88/100
2005 Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, Navarro Vineyards
1815 cases made. There’s very light, gently spiced stone fruit on the nose: very subdued. It’s quite subdued on the palate too, though the pinot gris flavours build well, but ultimately it’s very simple. Good/Very Good. 84/100
2004 White Riesling, Anderson Valley, Navarro Vineyards
1549 cases produced. A crisp, limey nose with some talcy minerality. Very crisp, fresh and clean on the palate. It has good balance and a nice character. Good finish and very good length. This has a nice feel to it, and in its style, it seems to mix old and new worlds. Very Good Indeed. 90/100
Edelzwicker, California, Navarro Vineyards,
In 2005 1646 cases were produced of this Alsatian blend of 66% gewurztraminer, 28% riesling and 6% pinot gris. It has a delicious nose: light, fresh, fragrant rose petals, mixed with lime and fresh crushed cardamom. Light and elegant on the palate, it is just off dry. It’s also remarkably grapey. Very Good Indeed. 90/100
2005 Rosé Old Vine Cuvée (Dry),
Mendocino, Navarro Vineyards
A blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, from grapes bought-in from neighbours. The nose has perfumed fresh strawberries. On the palate it’s light and crisp, but very simple. Good-ish. 82/100
2004 Pinot Noir, Méthode à
l’Ancienne, Anderson Valley, Navarro Vineyards
5306 cases made, mainly from estate fruit, though some is bought in on a long term contract. Strawberry and cherry juice on the nose. Sweet, very juicy fruit on the palate. Nice, but not thrilling me. Very Good. 86/100
Noir Deep End Blend, Anderson
Valley, Navarro Vineyards
The nose is quite full with fairly deep, earthy, mushroomy, raspberry fruit. Very good on the palate with super balance: very elegant and precise. There are very focussed red fruit flavours with enormous length after. Very Good Indeed/Excellent. 94/100
Zinfandel, Mendocino, Navarro
This is a blend of zinfandels from six different vineyard sites. All the fruit is bought in and comes from 30-60 year old vines. 2193 cases were made – Navarro’s smallest Zinfandel production in four years, due to the very small berry size in 2004, which ended up yielding intensely flavoured wines.
It has a big sweet cherry and crème de mûre nose with hints of orange peel. There is very sweet black and red fruit on the palate, and overall this feels a real fruit bomb, though without too much alcohol. It also feels very simple indeed. That’s not to say that it’s not a lovely, easy-drinking wine, but it’s ultimately just rather simple. Very Good. 86/100
Riesling Cluster Select
Late Harvest, Navarro Vineyards
20.1% residual sugar by weight. This has a very perfumed, honeysuckle and sweet apple nose. Very precise and focussed on the palate, with huge purity. This is a match for the best Alsace SGNs, though it’s not the same, and it almost has a feel of a cross between an Alsace SGN and a German Beerenauslese. This is notably good stuff! Very Good Indeed/Excellent. 94/100
Blanc Cluster Select
Late Harvest, Andersen Valley, Mendocino, Navarro Vineyards, 11%
A clean, zesty sweet nose with lots of candied citrus. Again a very pure, precise palate. This is delicious, but it lacks much muscat character Very Good+. 87/100
Gewürztraminer Grape Juice,
A grapey sweet nose, and very similar in the mouth. Possibly just a little too sticky? This particularly needs serving as they recommend, either over ice or with sparkling water.
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Last updated:4 January 2008