2004 Navarro Mendocino Pinot Noir

Price: $14.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “This declassified wine from a great vintage is actually better than pricier Pinots from more difficult years. It may be labeled Mendocino but it tastes and smells like Anderson Valley Pinot. Whiffs of ripe cherry, lavender and cedar followed by a crisp finish will make you think you are drinking a much more expensive bottle. Because of the continuing rise of Pinot prices we have less to sell this year than last and probably even less next vintage. Don’t wait too long! Moderately priced Pinots are getting as rare as family-owned farms. Gold Medal winner”

What I Think:

I opened this wine after having a bit of a let down when trying the 2005 bottling of the same wine. Given that I had a half glass of that left and knowing that I bought a case of this wine I found myself suddenly worrying about a case of buyer’s remorse. With the opportunity to alleviate that concern in the name of a vertical taste comparison I headed straight downstairs, grabbed a bottle

Given my experience with the last two bottles of Navarro I opened this one 7 hours before we ate to give it ample breathing time. Immediately on opening these two you could easily identify differences between the two. The 2004 was much richer, more supple with darker fruits forward. There were boysenberries that lasted well through the mid-palate and it was a very well integrated effort. Buyers remorse is now in the rear view mirror.

So this brings the questions. Could one year really have made that much of a difference? As Navarro publishes the specs for their wines I checked the two and found not much difference but when reviewing the winery notes on the bottlings I think I found the clue. Specifically on the 2004 which refers to it as a “declassified wine labeled Mendocino but it tastes and smells like Anderson Valley Pinot” or so I thought until I saw the ’05 mentioned this “89% of this wine was grown right here in the Anderson Valley.” Oh well perhaps it is personal preference….

By the way the winery called this one “Family Farmed”. This one certainly brings the “Wow!” factor out for me. Glad to have some more around.

Rating: Wow!

2005 Navarro Mendocino Pinot Noir

Price: $14.25 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “We’ve been in the wine business for over thirty years so we have seen some pretty wild swings in supply and demand. In 1974 people thought we were foolish planting Pinot Noir in the Anderson Valley especially since the experts had previously recommended Cabernet Sauvignon and French Colombard. Our decision has since been validated as vineyard after vineyard in the Anderson Valley is now being planted with Pinot Noir. The downside of the popularity and growing reputation of Anderson Valley Pinot is that the price of the grapes has skyrocketed. Check out the competition; it is hard to find a Pinot Noir for less than $20. If you try to buy a French Burgundy you will be paying twice, thrice and upward. Despite consistently selling out of Pinot Noir we are committed to keeping prices reasonable so that all of our good customers from our earlier, leaner years can still afford Navarro wines. 89% of this wine was grown right here in the Anderson Valley.

It was aged for ten months in seasoned French oak barrels adding toast and vanilla flavors to Pinot’s berry and plum core. You shouldn’t have to plan a white-tie dinner to open a bottle of Pinot Noir; this wine tastes great when you are garbed in blue jeans and a tee shirt. Gold Medal winner. Best of Class.”

What I Think:

The winery called this one “Fanfare for the common man”. It seems that they are finding it increasingly difficult to make a Pinot at this price point given the varietals overall trajectory especially coupled with the growing acclaim of the Anderson Valley and Mendocino in this arena. Given that I enjoyed the ’04, still have half a case or so, I was looking forward to getting into this one.

In a word this wine is delicate. You can tell from the second you see it in the glass. The color is very light. On the nose again you get light fruit and once on the palate further confirmed, as strawberry and raspberry appear front and center. We had this with salmon which was a worthy pairing though the yogurt sauce my wife often uses through it some fits. On day 2 the wine was showing a little more, it had integrated nicely and was much more well rounded. You get a big nose full of cherries and loads of light fruit forward on the tongue. The mid-palate starts to show some vanilla and other qualities I would describe as almost barrel like which linger on through the finish. Still a bit left so perhaps I will open one of those ‘04’s for a side by side comparison…See the 2004 write-up if you are interested in the results. All in all, this wine is a quality effort though not on the same level as a year earlier. I have a few $10 bottles of Pinot waiting in the rack that I would have to imagine are on the same level as this one so I’m going to call it “Pricey”.

Rating: Pricey

2004 Navarro Pinot Noir Methode Alancienne

Price: $25.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per Wine Spectator “My favorite Navarro Pinot of all time. High-toned black cherry and wild berry flavors are intense and concentrated, with hints of hazelnut and spice. Wonderful balance, focus and length. Should age well, too.” – James Laube, January, 10 2007 (92 points, $25)

What I Think:

The winery called this one the “Rural Legend”. I have tasted this back to 1996 and have a few cases worth of bottles from various years in my cellar. Perhaps a time to show that I am truly just a consumer. While Mr. Laube lauds it as the best ever I am pessimistic. Perhaps it will get better with age but for the time being this seems much “thinner” than what I am used to for this bottling. The typical flavor profile as I recall is intense cherry fruit towards the front that fades to a more herbal finish that lingers on. This one doesn’t quite seem to peak as high as I remember. That said, they deserve the benefit of the doubt on this one (as long as I don’t have to pay for another bottle).  I will taste it again when I go to their annual barbeque in August.

Rating: Not for Me (for the time being)

2005 Blason de Bourgogne Burgundy

Price: $5.99 @ TJ’s imported by Plume Ridge Wine Negotiants

 What They Said:

Per quaffability “wine sparked a little controversy at my house. I had low expectations for it, having bought the bottle primarily because I liked the packaging but had never heard of the brand. Drinkable Pinot Noir at this price is impossible to find. Drinkable Burgundy at this price hasn’t been available since Bardot was a pretty young thang. But upon opening I was pleasantly surprised to find a wine that was at least potable, if not quite quaffable.

It had a nose of raspberries with some sandalwood and a touch of barnyard. Pretty normal Burgundy aroma. Color and texture were very light with acidity that bordered on the shrill. The finish was very dry, with a slight resin-like quality in what little flavor that lingered.

After a few sips my drinking partner asked if I was opening another bottle. I said not yet at least. I had a fairly spicy stir-fry on the stove and I though it would do okay with the heat, and it did. After dinner, drinking seemed to become a chore, so we consigned the rest to the lower shelf on the door of the fridge, where sauce wines go.”

What I Think:

In a word, not so good.  I haven’t had too much from the Burgundy region and I learned a very important lesson here, don’t start at the bottom.  If you start way down here how can I tell if this is just bad altogether or if I don’t prefer the region.  Either way, do what you can to keep this out of your house.

Rating: Avoid It

2001 Navarro Pinot Noir Methode Alancienne

Price: $23.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “Delicate floral scents edge this pinot, its light but piercingly long flavors extended by the cool, coastal nights of the Anderson Valley. The texture is firm, the flavors are crisp as red apple and tart as tangerine. Dusty tannins in the end will focus those flavors on veal and mushrooms. – Wine & Spirits Magazine, “The Year’s Best Pinot Noir”, January 2004.

Fresh and fragrant, with snappy black cherry and wild berry fruit that offers a hint of jam. Focused and persistent, with fine-grained tannins, and a whiff of blueberry on the finish adding to the complexity. Drink now through 2008. – James Laube, Wine Spectator, April 30, 2004.

What I Think:

Ahh, your first love. Had to go back to it for my first post. I found Navarro way back when I stumbled upon my first Wine Spectator. I could go get the article as I still have it upstairs now. I believe James Laube wrote it. Anyhow soon after we headed up to Mendocino and stopping there was priority #1 and #2. Don’t tell the wife as the purpose of the trip was to write wedding vows. The first night we went to a great restaurant and had dinner outside on the patio and a bottle of the 1999 vintage. Two days later we were at the winery (this is in 2003) joined the club and to some extent the rest is history. I have since started a vertical of this wine and have at least one bottle all the way back to 1996. They make three different versions with this being the mid range. The basic is the low end and the the “Deep End” is the top. Unfortunately you can find this wine pretty much only at the winery. I find it at some restaurants in the Bay Area, not sure if this is true elsewhere. Even saw it in a wine shop once.

Now onto the wine, this one is predisposed to a cellar rating as I have been working my way through a case over the years. This has most of what I love in a wine. It has cherries up front, in a very deep fashion that peak before fading into an herbal finish that lasts for quite some time.

Be sure to try Navarro wines and better yet stop by the winery if you can

Rating: Cellar It