2005 Navarro Anderson Valley Riesling

Price: $14.25 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “Navarro’s Riesling style has evolved over the last thirty years thanks to the increasing availability of better clones in California. When we started growing Riesling in the 70′s there wasn’t much choice of what to plant. Historically many California clones of this variety had been selected for high yields rather than high wine quality. We planted our first clonal trials of Riesling in 1990 when the nurseries started to have a wider choice available and now Navarro’s fields are planted to some of the world’s most flavorful clones. 84% of this wine was produced from Navarro’s expanded plantings; there’s bright apple and stone-fruit flavors that are reminiscent of ripe German Rieslings from the Rheinpfalz. Because we are now starting with more flavorful grapes, we’ve found ourselves crafting drier versions of Riesling but a drier finish requires careful winemaking in order to avoid extracting astringency from the skins, seeds or stems. After destemming, the free-run juice was cool fermented in oak ovals where it rested on the lees for six months, contributing to a rich mouth feel and hints of charcuterie.

There is a tad of residual sugar but it’s just enough to balance Riesling’s naturally high acidity; the wine finishes deliciously tart and dry with no perceptible sweetness. The captivating floral bouquet has just a touch of Germanic petrol and the lush flavors hint at apple, tangerine and apricot. Try it with thinly sliced Westphalia ham on pumpernickel. Prost! Gold Medal winner.”

What I Think:

The winery called this one “Quest” in reference to their long journey towards developing the desired style for their bottling. I left the majority of what they said though it wasn’t directly related to this wine as I found it interesting.

This wine was very pale in color, on opening like the Pinot I had a few day backs, this one didn’t jump out of the bottle at you. It took the subtler approach and grows on you over time. What do you reckon that means, when the wine shows such a drastic improvement with just a bit of air? Should Navarro have kept these out of the bottle for a bit longer? Should I have kept it in the bottle a little longer? Or would neither have mattered and the wines just needed air… This always makes me wonder if I catch a wine at an “in-between” time. This is purely conjecture but I think when some wines are bottled they offer a drinking window before closing up to become to age a bit, again becoming drinkable at a later time. That wouldn’t seem to make sense here as it is such a young wine. It was bottled only 10 months ago. Back to the wine, one interesting thing was that it never had much of a nose at all. In fact I was trying so hard to pick something up I got my nose wet a few times. Initially the taste was hard to discern but there was certainly a tart, racy finish. It seemed a bit of lemon leading on to a mineral like finish. As it opened this went from the dominant force in the wine to a mere afterthought as the texture became more supple apples, pears and a hint of peach (or is apricot, nectarine…) came to the front before fading to that same tart, minerally end. . Looking above I see a mention of tangerine; have to remember that one moving forward.

Hmm, now for the rating part. This is a really nice wine. It was great with the Asian fare and held up to some Mexican a few nights later. Just not sure that I am willing to pay this price unless my socks are knocked off. Especially with the similar structured and tasting Marcel Hugg wines available at TJ’s. I feel like I am slighting this one by calling it “Pricey”. Maybe the winery should have called this on “Tough break”.

Rating: Pricey

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

2000 Navarro Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon

Price: $22.80 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “It’s rich and chewy with whiffs of cedar, mint and tobacco; a great match for slowly simmered Sauerbraten. Gold Medal winner. Best of Class.”

What I Think:

This was the second bottle from that aforementioned dinner party, so while I am operating mainly from my general perceptions of what this wine was like rather than the detailed insight I usually hope (hope being the key word) to provide. My general impression on this wine is that I blew it! I should have emailed Ed over at Navarro to see if this one was ready for drinking like he recently told me to do with my ’97 Pinots. This one was certainly not quite as hoped, it had yet to round out and most of the fruit seem closed. I thought with some time maybe it would open up but it didn’t occur. Perhaps I caught it at a bad time; it seems likely that I should have let it lie longer. What I do remember is waiting for the fruit; the winery wrote that they declassified the majority of this vintage so perhaps that does some of the explaining for me. They gave this wine a slogan of “Slow Motion”; I should have kept that in mind when I want to grab it!

Rating: Not for Me

2004 Navarro Gewurztraminer Estate Bottled Dry

Price: $14.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Exceptional. Perfect floral, spice and rose petal/gardenia aroma. Drier than most prior vintages, a classic. Do not miss. Winery only. Gold Medal Winner. – Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences, July 21, 2005.

Wine of the Week. An off dry, showy, spicy gewürztraminer. Has a good concentration of peach and citrus fruit. Aroma of rose petal. A lively, refreshing finish. Great pick for Thanksgiving dinner. – Santa Rosa Press Democrat, November 9, 2005.

What I Think:

This is a bottle that I always look forward to opening. Navarro makes their gewurzt in the Alsacian style so it is not of sweet variety that you typically find when grabbing a local bottling of this grape. It has a very nice boquet of flowers that I can’t distinguish but you can recognize the mineral undertones even in the nose. We typically pair this with a spicy dish, something Indian or Thai and it is wonderful, though given its dryness it has far more versatility than your typical Gewurzt. Keep your eye open for this bottle in the local San Francisco ethnic restaurants I have seen it quite a bit. If you find it order without hesitation and enjoy!

Rating: Wow!

2002 Navarro Pinot Gris

Price: $14.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Refreshingly vibrant, with lovely floral aromas of creamy nectarine, with a touch of fresh grain and fennel. Crisp, dry and intense, with pear and orange fruit and a finish that fans out. – Wine Spectator, May 15, 2004.

What I Think:

So this wine has been waiting to get written up for a while and I haven’t quite known how to approach it. Sometime back while at the Navarro barbeque we decided to splurge on a couple cases of wine. Not sure how this one snuck in there. Perhaps with the weather and food it seemed like a good idea at the time. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good wine but as far as their whites go I would put it in the bottom half, granted they set the scale pretty high. It had a nice crisp taste with some soft fruits on top of a mineral backbone that lingered. It certainly wasn’t scoffed at while on the table. Just given a second chance at this price I would be grabbing their Edelzwicker and that is just because I am already stocked up on the Gewurzt.

Rating: Pricey

1999 Whitethorn Alder Springs Vineyard

Price: ??? not sure as it was a gift.

What They Said:

Closest I could find here was on the wine list at Acquerello for $60.

What I Think:

We got this for out wedding back in October of 2003. We had the wine with turkey meat loaf with mashed yams and green beans. The blend is 56% Cabernet and 44% Merlot. I have tried many blends but this is one that I have never enjoyed all that much.  I am guessing if you like this style that this would be a bottle for you. On the nose, the blend works well. Some dark fruit without much tannin but it seems as soon as these two hit the tongue they begin doing battle. Which ones going to win? Not sure but the experience leaves something to be desired for me.

On a side note I think they only made this bottling for a single year as it was difficult to find any information on it. This winery seems to be renowned for their Pinot’s.

Rating: Not for Me

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)

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