Navarro Vineyards and Winery is located in the town of Philo, about 2 hours north of San Francisco in the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. It is a quaint and rustic town situated along Indian Creek as it flows into the Navarro River, from which the winery derives its name. Philo has wet winters and moderately warm dry summers with 52 inches of rain per year, about 10 inches of snowfall and an average high temperature in the middle of July around 93 degrees. The surrounding hills are heavily wooded. In all of California it probably has the closest climate to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. If I were looking to start a winery that focuses on Pinot Noir, this is where I’d go and I suspect it will be the next big “hot spot” for Pinotfiles.
The Founders and History
In 1973 Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn founded Navarro Vineyards and Winery when they purchased a 900-acre sheep ranch. The following year they began planting Alsatian white varietals such Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling along with 5 acres of Pinot Noir (UCD-4) on one rootstock. Before starting the winery Ted was a vice president for CBS and Deborah was a graduate student of literature at the University of California, Berkeley.
Today the winery remains family owned and operated with the next generation, Aaron and Sarah Cahn Bennett, who now are actively involved in the business. Navarro has also expanded the vineyards to 40 acres of estate Pinot Noir under vine with 9 clones on 6 rootstocks divided into 8 unique parcels ranging from 350 - 1500 feet in altitude. They also source another 10 acres under contract with neighboring Valley Foothills Vineyard.
In 1992 Jim Klein became Navarro’s winemaker. Like many other winemakers he graduated from U.C. Davis. His previous experience includes being the winemaker in Qasrin, Israel (January 1989 – February 1992) and an Enologist Charles Krug Winery (August 1984 – December 1988) in St. Helena.
Navarro Vineyards and Winery produces 2 Pinot Noirs: a Mendocino blend, a Méthode á l'Ancienne Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (from Navarro's estate fruit and a small percentage of grapes from other growers in the Anderson Valley), and a Deep End Blend Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. They also produce an Alsatian-style Gewürztraminer, an old-vine Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and a Muscat. Their current production is around 45,000 cases with the majority of their wine being sold directly to the public.
The winery has a beautiful garden adjacent to the parking area across from the tasting room. There you will find picnic tables and chairs surrounding a water fountain. Alongside the tasting room is a large deck where you can enjoy the wines, or take a step down the stairs to another picnic area under a vine draped wooden pergola.
While visiting I sampled the following wines:
The first wine was the 2010 Premeiere Reserve Chardonnay, Anderson Valley. This wine is clear straw-yellow with medium intense aromas of apples, pears, and lemon meringue. On the palate is dry with medium body, medium+ acidity and a long finish. A well balanced wine that sells for a fair price at $25 per bottle.
The second pour was the 2011 Muscat Blanc. On the nose it displays pronounced floral aromas, orange blossoms, honeydew melon, apricots and pear. On the palate it is dry, medium- in body with zesty medium+ acidity and a long finish. This wine sells for $19.50 per bottle.
The third wine was the 2011 Gewürztraminer. On the nose this wine displays classic profile of lychee, lemon-lime and melon. On the palate it is dry, crisp with medium+ acidity, medium bodied with a long finish. This wine sells for $19.50 per bottle.
The fourth sample was the 2011 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. Visually this wine is clear, light ruby red with subtle aromas of black cherries, roses, subtle herbs and smoke. On the palate it has medium intensity of flavors, medium- body, medium tannins, medium acidity and a medium+ length. The over-all appearance, nose and flavor profile is a lighter style and could be easily mistaken for a Pinot from Carneros that sell in the $15-$20 price range. This wine sells for $19.50 per bottle.
The fifth wine was 2009 Pinot Noir, Méthode à l'Ancienne. On the nose this wine has medium intense aromas of plums, rhubarb, cinnamon stick and a hint of smoke. On the palate it is somewhat light-weight with a medium- body, medium acidity and medium+ length finish. This wine sells for $29 per bottle.
The final wine was 2007 Pinot Noir, Méthode à l'Ancienne. On the nose this wine has pronounced aromas of dark cherries, strawberry preserves, cinnamon, clove, forest floor and a hint of smoke. On the palate it is medium body, medium+ acidity and a prolonged finish. This wine has everything I look for in a Pinot and it easily be mistaken for a one from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. This wine sells for $29 per bottle and I bought two of them. But only one made it home as I opened one that night and had it with some smoked salmon - absolutely phenomenal!
To see more pictures of Navarro Vineyards and Winery, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:
To visit or for more information:
Navarro Vineyards and Winery
5601 California 128
Philo, CA 95466