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A Can't-Miss Winery From Mendocino

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Dec 15, 2006 12:19pm ET

Navarro is one of those can't-miss wineries that somehow manages to routinely produce a wide range of elegant, balanced and diverse wines.

It's long been one of my favorites, in part because of its location—western Anderson Valley.

Whenever I'm headed to the coast to visit the town of Mendocino, Navarro is one of the last wineries I see before heading into a forest of towering redwoods.

As I drive over the hill and the winery comes into view, it's kind of like finding the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

The winery, founded by Deborah Cahn and Ted Bennett, two real pioneers, pays tribute to Anderson Valley's unique climate and offers exquisitely balanced Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.

Navarro also pays homage to the great wines of Germany with its Riesling, and of Alsace with its Gewürztraminer.

Then there's a whole mix of wonderful dessert-style wines, late-harvest versions of both the Gewürztraminer and the Riesling.

This week, I tried two great examples of why Navarro is special.

The first, the 2004 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Méthode à l'Ancienne, sells for $25, with a healthy number of cases (5,224). It's my favorite Navarro Pinot of all time. Wonderful balance, focus, purity of fruit and length. Should age well, too.

Just as exciting was the 2004 Zinfandel from Mendocino ($19, 2,193 cases), from grapes grown in a warmer, inland part of the county. It, too, is elegantly styled, supple, with a complex array of raspberry, wild berry and strawberry fruit that's delicate and refreshing.

Give them a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

John Gavin
CA —  December 15, 2006 5:04pm ET
Agreed, and there are two other reasons why Navarro merits a visit by families on their way to the coast: 1 - dogs are welcome. 2 - they have non-alcoholic juices of Gewurtztraminer and Pinot Noir available for children or anybody else who doesn't drink.
John B Vlahos
Cupertino Ca. —  December 15, 2006 5:25pm ET
James, the Anderson Valley is a mother lode of fine wines and you'e exposed one of them in Navarre. Another, for example, is Esterlina Vineyards and Winery located ten miles north of Booneville, near Navarre. It is probably one of the best kept secrets on the north Coast. They too produce fine pinot, chardoney, sauvignon blanc and zinfandel, amoungts others, at prices that are gentle on the pocket book. There are at least a dozen more fine wineries in the area. Its almost a shame to expose them to the unknowing public because once the quality of their wines is discovered the bargains will fade away. John B. Vlahos
Brad Coelho
New York City —  December 15, 2006 7:41pm ET
Thanks for the recommendation. The stories of over the river and through the woods realms of pastoral California will never get old; appreciate the insight.
Michael Haley
Eugene, OR —  December 15, 2006 9:55pm ET
I've been a fan of Navarro since fall 1991 when I was a postdoc at Berkeley, and a member of their pre-release club since 1992. What has struck me is that their wines prices have remained VERY reasonable over the years. In addition to the two great wines James mentioned (had a bottle of the 04 zinfandel night before last), you'll be hard-pressed to find a better dry Gewurz from CA.
Chris Hilliard
Minnesota —  December 16, 2006 8:45am ET
I am a huge Zin fan, who produces the 2004 Zin from Mendocino? I would love to pick up a bottel. Thanks.
Chum Lee
Mendocino, CA —  December 16, 2006 1:28pm ET
James,between me and you, let's try to keep the A.V. a secret! Idyllic, bucolic hills and canyons. The beautiful Navarro Redwoods State Park. Meeting the owners and winemakers at virtually every winery that you would visit (what gets better than tasting with the Londers in their backyard, amidst their acres and acres of biodynamic gardens???). No traffic, waiting in line, or tasting fees. Navarro, Roederer Estate, Scharffenberger, Goldeneye, and Londer wineries. The Boonville Hotel, where all the food served comes within a 100 mile radius of the restaurant. But whatever you do, don't tell them about Esterlina (thanks a lot, John...), Lazy Creek, Demuth, Harmonique, and Handley. I mean, let's not turn this hidden gem of CA wine country into Napa and/or Sonoma. And certainly don't let them know about the next frontier of Cali wine - Lake County.
William Newell
Buffalo, NY —  December 18, 2006 12:21pm ET
James: I "discovered" Navarro after an Eric Asimov article in the NY Times about previously unavailable wines that became available to NYS residents following the State's change in shipping laws. So far, I've had some of their Gewurtz, Riesling and Chards, and agree with you completely. I hope to visit the winery and others in the Anderson Valley in the spring.
Andrew J Walter
Sacramento,CA —  December 18, 2006 4:38pm ET
Amen...everything they do is wonderful and very well priced...from petite sirah to pinots to the best chard in the state (and its their regular bottling too). I just hope the word doen't get out too widely!!

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