This is the last (and best) of the three-bottle wildfire sampler from Navarro – three reds that Ted Bennett and Jim Klein decided had too much smoke taint to release under the regular Navarro label.
This wine is interesting both on its own merits, and as a comparison to the regular Pinot bottling. For starters, this is composed of entirely Anderson Valley fruit. In a normal vintage this would have been the “Méthode à l’Ancienne” bottling, which normally connotes a subtler, more austere and earthy style with less fruit-forward character – and this year is no exception. Clocking in at 13.7% ABV, this is a wine very much in the Burgundian style. The most notable characteristic of this wine for me is the silken mouthfeel. The nose is mostly floral with just a hint of earth and vanilla. In the mouth, the earthiness is more pronounced, with mushroom and forest floor competing with a bit of tea and yes, that smoke. What of the smoke? In my bottle it’s not especially noticeable – as with the Mendocino Pinot, it arrives as a slight tang in the finish, though I felt it to be less noticeable than in that bottling. This is definitely not a fruit bomb, and while a relatively lighter style reminds me more of an Oregon Pinot than anything else.
Judging by the reviews, these “wildfire wines” are definitely a YMMV proposition. Whether due to variations in palate sensitivity or the amount of taint in the individual bottle, some people have found the smoke to be overpowering and some barely noticeable. I’m not bothered by it much in this wine – it doesn’t taste any more prominent than what you might get from toasted oak barrels. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a great Pinot by Navarro standards, it’s a damn good one for fans of a leaner, more balanced style.