Known for its ruggedly beautiful coastline, lush redwood forests and top-notch food and drink establishments, it is no surprise that Mendocino County has a rapidly growing tourism industry. Wine enthusiasts flock to Mendocino in ever growing numbers, attracted by lower price points and quality rivalling that of wines produced in neighboring Sonoma and Napa Counties. Central to Mendocino’s wine industry is the Anderson Valley, which boasts one of the top terroirs for coastal Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer in all of California.
About Navarro Vineyards
Embodying the down-to-earth, eco-conscious spirit of Mendocino winemaking, Navarro Vineyards is a must-visit on any trip to the Anderson Valley. Navarro sits on a 910 acre ranch with 90 acres of grapes planted, leaving the rest of the property to nature. Navarro is a family-owned winery located just off Highway 128 in Philo, California, and was founded in 1974.
Navarro cultivates six grape varieties on their vineyard: Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat. They also contract with a number of small vineyards in the Redwood Valley (just inland from the Anderson Valley) to source Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Chenin Blanc grapes. The majority of their wines are produced as vintages, meaning they were made from grapes that were grown and harvested in the same year. This allows you to taste how changing conditions such as drought or frost impact the flavor and quality of the wine.
Here are some standouts from the tasting menu during our visit in February 2020:
- 2018 Gewürztraminer – $24. Lychee, kumquat, and jasmine notes, dry finish.
- 2018 Sauvignon Blanc – $22. Gooseberry and herbaceous notes, dry finish, smooth mouthfeel.
- 2017 Pinot Noir Méthode à l’Ancienne – $35. Complex notes of black tea and plum.
- 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon – $35. Aged in French oak barrels. Notes of black cherry, currants and vanilla.
- 2014 Late Harvest Riesling – $35. Well balanced honeycomb and tropical fruit flavors.
- 2019 Verjus – $14. Non-alcoholic green grape juice. Super-sour, great for cooking or mixing in cocktails as a substitute for lemon juice or vinegar.
For a full list of Navarro’s wines, check out their website, which tells a complete story on how each of their wines is produced and what makes it distinct.
Tasting Room and Vineyard
Navarro’s tasting room is relatively small and can get cramped at times, so you may have to wait to get a spot at the counter. However, it will be well worth it for their expansive wine tasting, which is completely free. In the tasting, you can choose from more than 20 of their wines to sample, so there is plenty of room to try all of your favorite varietals. After your tasting, stretch out in their outdoor area, where you can find picnic tables and covered gazebos. Grab a bottle or glass of your favorite wine and local snacks from their small shop to enjoy outside overlooking the vineyards.
Animal life is abundant on and around the vineyards, with birds, deer and livestock making their home on the property. Most notable is their flock of adorable babydoll sheep who help with weed control in the spring. Babydoll sheep grow no taller than 24 inches in height and are unable to reach the height of the budding grapevines, which would be eaten by normal size sheep. They were originally bred in England, and are now utilized around the world as a more environmentally friendly way to manage unwanted vegetation on vineyards.
Navarro offers guided tours of their property and production facility twice daily at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., which typically last around an hour and are limited to 15 people. Make a reservation online ahead of time to ensure your spot.
Navarro wines are almost exclusively available for purchase directly from the winery. You can order online at navarrowine.com, over the phone at 1-800-537-9463 if you aren’t able to make it in person. Navarro frequently offers sales and promotions, and are currently offering 1-cent ground shipping and 10% off for 12-bottle orders.
If you’re looking for more wine tasting to do in Anderson Valley, check out Pennyroyal Farm, Toulouse or Roederer Estate.