Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley

We’re new to Berserker Day, but we’ve been around for a minute…

In 1973, Deborah Cahn and Ted Bennett purchased a 900-acre sheep ranch in the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. There, the coastal climate would assure that Gewürztraminer grapes would ripen late in the season when the weather is coolest, and the gravelly clay soils were similar to famous vineyard sites in Alsace, known for the production of elegant dry wines. Vineyard planting began in 1974. The higher elevations (1000’ to 1500’) are dedicated to Pinot Noir, which likes the cooler days and warmer nights. Vineyards closer to the valley floor (300’ to 500’) are warmer during the day, but much colder at night, conditions that contribute to high acidity in our white varieties: Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc.

While waiting for the vines to become productive, Deborah and Ted continued to raise sheep, totally unprofitably, for five years. Wine production began in 1975 with grapes purchased from neighboring vineyards. Navarro’s style of winemaking is slowly evolving as the vineyards reach maturity. The fruit produced by a vineyard is a unique combination of microclimate, soil, and cultural practices; adapted over time by experience. Generally, Navarro strives to produce wines in which one can “taste the vineyard” - the French idea of “gout du terroir.” Each vineyard site is fermented and aged as a separate lot; experiments within these lots are helping the winery define its style.

The styles of some of the wines are inspired by the old world. Navarro’s dry Gewürztraminer is perhaps the best example: Deborah and Ted love Alsatian wines and specifically selected a vineyard site with soils and exposure reminiscent of the flanks of the Vosges. Other wines were serendipitous: it was preferred not to spray chemicals on the vines, so by harvest some of the grapes were rotten. The rot that dominates in the cool, humid climate of Anderson Valley is botrytis cinerea. Ted says, “If anyone had told us in 1974 that we would be producing sweet wines from rotten grapes and enjoying it, we would have considered them crazy!”

Deborah and Ted have been joined by their children, Aaron and Sarah Cahn Bennett, who are actively involved in the family business. Sarah’s interest in goats and sheep date back to her 4H days and she now spearheads Navarro’s latest efforts at Pennyroyal Farm, which is producing medal winning farmstead cheeses and world-class wines ten miles down the road in Boonville. Aaron is back home after a successful stint working the dot-com boom in Southern California, overseeing Navarro’s online presence as well as managing the day to day operation of the ranch, vineyard and winery.

Navarro is committed to sustainable farming practices, which include the use of cover crops between vine rows to reduce sedimentation and encourage beneficial insects, annual monitoring of erosion-control measures and protection of the riparian corridor. In 2006, Navarro introduced sheep and a portable chicken house into the vineyards as a fossil-fuel-free method of mowing, suckering, and limiting pests. Navarro’s winery, vineyard and tasting room employees are hired full-time with health benefits.

On behalf of Ted, Deborah, Aaron and Sarah, thank you all for the time you took to read our story, and the opportunity to share our wines with you.

EDITED TO ADD: We’re thrilled that our sister winery, Pennyroyal Farm, has decided to participate in Berserker Day. This is a very exciting project for Sarah Cahn-Bennett, as mentioned above. The wines are elegant, polished, and refined, reflective of Sarah’s personality and passion for her craft. Read more here, thanks!

Great to see Navarro!

I think I’ve been drinking Navarro for almost 30 years.

I love visiting, and I cheat for my ongoing supply. My friend Big Mike from Las Vegas is on the mailing list and he pours for me, so I get many Navarro benefits!

I don’t think Navarro shows up in stores, so here is a Berserkers’ chance to hook up with a fabulous winery!

Thanks Anton, it’s great to be here! And thank you for the continued support. I, personally, came on board at Navarro this summer and it’s amazing to see the loyalty of employees and customers. Many - and I do mean many - have been here from the very beginning, more than 40 years ago. It says a lot about the family and their approach to running their business.

Is this Mike A? If so, consider the benefits reciprocated…

Indeed, about 85% of our business is Direct To Consumer. We aren’t found in stores, just select restaurants. We’re thrilled to share the labors of our love with Wine Berserkers!

Welcome. Glad to see you here.

i was introduced to the wines many years ago at Café Beaujolais in Mendocino where the waitstaff recommended a Navarro Pinot Noir.
I visited the winery the next day; I had a wonderful time. Nice people and very good wines.

Indeed it is!


He’s not just a man, he is the man!

Glad to meet you!

I started drinking Navarro wines in the late 70’s when a customer of ours started trading cases of Navarro wine for our products. He sent so much that for years Navarro was the only Pinot Noir from California I drank. Some I’ve tasted with 20 years age that were still holding on fine. I still go in on purchases made by a friend who got on the mailing list after I exposed him to the wines.

P Hickner

Thanks T!

They have been great supporters over the years and are still the source of many a valued referral. Glad to hear you enjoyed your visit!

Thanks a ton, Peter! With regards to longevity, yours is a particularly meaningful compliment as we just did a staff tasting of some 1978 we found when we did our year end inventory. It was singing!

Another one I need to try.

Everytime I drive Hwy 128 I stop and buy a case, and always drink thru 'em before we ever get back to your lovely home.

Navarro was the very first winery i ever tasted at way back in 1986 when I was on my honeymoon. Last time I tasted any of the wines was when the North Coast Wine Challenge did their grand tasting at Greystone in Saint Helena a few years back. The late harvest Gewurtz was amazing.

Thanks Matt! Excited to have a place on your table…

So they don’t store them indefinitely, you actually take them? [pillow-fight.gif]

Thanks Glenn! Next time you’re passing through, drop me a line. I’ll give you a tour of the Ranch. The “new” (mid-90s) hillside plantings are stunning.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Brian. As you know, I can’t divulge our BD offer…but I’ll say this…if we’re lucky enough to have you decide to pull the trigger, mention your affinity for our LH Gewurz in your order comments, and we’ll see what happens…

Also stopped at Navarro during my honeymoon (2010) and have been a big fan ever since. I always look forward to the the printed catalog with the in-depth descriptions of each wine.
My sister in San Francisco, who is a mid-level wine enthusiast, just had a baby and I sent her a Navarro case as a baby warming gift and of course she’s liking it a lot.
Will be interested to see what’s on offer next week.

I’ve heard wonderful things about Navarro for years. I’m looking forward to trying them. The LH Gewurz sounds intriguing as well since my NC wine group is really into stickies.

Tasting note posted…

One of my first wine stops on my wine journey as well. I mirror the hope they have an offer for Gewürztraminer

Thanks Dave! We take great pride in the mailers. We keep an archive on the website, if you’re curious about some of the past editions.

Wow! Consider that baby fully warmed. Cheers!