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Havens Albarino 2002
Havens Wine Cellars is located just south of Yountville and a short quieting drive off Highway 29, Napa Valley’s main winery tour route. The pastoral 10-acre site located on the Mayacamas benchland includes a 7½ acre vineyard of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah grapes lovingly tended.
Our own estate vineyard on Hoffman Lane, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, is an interesting variation on the south Napa Valley vineyard characteristics we value so much. First, we are actually in a little warmer spot here than many of our other vineyards because we sit close to the Mayacamas foothills, slightly in their lee from the prevailing south wind. This means that our daily cooling from the marine airflow is a bit delayed, keeping us warmer for an hour or two longer than vineyards even a few miles east. On the other hand, since we sit on the east-facing slope, we don’t get the full heat of the afternoon sun like vineyards just across the Valley, five miles away in the Stags Leap District. All this combines to define what is called the “diurnal range,” or the daily swing of temperature and wind, and we think it is the single most important factor in a vineyard’s terroir. Our soils here on Hoffman Lane are deep, but include a lot of gravel in the clay loam, and thus they can dry out quickly without drip irrigation. We are still learning the subtleties of farming this site, but have found Syrah here especially well-adapted to the place.
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production and tourism, the Napa Valley is the AVA that brought worldwide recognition to California winemaking. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two are St.-Helena and the valley's newest AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap District, and Mt. Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
Bright and aromatic with distinctive floral and fruity characteristics, Albariño has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the last couple of decades. This grape claims dual citizenship of both Spain (in the Rías Baixas region) and Portugal, where it is widely planted in the northwest and is known as Alvarinho. In recent years, plantings have increased throughout California.
In the Glass
Bursting with rich, ripe flavor, Albariño can show flavors of orange blossom, grapefruit, lime, apple, pear, melon, and white peach. It may also have notes of almond paste, fresh cut grass, jasmine, or geranium. The best examples boast zingy acidity and often a briny, mineral quality. It is typically fermented in stainless steel to preserve the purity of its fruity flavors, though oak-aged examples can provide a weighty yet refreshing alternative to Chardonnay with surprising potential for aging. Due to Albariño’s thick skins and large number of pips, it often shows a bit of bitterness on the palate.
Albariño loves seafood, and can be paired with a variety of marine delicacies. Its distinctive waxy texture and lemony acidity make it a perfect pairing with fresh sardines, oysters, octopus, or squid.
Albariño is considered an aromatic variety, and actually shares many chemical compounds with Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat. If you enjoy these elegantly perfumed whites, chances are you’ll love Albariño.