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Havens Syrah Hudson Vineyard 2000
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.
Marked by unmistakable aromatics, a savory palate, and an elegant texture, Syrah is capable of producing fascinatingly complex and long-lived wines with a stunning purple hue. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah’s best examples are found in Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie. It is also an important component of the GSM blends of the Southern Rhône and beyond, alongside Grenache and Mourvèdre. Both varietal Syrah and GSM blends are common in Australia and California and are gaining popularity in Washington State. In Australia, Syrah is known by the synonym Shiraz, which tends to indicate a bolder, fruit-driven style of wine, and is occasionally blended with Cabernet Sauvignon for added depth and structure.
In the Glass
At its best, Syrah shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper, smoke, and even bacon fat. Many examples from California aim to recreate this savory style, while others focus more on concentrated fruit flavors. In Australia, under the name Shiraz, it shines as that country’s unofficial signature red grape, producing deep, dark, intense, and often jammy reds.
Cool-climate Syrah, with its peppery spices, is a natural match with flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb dishes, where the spice is more about flavor than heat. With Australian Shiraz, grown in warmer regions, heavy meat dishes with abundant protein and fat are a necessity to match the intensity of the wine.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” this synonym for Syrah has been adopted by winemakers throughout the world. If the label says “Shiraz,” you can typically expect a plush, fruity, and potent wine made in the Australian style. New World "Syrah" will generally more closely resemble the French style.