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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 as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960s, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980s, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those are the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
Marked by unmistakable deep purple hue and savory aromatics, Syrah accounts for a good deal of some of the most intense, powerful and age-worthy reds in the world. Native to the Northern Rhône, Syrah still achieves some of its maximum potential here, especially from Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie.
Syrah also plays an important component in the canonical Southern Rhône blends based on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, adding color, depth, complexity and structure to the mix. Today these blends have become well-appreciated from key appellations of the New World, namely Australia, California and increasingly, with praise, from Washington.
In the Glass
Syrah typically shows aromas and flavors of purple fruits, fragrant violets, baking spice, white pepper and even bacon, smoke or black olive. In Australia, where it goes under the name Shiraz, it produces deep, dark, intense and often, jammy reds. While Northern Rhône examples are typically less fruity and more earthy, California appears increasingly capable of either style.
Flavorful Moroccan-spiced lamb, grilled meats, spareribs and hard, aged cheeses are perfect with Syrah. Blue cheeses are perfect with a dense and fruit-driven Australian Shiraz.
Due to the success of Australian “Shiraz,” winemakers throughout the world have adopted this synonym for Syrah when they have produced a plush and fruit forward wine made in the Australian style. As an aside, Australians are also fond of tempering their fruit-forward Shiraz by blending with Cabernet Sauvignon, which adds depth and structure.