Friday, February 19, 2010

Haven's "Hudson Vineyard" Syrah (Carneros) 2004

Picked this wine up at the recommendation of Greg at the Cab Franco Files. Of course, there have been a lot of Havens wines heavily discounted recently, as Micheal Havens could not weather the economic climate and decided to throw in the towel. This particular wine was originally 40$, but I picked it up for 25$ at K&L. In some sense, it's really no surpise to me that Havens went under. There is a lot of competition in the 40$ price point for wine, and you can get some stunning wines from other places that are comparable to this for a whole lot less. In a nutshell, that's perhaps one of my biggest beefs with Napa. For whatever reason, Napa is expensive. I don't know that you can blame it all on one particular reason, whether it be the real estate, the cost of doing business in the United States, vineyard management practices (ie dropping a whole lot of fruit for really low yields), or business trying to recoup their costs from a new operation. Regardless, at 40$, this wine has a lot of competition. At 25$, it's a much more compelling prospect, although I think that the price point merely brings it in line. 

As an aside, I was thinking a lot about the price of wine last night and was somewhat befuddled that publications such as the Wine Spectator don't factor price into ratings. ((As a general rule of thumb, I don't give a flying fuck what they rate a wine. Frequently, I probably disagree anyways (on the rare occassion I get to play in the rarified air of the wines that they rate), but that doesn't matter for these purposes)). It has a lot to do with quality, especially when a wine is mass-produced. I realize that there is a certain argument to be made that a Carneros Syrah is different from a Hermitage, not only in terms of terroir and style, but also in supply and demand. I realize that there are differing amount of transport costs, margins, taxes, overhead, etc, but it seems somewhat ostrich-like to me that price is not at least a portion of the score. A 20$ bottle of wine that scores 95 points is arguably a whole lot more compelling, nay, is more compelling, than a 100 point wine that costs 2,000$ per bottle. Why no comparison of relative price points? It seems to be a common metric by which to judge wine in the consumer mind; it should be adopted by the major publications. As an excellent example of how "QPR" factors into wine ratings, you should check out the Wellesley Wine Press, run by Robert Dwyer, who really delves into this notion. 

The Hudson Vineyard Syrah is made from purchased fruit; I wonder where this particular parcel of grapes is going now that Michael Havens isn't making this wine. This wine is textbook Syrah, with just a touch of New World flair thrown in for good measure. Smoky raspberry, plum, blackberry, blueberry, lavender, spices, and just a touch of heat are readily available in the complex nose. Once this wine moves over towards your mouth, there's a polished, smooth texture, and rich fruit, balanced out by ample acidity to support the 14.5% frame. There's no doubt to me that this is New World Syrah, but it thankfully stays out of "overtly jammy" territory and toes the edge artfully. In my book, this is a very successful, tasty wine, although not particularly distinctive. My sense is that there is a lot available at this price that is just as satisfying, although I enjoyed this wine. B/B+


CabFrancoPhile said...

Totally with you on this one. I wouldn't bite at $40, but like the deal at $25, $18 or $13 (as was the case on some '05 and '06 I bought). I suspect the '04 being an especially hot vintage would be a bit on the riper side. The Cali full body with typical cool(er) Syrah aromatics is what pulled me in.

As far as pricing, critics simply don't care. Samples show up gratis. They are insiders and can get what they want for their cellars through back channels. Or they buy what they like from a vintage before their scores cause prices to jump. Meanwhile they write primarily for collectors for whom money is no object.

CabFrancoPhile said...

Incidentally, with respect to Havens folding, the funny part is their prices by Napa standards were relatively low. By real world standards, they're quite high. But if you look at the Hudson Syrah, that's one of the least expensive wines sourced from that vineyard. I suspect the bigger issue is that many did not deliver the expected Napa 'experience' for the price. That is a wine you'd rate a D or F due to roasted, pruney flavors and bizarre, extreme oak treatment.

Tricerapops said...

decanter publishes prices on the wines it reviews (albeit in GBP), but doesn't seem to take price into consideration per se. i do appreciate the pricing information for comparative purposes and appreciate when they highlight 'best value' in their vintage/variety tastings.